How good is Blender?

A place to discuss non-Moho software for use in animation. Video editors, audio editors, 3D modelers, etc.

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Rhoel
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How good is Blender?

Post by Rhoel » Fri Oct 27, 2006 8:20 am

I have recently been looking at blender ... It's the free open-source CGI animation package: I considered it a few years back but Max was way better in terms of tools and IK:

Yesterday I was looking at a feature short called Elephants Dream. It was made with Blender and other open source programmes (DrRender etc). The HD stills I downloaded look astonishingly good, as good as anything Maya can produce.

So the real question is how good is it in practice? The interface is very different and a little scary first: After one week, I have figured out enough to make some basic characters. I've found that many of the new features in 2.32a equal that of other high end 3D packages, something missing from earlier vesrions.

It does have .obj output and those files seem to work okay with AS, so Blender might be a useful 3D package for anyone wanting to combine both 2S-3D disiplines.

Since the output qality is so high, it's proce and the interface not so big a learning curve, the question has to be "why are not more people using this free program?"

Does anyone here have any practice experience of using it, useful feedabck, etc.


Rhoel
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jahnocli
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Post by jahnocli » Fri Oct 27, 2006 9:52 am

I downloaded it a while back, and was soon deterred by the Matterhorn-sized learning curve. It's good, but you need a serious reason to put in the effort to master the interface...
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cribble
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Post by cribble » Fri Oct 27, 2006 2:11 pm

I saw, i tried, i cried.

Like jahnocli said, you need a serious reason to use it... or previous experiance in those type of applications... maybe..
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godlike27
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Post by godlike27 » Fri Oct 27, 2006 6:08 pm

The recent version is Blender 2.42a.
Though I don't like "Elephants Dream" short movie, I like blender, I'm learning to animate in it,
I have a commercial modeling software so I don't model in blender, though I followed some modeling tutorials in manual.
I suggest you download video tutorials that have audio, as many as you can (from blender website or anywhere)
and you'll see that it is not that hard.
My first encounter with blender was years ago: I downloaded, I opened, I made a cube and rendered it.
I did not invested any time whatsoever and what I got was - nothing....
You can open Max, Maya, Cinema 4D, Carrara, Vue etc and if you don't know how it works you'll get the same.
but last year I picked blender again this time without the idea of making 'Shrek' movie in half hour and I think I'm making a good progress.

So I'd say - Learn it.

Tomas
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MikeHart
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Post by MikeHart » Fri Oct 27, 2006 8:13 pm

Blender is great. The development is fast, it has a huge user base. The output is great.
Since the output qality is so high, it's proce and the interface not so big a learning curve, the question has to be "why are not more people using this free program?"
Because people think it isn't cool. Every wannabe animator/modeler thinks that Max/Maya or whatever is the way to go. I say only if you wanna work in hollywood studios, because they are thinking the same and requiere people to know these tools. But I think Blender can output the same great results. You just have to learn it. But it is the same with all 3d tools. They all have a different interface and when you come from a different app, it might scare you. If you are a total virgin (3d wise) nothing will block your mind. Go for it, learn it and you will be happy.
Bones3D
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Post by Bones3D » Fri Oct 27, 2006 8:26 pm

I've never really cared much for Blender's interface. (It's not very intuitive for inexperienced users.) But it definitely has plenty of useful features under the hood.

Personally though, I'd just go buy a cheap copy of Eovia's Carrara Studio software. (Either v3 or v4 is good. I've seen v3 available for under $50 for the pro version.) Keep in mind though, that Eovia recently sold Carrara Studio to DAZ, so getting updates for versions prior to v5 might prove difficult. However, I can definitely vouch for the usefulness of Carrara Studio. It has an excellent array of tools and a great rendering engine for the price, and even supports IK and physics. It's definitely a good starting tool for anyone looking to get into 3D animation without having to be a genius to do it.

Also worth a look is the Carrara Studio 3 Handbook by Mike de la Flor, which will definitely get you on your way with the software.
8==8 Bones 8==8
bigkahuna
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Post by bigkahuna » Sat Oct 28, 2006 4:20 pm

Over the years I've had, or had access to: 3DS Max, Maya, Lightwave, Cinema 4D, Carrara, etc. About a year ago I wanted to develop a conceptual prototype for an interactive 3D simulation, and Blender's built-in game engine seemed to be the cheapest route. My initial reaction to Blender, "argh, this is confusing", but I kept with it, posted questions on the Blender forum (blenderartists.org) and inside a week I was moving around the interface pretty easily.

After a year with Blender I can tell you 2 things for certain:

1. Anything you want to do in 3D (and even stuff outside of 3D, like basic video editing and games) you can do with Blender. From fluid and softbody simulation, to character animation, to 3D sculpting (Zbrush style) Blender does it all.

2. Blender will spoil you for anything else. Now that I've become comfortable with Blender's way of doing things, it just seems easier than anything else out there. For example: I really want to learn Cinema 4D and Modo at the moment, but it seems so much more complicated than Blender's way of doing things, so I keep on going back to Blender.

I own and like Carrara also, BTW. Carrara and Blender make a pretty decent combination IMHO. Carrara fills a couple voids in Blender's otherwise complete feature set, and you can't beat Carrara for knocking out super fast 3D text animations, terrains, etc. The UI are as different as night and day, but you can learn Carrara's UI in seconds. Carrara's weakness has been it's modeler, Carrara 5 Pro was a big improvement over 4 Pro and hopefully future releases will continue to improve.

Other tools for your 3D arsenal worth considering:

Wings3D - a free modeler that works nicely with Blender. Blender's fillet tool sucks, but Wing3D does this nicely. I started by modeling in Wings and animating in Blender, but with all Blender's new tools I rarely use Wings any more.

Silo - Best 3D modeler on the planet period and it's cheap. Haven't tried the new beta version yet, but I hear great things are in the works.

Ultimate Unwrap 3D - if you need to transfer 3D files to different softwares, you need this $50 program. It's awesome UV texture tools are just icing on the cake.
The400th
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Post by The400th » Sat Oct 28, 2006 6:58 pm

Are there any professional companies using Blender? Do they have their own GreyKid like AS has?
bigkahuna
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Post by bigkahuna » Sun Oct 29, 2006 5:03 am

The400th wrote:Are there any professional companies using Blender?
What do you mean by "professional"? If you mean is anyone making a living using Blender, the answer is definitely yes. Although Blender isn't our primary tool, we probably use it as much as any other 3D tool. This would be a good question to research at blenderartists.org, I recall this topic being brought up a few times in the past.
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DK
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Post by DK » Sun Oct 29, 2006 5:57 am

I'm a Lightwave user myself but XSI is a nice tool for 3D. Check these XSI videos demo's out.

http://www.characteranimator.com/temp/m ... er_td.html

D.K
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Rhoel
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Post by Rhoel » Mon Oct 30, 2006 3:42 am

My thanks to everyone for their feedback ...

to answer a couple of questions.

The original question was asked by a studio head who just came back from a tour of China - he found a very large studio facility there using blender for tv setries/possible feature work. He asked the basic question "Why am I buying $3000 Maya stations when I can get the same quality for free?". I didn't know the answer - before Blender technically lagged behind the big three (Maya, Max and softimage). From reading the online information on the blender forums, it was clear 2.42a had caught up.

So I started playing with it and yes, its not that difficult - sure, I still cannot find things (like some of the IK functions), and the camera is not as intuative as Max, but I'm making headway.

Our studio boss has just instructed a test station to be set up and to see how it can be used in conjuction with Maya and Max.

I'll keep you informed as to how I get on with the program.

Rhoel
bigkahuna
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Post by bigkahuna » Mon Oct 30, 2006 4:06 am

Rhoel wrote:"Why am I buying $3000 Maya stations when I can get the same quality for free?".
Beleive me, your's is not the only studio wondering this. With the recent updates to both Max and Maya, and the *cough* cost of upgrading per seat, I've heard rumblings from a number of studios. I've heard "XSI" mentioned a few times, but one look at the UI and I went running back to Blender.

Whether Blender is of the same "quality" as Maya and Max is a tough thing to judge. I would guess it depends on what your ultimate output is. I think Max and Maya are better tools for some things, but for many others Blender is as good or better. One bit of bad news though, since your a Maya-shop: there isn't any good way to import/export complete projects (including animation and rigging) between Maya and Blender. .FBX is not supported and the Collada exporter is only partially completed. The only format that currently includes animations is the DirectX .X format, and I've only had limited success with it. For static models and scenes, there's .OBJ, .LWO and a number of other formats, all work very nicely.

Of course, with a portion of the money you'd save by not upgrading your Maya seats, you could take the existing Collada code, dedicate a programmer to it, and create your own exporter. Since you also have access to Blender's source code and CVS, you can also modify Blender any way you like. Heck, run it under Linux and forget about virus's and the cost of upgrading to Vista. I know of a couple studios that have done just that.

Just some food for thought!
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slowtiger
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Post by slowtiger » Mon Oct 30, 2006 8:40 am

Thanx for all this really useful information. I will stick to 2D animation, but it would be nice to be able to incorporate at least some 3D enhancements in the background.

To those "in the know": how good is Blender in putting 2D bitmaps in a 3D space, like handdrawn buildings or facades lined up in a street? I tried to do basic stuff like this, but was completely lost, namely because of the lack of a useful manual. Some hints into the right direction would be greatly appreciated.
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jahnocli
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Post by jahnocli » Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:02 am

This is a bit "off base", but see if you can hunt down a program called Canoma. Google for it. It was mainly meant to construct 3D scenes from photographs, and is now abandonware. I've used it for simple background scenes -- as long as the subject matter isn't organic, seems to do it very well, and it's very intuitive. And the resulting obj files seem to be able to import their associated material files into AS really well (this isn't always the case). Some nice built-in tutorials to get you started too...
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The400th
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Post by The400th » Mon Oct 30, 2006 8:12 pm

I just spoke to a very talented friend who uses Blender at home and Maya at work.

He said that Blender matches 50% of what Maya does feature for feature. The next 30% of what Maya does, Blender can do but nowhere near as good (and not necessarily at industrial strength). And Blender can't do the last 20% that Maya does at all.

So that's fine if you're only using the bottom 50% of Maya's features. It's the last 20% that will kill the project.
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