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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bigkahuna
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Post by bigkahuna » Mon Oct 30, 2006 8:39 pm

The400th wrote: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.
Hmm... Not sure if I agree with the numbers, but no doubt Maya is a more complete, professional package, especially for character modeling and animation.
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.
Not trying to start a debate on 3D app vs. 3D app., but just a couple comments on this:

First, I don't believe most 3D artists really use 100% of any tools capabilities. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that probably fewer than 10% of 3D app users even know how to use 100% of the app's capabilities. I use Blender every day, but can't say I know every single thing about it, and I probably never will. Same was true with Max when it was my main app. From what I've seen, people like me are in the majority.

Second. sounds like most folks inquiring here are new to 3D (no insult intended). If that's the case, it's unlikely the differences in features from app "A" to app "B" will make much difference at this point. The main tools most of us need are available just about universally.

A couple parting bits of advice:

If your intention is to work for a Maya shop, then learn Maya. PLE is free and will get you started.

If you're like me, and have been doing 3D a "certain way" and are reluctant to change, stick with what works. If I could get my stubborn brain to soak in Maya's way of doing things I'd probably be using it right now.

If you're brand new and just want to get into 3D, try everything. Blender's cool, but so are a lot of other tools. We didn't discuss these, but in addition to the other tools mentioned, I also like Modo (for modeling), and Cinema 4D is very cool. Carrara's super easy for a noob and you can get an older version (3 or 4) for super cheap. We also didn't mention Animation Master which, although it's spline base is a bit unconventional, has been a big favorite for character animators for years.
Bones3D
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Post by Bones3D » Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:17 pm

jahnocli wrote: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...
Actually, check out Google's Sketch Up application. While it's designed with architectural purposes in mind, it has many of the features Canoma offered back when it was still around. Also the software is free and runs on both Macs and Windows PCs.
8==8 Bones 8==8
bigkahuna
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Post by bigkahuna » Mon Oct 30, 2006 11:46 pm

Bones3D wrote:Actually, check out Google's Sketch Up application. While it's designed with architectural purposes in mind, it has many of the features Canoma offered back when it was still around. Also the software is free and runs on both Macs and Windows PCs.
Sketchup is also a good suggestion, but it's not free. There's a free version of Sketchup that only works with Google Earth, but the "full" version of Sketchup is not free.
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MarkBorok
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Post by MarkBorok » Tue Oct 31, 2006 2:51 am

bigkahuna wrote:
Bones3D wrote:Actually, check out Google's Sketch Up application. While it's designed with architectural purposes in mind, it has many of the features Canoma offered back when it was still around. Also the software is free and runs on both Macs and Windows PCs.
Sketchup is also a good suggestion, but it's not free. There's a free version of Sketchup that only works with Google Earth, but the "full" version of Sketchup is not free.
No, the free version of sketchup has almost all of the features of the "full" version, but it's for personal use only. I use it all the time. It's really cool.

The "full" version has a terrain tool and exports high-resolution images, plus a few other features that are nice but not essential.
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Rhoel
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Post by Rhoel » Tue Oct 31, 2006 3:41 am

The core factor which is driving the current studio discussions is the price. Sure Maya and XSI have some high end features which may or may not be matched by Blender, but its the economic consideration the accountants are interested in. It's one reason why Moho was so attractive.

When you include the cost considerations of the O/S, open source systems (such as Ubuntu, Twisted, DrQueue etc) are attractive. We have over 150 people in the studio (working on TV, architecture and other projects) ... if we had been quicker off the mark, using OpenOffice, Ubuntu and Blender, the software cost saving to the studio would have been ten's if not hundreds of thousands of dollars. In addition, the ongoing savings from free upgrades etc, would have given the studio a commercial advantage - lower overheads means it costs less to make your films.

Elephants Dream is not a film to everyone's tastes (like what the hell is the story about?), but the technical finish is impresssive. The Project Orange collaboration has shaken many people (including those at Maya I suspect), into reappraising how they are doing things.

Studios who adopt Blender are going to have lower operating costs, and therefore have the commercial tendering advantage.

We will continue to retain our Maya and Max licences but I suspect a Blender team will now develop and run in parallel. It will be interesting to see if the output from the different programs seamlessly cuts together. If it does, then Blenders place will be assured.

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Bones3D
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Post by Bones3D » Tue Oct 31, 2006 7:58 am

While on the discussion of 3D packages, even though I currently use Carrara Studio as my primary software, I'm planning an eventual switch to Maxon's Cinema 4D Studio software, thanks mostly in part to Eovia's recent sell-out to DAZ. I've been pretty impressed by everything I've seen of their software, and it seems to be fully capable of holding its own against other high-end 3D packages, such as Maya and 3D Studio Max.

Another software package I'm considering moving to is Luxology's Modo for creating complex models, after finding Eovia's Hexagon 2.0 a failure on the Macintosh platform. Had the product not been sold to DAZ, I'd probably be looking forward to updates, after finding the 1.0 version such a joy to work with. However, in DAZ's hands, I fear Hexagon may not have a future. Sad, considering the product in its maiden release showed so much promise for so little cost.

One interesting thing about the Eovia sell-out to DAZ, is the huge impact it had on the Carrara using community. Under Eovia's control, Carrara had a huge user following combined with support from several third party developers. However, since the move to DAZ, there has been a huge decline in user/developer support, which has resulted in the death of many once-popular resources for using Eovia's products, such as the online publication, 3Dxtract. Without such user support, the value of the software itself has severely diminished as a result.

In some sense, this bears some parallels with Lost Marble's transfer of Moho/Anime Studio to E-Frontier. However, Moho/Anime Studio has not yet seemed to suffer the same fate as Carrara did after its transfer to DAZ. With any luck, Lost Marble and E-Frontier will continue to maintain the top-notch user/developer support I've seen since I first purchased Moho a few months back. As long as this forum continues to exist, I don't think E-Frontier and Lost Marble will ever see such a huge defection of users, so long as the products retain their quality.
8==8 Bones 8==8
The400th
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Post by The400th » Tue Oct 31, 2006 10:36 am

Studios who adopt Blender are going to have lower operating costs, and therefore have the commercial tendering advantage.
There's a flaw in your logic. Are the most profitable studios using Cinema4D? Or Animation Master? Or pirated versions of Max/Maya/XSI? Or letting their employees buy their own software? Or outsourcing to other companies that own their own software?

There's more than one way to cut down your software costs. Using software that isn't able to do anything you throw at it is like working with one arm tied behind your back.

Of course, it's fine if you're only pitching for the low end work, but you've then got a massive amount of competition, and there's always someone who'll do it for less than cost price in that marketplace.
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Rhoel
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Post by Rhoel » Wed Nov 01, 2006 5:42 am

The400th wrote:
Using software that isn't able to do anything you throw at it is like working with one arm tied behind your back.
This is one reason we are running the test in parallel with Maya
Of course, it's fine if you're only pitching for the low end work, but you've then got a massive amount of competition, and there's always someone who'll do it for less than cost price in that marketplace.
The majority of commissioned TV work is low end. Again, purely for commercial reasons - if a channel can commission something for $500 instead of $1000 per minute then it reflects on the balance sheet. I am sure this featured in the commissioning of South Park - the cost per minute is much less than say Simpsons. To the station, they have no interest how you arrive at the finish line, be it using Blender, Maya or Moho ... the two principal criteria are "what will the ratings be" and "How much does it cost". A ten percent drop in ratings if its comes at half cost is an acceptable trade-off.

It's unfortunately the reality: TV channels are commercial beasts and usually not in it for the art.


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Rasheed
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Post by Rasheed » Wed Nov 01, 2006 9:34 am

Rhoel wrote:The majority of commissioned TV work is low end. Again, purely for commercial reasons - if a channel can commission something for $500 instead of $1000 per minute then it reflects on the balance sheet.
I've read on the AWN forum that for full (aka high end) animation the bare minimum for animators (not the studio) is $10,000 per minute. That puts $500 in some perspective. One always gets what one pays for.
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slowtiger
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Post by slowtiger » Wed Nov 01, 2006 10:24 am

I doubt that. Most producers don't even know what "full animation" means. Even "high end" is not defined.

Wanna learn some stuff? German TV producers mostly don't care about what the animation looks like. They just ask for technical criteria like "is it ready to be broadcasted", and they ask that the finished work is delivered on some obscure, out-of-date medium like Beta-SP or similar. DVD? Digital file transfer from server to server? Sorry, our technician was outsourced last year. We only work with established formats. The aforementioned techie tells me Quicktime is crap, we need the whole series as a sequence of TARGA files for postproduction.

Oh yeah, and they want expensive CGI. No matter wether the story could be told much better in traditional 2D, or would even to be produced faster and a bit cheaper.

How they calculate? Well, we have this 10 min format, 2 min of it are credits and titles, 6 min we do with ridiculous live action in a cheap studio, that leaves 2 min of pure animation, and for this we don't have a big budget, sorry, y'know, studio and actors and stuff, but you must do it in flash because that's cheap. At least I've heard. That's why we don't pay you regular fees. You do understand, this whole format must be high quality, that's why we can't pay you more.

This whole thing spells C-R-A-P in letters visible on google earth, and it's not even the worst story I've heard in the last two years.
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Rasheed
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Post by Rasheed » Wed Nov 01, 2006 11:09 am

I couldn't agree more, slowtiger!

To top if off, TV producers even don't care about their audience, only the viewer statistics--which we all know are inaccurate, at least no true representation of the viewer's opinion--because advertisers pay according to viewer statistics. It is a closed circuit, TV, in which there is no place for people who are creative nor for viewers who crave for something new and exciting. If you want to innovate and do excitingly creative stuff, you should look elsewhere. It's mostly the same thing, rehashed over and over again. The lowest denominator that is called, IIRC.

And Hollywood isn't much better, I'm afraid. So much talent wasted by narrow-minded producers and their investors.

Why then should you as an animation studio invest in expensive soft- and hardware if you're doing mostly TV work? Better to cut corners where you can to maximize the profit. As long as it's technically sound, the contents doesn't really matter much. I can see why Blender is such a good proposition (free, open source, well supported). And 3D still sells...
The400th
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Post by The400th » Wed Nov 01, 2006 1:44 pm

Why then should you as an animation studio invest in expensive soft- and hardware if you're doing mostly TV work?
Well, if $1000 of high-end software allows you to save $1001 of labour costs compared to a lower-powered "free" software, then it is worth it.

The problem is, if you have a studio that competes in the low end of quality, where there is a low barrier of entry into the market, then competition is fierce and your margins won't be enough to keep you alive in-between projects. And when you factor in competing with countries that have government help for their industry, you won't survive long.

So if you want to stay in the business, you have to aim for the higher-end projects. Not only does it give you better margins, you can attract better staff and investors. It becomes an upward spiral.
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slowtiger
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Post by slowtiger » Wed Nov 01, 2006 9:58 pm

I'm really curious about what magical features something like Maya has that Blender doesn't. I have seen my share of crappy or boring 3D CGI stuff which was done in "high-end" software. In the rare case I really cared about that film I could have pointed out several areas in which the whole thing would have been easily improved. None of those spots was software-dependant. It was all artistic decisions, storyboard/script decisions, and of course better animation.

Many CGI artists happily run into the big trap labelled "I want to do the very same as everybody else does". That's why you rarely see some CGI animation which doesn't feature that same old look like all other §D stuff since 1985. Where has that old "I want to do something nobody else has done"-spirit gone?
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Rhoel
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Post by Rhoel » Thu Nov 02, 2006 4:07 am

slowtiger wrote:I'm really curious about what magical features something like Maya has that Blender doesn't. I have seen my share of crappy or boring 3D CGI stuff which was done in "high-end" software. In the rare case I really cared about that film I could have pointed out several areas in which the whole thing would have been easily improved. None of those spots was software-dependant. It was all artistic decisions, storyboard/script decisions, and of course better animation.

Many CGI artists happily run into the big trap labelled "I want to do the very same as everybody else does". That's why you rarely see some CGI animation which doesn't feature that same old look like all other §D stuff since 1985. Where has that old "I want to do something nobody else has done"-spirit gone?
I have to agree with this - Blender wasn't taken seriously until recently - the Project Orange film made us think again: We have a lot of Maya stations and and a second team working with Max (on architecture). I don't seee Blender replacing the architectural side - its very good and fast.

But the output we are doing on Maya could have been done on Blender. Sure, If we did features, then maybe there is a reason for some Maya or maybe Cinema 4D. But the more I look at Blender, the better it looks.

BTW: There is one other advantage of Blender/Open Source. The artists here can take a legal copy home and install it on their PCs/Macs or whatever. And assuming we move forward with Blender within the studio, we can point the local Thai school kids (who want to work for us in the future), to download the software for free, and learn it at school or home. We wouldm't be able to legally point them at using a hacked version of Maya or Max.

So I am going to be curious to see what Killer function Maya is supposed to have, which is not available on Blender 2.42a. Becuase from what I am looking at at present, Maya and the other big guys need to be worried.

Blender is no toy.

Rhoel.
bigkahuna
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Post by bigkahuna » Thu Nov 02, 2006 6:20 am

Bones3D wrote:While on the discussion of 3D packages, even though I currently use Carrara Studio as my primary software, I'm planning an eventual switch to Maxon's Cinema 4D ... ...Another software package I'm considering moving to is Luxology's Modo
You too? I've got demos of both on my iMac's HD and they look very good. Just got an email that Modo's pricing is discounted at the moment, and C4D is very pricey, but looks very nice. Guess I'll be saving my lunch money for a long time to afford these nice apps.

I just bought an Intel iMac, so I've been switching all my apps from Windows to OS X versions. I was pretty happy with most of them, but I was very disappointed in Hex on the Mac. On my Intel iMac, Hex is a nightmare and it doesn't look like Daz has any plans to fix it. Carrara is better, but some plugins don't have UB versions and I was told there weren't plans to create them either. Carrara 5 Pro is a great app, but I think you're right, seems like the support is waning.

If you haven't tried Silo, you should give it a go. Silo 2 will be available for UB, but the beta is Windows only. I used Silo 1.2 under windows and really liked it's fast, clean workflow. It costs a lot less than Modo, but is also a very good modeler. Modo has more features and an awesome renderer, but I'm still trying to figure it out.

The irony is that even though I have other apps, and continue to shop for something better, I keep going back to Blender. Maybe "shock therapy" will help me break the habit! ;)
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