How good is Blender?


#1

Hi!
I’d like to know one thing: How good is Blender compared to so-called professional, proprietary software costing lots of dollars?
I do know that I could simply take the feature list of some other software and that of Blender and compare them, but that says nothing about the quality of things.
For example modelling: I do know that each and every single one of those programs allows me somehow to model, but the ease of use and the quality of the tools are quite different. An other thing is simulation: As far as I know, there are particles in Blender. But how good are they implemented? Is there cloth simulation?

So, what I need is some knowledge about the drawbacks of using Blender. Is it comparable to those costy apps like Maya, Lightwave, Softimage? Can I learn the things that are needed in the animation industry by using Blender or are some of those only possible in proprietary apps?
Currently, I’m using Lightwave. Is has a ton of drawbacks and I can’t afford to buy the upcoming Version 9.

Thanks in advance.


#2

Well, Blender can be as good as you make it: it all depends on your ability to model/animate/whatever you want to do.
Right now blender is growing very quickly as a program, with many wonderful new features in each release. What it doesn’t have yet may soon become a reality (thats not saying every feature we request will make it in).

Go look at the gallery at blender.org and decide if its quality is good.


#3

In animation you have to learn both the theory and methods behind the art and also behind the software. I started out in Blender years ago, it helped me understand a number of issues before I started to study Maya at design school. So I was able to cross over my knowledge of the art and a little of what I learnt about the software.

Now I’m studying masters on a scholarship and will be using Blender - since I don’t have Maya. ( and also it would kill my laptop and test my patience something chronic)

At school for final project which I did over 90% in maya - although I replied of blender simply because I knew how to solve the problem.

Not an expert in particles - cloth has just been implemented in a test blender - it will be usable but don’t expect syflex.

I find the animation tools to be suitable, fine for learning and small time commercial work. The elephants dream movie http://orange.blender.org/blog/status-update - you’ll find more images on that site. I would say that it has the tools to learn modelling, mapping, and animation which you can then take to another app and you should be able to pick that up pretty quick. Also do a search for the ludwig character - hes a little rigged dude with a good rig you can play with - it will give you an idea as to how things are done. I was talking to a mate the other week about easy it is to set up facial controls, similar to the ones by jason osipa.

The main forum is www.elysiun.com

hope that helps -


#4

First thing, a part that might be considered a drawback for some but is one of the best things about blender: the UI. Blender has one of the most adjustable UI’s I know. you can set it up almost any way you want it.
Second- blender’s UV mapping tools are really good. the live LSCM is really good.
3- a drawback: though blender gives you the ability to model fast, it lack many tools. No symetric editing, extrusion is cannot be relative to previous extrusions (like, extrude and scale down, and then the next extrusion scales itself), no N-gons, a really bad bevel tool (though there is a great python script for that) etc.

Overall, Blender is really good. I don’t know if it really stands a chance against maya and such, but it is a really great beginning. and it’s free- so the only thing you might lose is some of your time.


#5

Which version of LW are you currently using?

Blender lacks ngons, which LW 9 will have. Other than that Blender subd modeling tools are pretty good, and fast (although not as robust as you will find in Modo or Silo). If you really need ngons you can use Wings3D which is also free.

Blender has excellent UV unwrapping tools - especially CVS version.

Blenders 3D paint tools are a bit weak.

Blender has node based materials and shader system in CVS (so will be in 2.42).

For simulation - Blender has fluid simulation (you’ll want to use the CVS version if you want moving objects), hard body dynamics, soft body dynamics, cloth simulation is available as a patch and might be in 2.42 (mid-May). There is also particle based hair. The basic particle tools are ok, but they need a bit of rewrite since they aren’t as flexible as is desireable. Biggest limitation is lack of volumetric shading. (So flame, smoke, and fog are much more difficult to accomplish realistically).

For animation - Blender has a fairly good set of animation tools, rigging and weighting are good, it has a good and fast IK system. It doesn’t have any tools for animation using motion capture.

For rendering - Blender lacks micropoly displacement and tangent space normal mapping, and SSS.

Blender has node based compositing in CVS.

Blenders sequencer is now fairly fast on even HD images (again CVS).

Blender doesn’t have custom bindings for keys or button setups, nor can tools be piped.

Blender has good scripting, but the API isn’t complete and has some inconsistencies.

Basically nearly everything you need is there using CVS version.

Blenders import and export capabilities are mixed, many of the formats the full features of the format aren’t supported especially animation, but almost always the geometric, uv map and uv image are well supported. Usually you can find some way to pass all the information you need back and forth between programs.

LetterRip


#6

How good is Blender? Good enough to pay the rent, time and time again.


#7

Tom Musgrove said:

" Blender has a fairly good set of animation tools, rigging and weighting are good, it has a good and fast IK system. It doesn’t have any tools for animation using motion capture."

Wouldn’t the BVH sript http://www.centralsource.com/blender/bvh/files.htm take care of motion capture?

“For rendering - Blender lacks micropoly displacement and tangent space normal mapping, and SSS.”

What about the MakeHuman http://www.dedalo-3d.com/ SSS script?

It seems to me that there seems to be a script for any of the extra features you might need. Some work great and some not so great.

Tim


#8

BVH import is for importing motion capture data - what I was refering to is tools for editing and manipulating such data - everything from tools for ‘cleaning up’ such data (removing overshoots slides, etc); tools for retarging such data; tools for blending such data; etc.

The SSSS (simple SSS) and SSS script both give okay results; however the processing time is to substantial to consider them adequate for professional usage expect for fairly narrow use cases.

LetterRip


#9

Will they ever rework the renderer? It would be cool if they rewrote and took into consideration such things as threading (being able to work while rendering) and a better framedisplay that lets you see the alpha and rgb seperations. Also I heard about that pytexture thing if they were to rewrite the renderer with pytexture at its core then we could have something really special. Here’s hoping.


#10

The renderer had a massive number of improvements for project Orange, pytexture is obsoleted for pynode which should allow custom shaders in the pipeline. The renderer is threaded, it is the main blender interface that isn’t :slight_smile: You can use nodes to seperate layers to display nodes.

LetterRip


#11

I must say Blender has grown rapidly in the last couple of years. I use it primarily for media/logo animation and character modelling. I’m particularly interested in the character animation workflow as used in project orange.


#12

Thank you all for your answers.

Currently, I’m using Lightwave 8.5. I am kinda disappointed with Lightwave for the many weaknesses. Many of those might be fixed in LW 9, but I don’t want to spend that many bucks on it a second time. Especially since it is not very much used in the professional animation industry. Blender is neither, but at least it’s free.

Seems like Blender currently has quite some features that Lightwave don’t give me and I will definitely have a closer look at it.

I have one more question though: Is there any possibility to write custom shaders and procedural textures?
If yes, would it be possible to write those in the RenderMan Shading language as tt is very widespread and I would be able to use the shader writing skills that I got using Blender in other programs also.


#13

We don’t have a shader language, but there will be a shader node that can take python programming. Also you can program new nodes directly in C.

There are partial exporters for renderman, or you can export to another free program that has better supported renderman export.

Then you could program your shaders directly for a renderman compliant renderer. (Aqsis, Pixie, etc).

LetterRip


#14

I was talking to a mate the other week about easy it is to set up facial controls, similar to the ones by jason osipa.

i’ve actually done this: http://forums.cgsociety.org/showpost.php?p=3292428&postcount=30


#15

You mean this?
http://mediawiki.blender.org/index.php/Manual/PartII/Advanced_Mesh_Modelling
It surely can be done. :wink:


#16

If you’re on the street, crushed by student loan, poor blender is good enough.

But I wouldn’t call any of the ‘so-called professional applications’ expensive when you use them daily. Especially when they allow you to work fast enough to take on more projects.

You could use paint to create a photo realistic painting, but why would you want to when there is Photoshop?

Blender is perfect for 3d hobbyists who can’t justify the expense of a commercial app. But I wouldn’t recommend it for day to day work. Although based on you post, I’m going to guess the latter applies to you.

Note: Feature lists are one of the worst ways to compare applications, followed closely by examples of work done in said application. Work flow is what you pay $$ for, not the latest siggraph white paper implementations.


#17

That’s a load of BS. Are you comparing Paint to Blender?


#18

You also have to remember that even Maya or Lightwave is just one tool in the toolbox. Just learn Blender some, for whatever you need, and use lightwave for whatever. I think that you should either model in Wings3D(i heard it’s great for modeling) or Blender and animate and other stuff in Lightwave.


#19

It’s totaly senseless to compare Blender to whatever if your goal is to choose between app X or Blender. That would make sense only if you are choosing between commercial app X or commercial app Y, because you’ll be investing a lot of money, and therefor you are commiting yourself to this app. Blender is free. So there is no choosing there, no (financial) risk. Buy Maya, XSI or whatever you like and you can have Blender or Wings3D installed on the side too.

As to the question “How good is Blender”? Apperantly it is good enough to make a proffesional looking short movie with.


#20

I’d say, quality wise, blender is great. Modelling is a snap, rendering, animation, etc. All very easy for basic stuff, but enough depth that you can do more advanced things.

What it lacks, IMHO, is a good particle system. Thats been on my wish list for ages.