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Dive into: Blender

A free, open source program accessible to everyone. Does Blender really stack up when compared to other softwares. We dive in to find out.

Neilmani
Neilmani

Blender is a free, open source program that is accessible to everyone. On October 13th, 2002 Blender was released under the terms of the GNU General Public Licence, the strictest possible open-source contract available. This great idea came from Ton Roosendaal. He is the founder of Blender, and from the very beginning he made it very clear that he did not want investors controlling his company and that still holds true to this day.

Not much after the first release and along came the Blender Cloud. Blender Cloud was originally designed as an educational platform to further promote the software in an already competitive industry and at the same time, raise funds for the non-for-profit Blender Foundation. This platform is also a continuation of the foundation’s belief in community by creating a space where all users, from hobbyists to industry professionals, can share their projects and ideas. As a subscription-based service, Blender Cloud guarantees it’s members access to all Blender Institute trainings and production sessions. This service costs an affordable 10€ a month.

BlenderCloud offers the following products for its users:

  • Weekly/daily training session streams
  • Film assets and full .blend files
  • Full animations and shot breakdowns
  • Shot walkthroughs
  • Access to shot lists
  • Shaders/node trees and textures
  • Access to render management software

Blender itself transformed after the 2.8 version, which released on July 30th, 2019. It was a major release in which a lot was improved. A better UI/UX design and options to show the world that Blender can be used in the VFX world. Blender also introduced Evee realtime engine. This engine is like Unreal which can render in screen space (cycles materials only.)

Blender can really do almost anything as compared to any DCC app in the market, from 3D modeling to rendering. Let's go through some of the pros and cons of the software.

Pros

  • Free and open source & for more control use python
  • Fast, responsive and does not crash often
  • Online content for learning and affordable add-ons (plugins) in the market
  • Supports AR/VR formats like GLTF, GLB & USDZ
  • Built-in CPU + GPU renderings
  • Built-in sculpting tools (Most often these need to be bought separately)
  • Efficient speed moving objects around as well as applying modifiers
  • Supports the latest version of everything that is running in the industry
  • The node based system is beginning friendly for creating compositions

Cons

  • Cycles renderings is slow
  • UV system is average
  • Complex nodes setups to be made to create details materials
  • Complex rendering settings (possibility for improvement)
  • Constant updates can be difficult to keep up with
  • Due to the GNU License, external companies must provide open source code to create plug-ins for Blender


The software is very good when it comes to speed. The time it takes to open, close and save files is 10x faster than the speed within 3DS Max. It’s also fast for modeling, shading and animation. Like any software, once you have learned the best tricks and nodes, you can work more efficiently and create virtually anything you want.  The disadvantage here is that it’s not as easy to shade/texture when compared to V-ray or Corona Renderer. This is because V-ray and Corona have vast libraries and ample amount of tutorials available for the material and texture nodes. They are specifically designed to be user-friendly. Blender's built-in renderer Cycle can not boost such helpful content.


The UV unwrap within Blender is not so easy to learn and it unfortunately doesn't offer advanced options at its base level. More options are only available if you install additional add-ons, however these can be worth it to get. They will make your life much easier. The rendering time in Cycles is slow and it takes 5x more time to clear noise as compared to other engines. But it offers GPU rendering which is better than CPU. Blender also has Evee which is good at real time rendering with less complex objects in the scene. Octane is a free engine up to 1 GPU. So you can get decent results from that and there are a few more engines like Redshift & Renderman that also work for Blender.

Blender 2.9 continues to polish the user experience, introducing improvements to Evee, Cycles, sculpt, VR, animation, modeling, UV editing and so much more. Blender integrates industry standards libraries such as Intel Embree, Intel OpenImageDenoise and NVidia Optix to provide a cutting-edge rendering experience. With that Blender has also brought LTS support (Long term support) with that VFX & big companies can opt for one stable version. They hopefully will receive updates for the next three years now.

Blender is definitely good for beginners and can be useful for professionals as well. I personally switched from Autodesk tools to Blender. At the beginning, there was certainly an adjustment period of a few months. Blender 2.8 had fewer resources when it was released in comparison to today. With time and patience, I realized that I made a good choice. The tool is getting better and better with each update.

Software

Neilmani

Neilmani is a 8.5 years experience full time CGI artist from India, mainly working in look development and realism. He loves to drive, dogs (has 2 of his own) and traveling.