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The Beauty of Freeware: Blender

Pretty sweet picture of some eggs right? Well it’s not really a picture per se. It’s actually a rendered product of Blender. What’s Blender? Let the words of the Blender employees tell you:

“Blender is the free open source 3D content creation suite, available for all major operating systems under the GNU General Public License.”

That’s right folks!

Blender is more than just a kitchen appliance used to turn anything into a smoothie-oasis. Blender is a godsend for the financially, yet extremely motivated and creative people in the world. Make whatever the hell you want; Blender does. This abundance of modeling tools combined with Python, allows anyone with some computer literacy and patience (to learn and perfect) to create anything from stunning landscapes to remarkable video games to feature length animated movies. That’s just insane!! Did I mention it’s free?? Anyway, I want to take a moment to express my opinion on freeware so if you’d like to see the long list of features Blender offers, skip to the bottom (after you read my thoughts :).

-It’s a beautiful age we’ve come upon. An age of freedom, although more so in the digital world than the real, that allows people to create and be creative without the constraints of superficial barriers such as processed paper with a noted value. One with potential and motivation should be able to succeed on just that and I am so glad there are more and more options sprouting from the roots of this digital era that provide these magnificent opportunities of hope and inspiration to anyone, and everyone. I am also extraordinarily proud of the programmers out there that find it imperative to provide freeware substitutes to the somewhat understandably overpriced, high-end software options out there. Although I can see and accept the need for huge conglomerations such as AutoDesk or Adobe to require large denominations for their software engineering ingenuity, I also find it makes the world a little harder for the people struggling to pay such quantities; simply to be able to express their creative emotions. Thus, I cannot help but smile when I discover that there are hundreds upon thousands of programmers working together to form these alternative options that give access to the same potential one could gain using Flash or Autocad. It truly is a beautiful concept and provides proof that there is good in the digital world.

Just an example of the beauty you can create with Blender:

Now for the Features of Blender [STRAIGHT FROM THE BLENDER FEATURES PAGE]

Interface

  • Revolutionary non-overlapping and non-blocking UI delivers unsurpassed workflow
  • Flexible and fully configurable window layout with as many screen setups as you prefer
  • Undo support on all levels
  • Anti-aliased fonts with international translation support
  • Any window space can be easily switched to any window type (curve editor, NLA, 3D view etc)
  • Built-in text editor for annotations and editing Python scripts
  • Graphical user interface for Python scripts
  • Custom themes
  • Consistent interface across all platforms

Modeling

  • A range of 3D object types including polygon meshes, NURBS surfaces, bezier and B-spline curves, metaballs, vector fonts (TrueType, PostScript, OpenType)
  • Very fast Catmull-Clark subdivision surfaces with optimal iso-lines display and sharpness editing
  • Full multiresolution sculpting capabilities with 2D bitmap/3D procedural brushes (Paint, Smooth, Pinch, Inflate, Grab) supporting symmetry
  • Modifier stack deformers such as Lattice, Curve, Armature or Displace
  • Mirror modifier with middle vertices clipping and automatic deletion of inner faces
  • Non destructive real time Boolean and Array modifiers
  • Mesh modeling based on vertex, edge and/or face selection
  • Smooth soft selection editing tools for organic modeling
  • Python scripting access for custom tools

Rigging

  • Fast skeleton creation mode
  • Interactive 3D paint for vertex weighting
  • Fast envelope based skinning
  • Automatic Skinning that really works (heat equilibrium based)
  • Mirror editing (bone creation and weight painting)
  • Double Quaternions reduce shrinking and other bone deformation errors
  • Volume deformer uses a mesh cage to deform complex meshes with great results
  • Bone layers and colored groups for better rig organization
  • B-spline interpolated bones; forget about elbow twists
  • Constraint stack for IK solver setup and other constraints
  • PyConstraints; if you need something not yet implemented code it in python with real time feed back, no compiling needed

Animation

  • Armature (skeleton) deformation with forward/inverse kinematics with pole target support
  • Auto IK allows posing FK chains easily
  • Non-linear animation editor for mixing individual actions created in Action editor
  • Automated walkcycles along paths
  • Animated constraint system
  • Vertex key framing for morphing, with controlling sliders
  • Edit and create new blendshapes from existing targets
  • Character animation pose editor
  • ‘Ipo’ system integrates both motion curve and traditional key-frame editing
  • Audio playback, mixing and editing support for sound synchronisation
  • Timeline offers fast acces to many playback functions, autokey, help markers
  • Python scripting access for custom and procedural animation effects

Rendering

  • Very fast inbuilt raytracer
  • Oversampling, motion blur, post-production effects, fields, non-square pixels
  • Tile-based and fully threaded
  • Render layers and passes
  • Render baking to UV maps and object to object baking (full render, ambient occlusion, normals, textures)
  • Render engine tightly integrated with the node compositor
  • Halo, lens flares and fog effects
  • Vector motion-blur post-process effect (using node compositor)
  • Realistic defocus (DOF) post-process effect (using node compositor)
  • Edge rendering for toon shading
  • Interactive preview rendering panel in any 3d view
  • Ambient Occlusion
  • Radiosity solver
  • Export scripts available for external renderers such as Renderman, Povray, Virtualight, Lux, Indigo and V-Ray

Physics and Particles

  • Particle system can be atached to any mesh object. Control methods include weight painting, textures, curve guides, wind and vortex effects. Particles can be deflected by moving geometry
  • Hair strands can be created by a static particle system, supporting all particle control methods
  • Fluid simulator with fully animated inflow, outflow, obstacle and fluid objects. Gravity and viscosity settings can also be animated. Supports vector blur and is integrated with the particle system
  • Realtime soft body solver integrated in mesh, lattice, curve and text objects. Supports collision detection and particle field effects like Wind or Vortex, soft bodys can also be baked for faster playback/rendering
  • Game engine rigid body physics can be easily baked into animation curves

Imaging and Compositing

  • Compositor tightly integrated and aligned with the rendering pipeline
  • MultiLayer OpenEXR files allow to store and reuse raw renderlayer and passes data
  • Complete list of composite node filters, convertors, color and vector operators and mixers including Chroma Key, Blur, RGB Curves, Z Combine, Color Ramp, Gamma Correct
  • Preview panel to define the portion of interest. A composite then only happens on this part
  • Threaded and memory efficient (up to 8 processors)
  • Near realtime sequencer can edit hours of video
  • Waveform and U/V scatter plots
  • Open and write many audio & video file formats using ffmpeg
  • Can render using frameserver-support directly into foreign applications
  • Supports float images as well as regular 8 bits images
  • Curves tool allows you to create a mapping from the float range to a displayable result (for HDR images)

Realtime 3D/Game Creation

  • Graphical logic editor for defining interactive behavior without programming
  • Collision detection and dynamics simulation now support Bullet Physics Library. Bullet is an open source collision detection and rigid body dynamics library developed for Play Station 3
  • Shape types: Convex polyhedron, box, sphere, cone, cylinder, capsule, compound, and static triangle mesh with auto deactivation mode
  • Discrete collision detection for RigidBody simulation
  • Support for in-game activation of dynamic constraints
  • Full support for vehicle dynamics, including spring reactions, stiffness, damping, tyre friction etc
  • Python scripting API for sophisticated control and AI, fully defined advanced game logic
  • Support all OpenGLTM lighting modes, including transparencies, Animated and reflection-mapped textures
  • Support for multimaterials, multitexture and texture blending modes, per-pixel lighting, dynamic lighting, mapping modes, GLSL vertexPaint texture blending, toon shading, animated materials, support for Normal Maping and Parallax Mapping
  • Playback of games and interactive 3D content without compiling or preprocessing
  • Audio, using the SDL toolkit
  • Multi-layering of Scenes for overlay interfaces

Thank You Blender. Really, thank you so much.

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