Anyone Can Cook… with (a) Blender

As an artist and animator, I’ve wanted to create things and move them around in 3D for quite a while now (probably since I saw Jurassic Park in 1993).

I’ve been fortunate to have had the opportunity to do some 3D professionally on a handful of projects, but have wanted to explore more of it in my personal work; at my own desk, in my own house, on my own (limited) time. The high price tag on most pro-3D creation software packages is a bit difficult for me to stomach. Some of them are subscription based and require a huge annual fee. This has always been a big hurdle for me, believing proficiency in 3D (let alone, a basic understanding) to be pie-in-the-sky dream fodder reserved for Hollywood.

Well, it’s not, and here’s why. To quote Gusteau from Pixar’s Ratatouille, “Anyone can cook!” Ton Roosendaal founded Blender on a similar philosophy; Anyone can and should be able to create in 3D! (I’m paraphrasing). This year (2019) marks the 25 year anniversary of Blender. In a celebration video, Ton spoke of his motivation for creating Blender being “…the pure passion for 3D. It’s this magical idea of you being able to create a complete universe inside of a computer. 3D is magic, and by making Blender, I would enable myself and later on everyone to experience that magic idea of 3D creation: making games, making movies, making visual effects.” Thanks to Ton and the generous community of developers for making Blender a reality! Blender is “Open Source 3D creation. Free to use for any purpose, forever.”

I remember grabbing it from a bank of free software with a student account in the early 2000s. Little did I know that it’s always FREE! At first, I found it to be unintuitive and intimidating to use, but in recent years have pushed to work it into my personal and professional workflows. I learned to love it, but it’s taken persistence. This initial resistance happens a lot with new users but it’s getting addressed in a version update that’s 3 years in the making, Blender 2.8. The UI overhaul coming to 2.8 is geared at making Blender more accessible for the new user and more consistent for everyone. Users and developers are all very eager to help and I get a sense of creative freedom working in Blender that I don’t feel quite as much in any other software.

Hollywood (some of it, anyway) is even starting to embrace Blender not only as a viable alternative to pricey “pro” software but as their preferred tool for 3D creation: sculpting, texturing, shading, animation, compositing, rendering etc… A number of studios and productions have built workflows primarily using Blender. My favorite example of this is the film Next Gen, recently released on Netflix.

It’s a film that was made entirely in Blender by the Canadian studio, Tangent Animation. Its an animated feature in the vein of a Pixar film about a girl and her robot friend. A film of this quality created with this software I actually have access to is both inspiring and liberating to see.

To come full circle (back to Jurassic Park, that is), I recently learned from the concept artist for the latest Jurassic World film “Fallen Kingdom”, Jama Jurabaev that he designed all the dinosaurs for the film in Blender. That’s just awesome!

Concept sculpts from Jama Jurabaev’s BCON 2018 talk “Blender Workflow for Feature Films”

So there you have it. Blender is great. Now, what am I going to do with it? I’ve begun development on my first game development project in my spare time where I’ll be creating all the characters and assets in Blender and I’m thrilled about it! I was also so excited about Blender from writing this post, that I had to sculpt my dog this weekend (yes, her ears are actually that big).

Sophie – Sculpted in Blender 2.8

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So, to anyone toying with the idea of creating in 3D, I encourage you to give Blender a try. I wish I had a lot sooner.

Andy Lemoine

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