Blender is one of the best things to ever happen in the 3D industry. It’s 100% free, with no asterisk. You can download the full version for free, you can use it for personal or professional studio projects for free, and you can even change the software and distribute it for free. Everything you make it in Blender is your own property, and it’s been used by famous game and movie companies as well as scientists performing research. The best part of all is how amazing it has grown to become over many years, with countless of award winning animations being made with it. Let’s take a look at what’s new in 2.77a:
Aside from 100s of bug fixes, they’ve not only improved the quality of Subsurface Scattering (SSS), but SSS is also faster on GPUs now. Smoke/Fire and Point Density are now supported on GPU. Other rendering improvements include customizable motion blur, support for rolling shutter, custom baking passes, performance optimizations for large node shaders, and other default settings. The progress bars in the interface received a complete design overhaul and there’s now support for multi-line text in tooltips, render stamps, frame nodes, and meta data display. Blender users will also be happy to know that there’s now better anti-aliasing for OpenGL renders!
Modeling updates include a new edit-mode boolean tool for quick edits, a decimate modifier that is now symmetry aware, and the option to get a default UV-unwrapping of new geometry added. Selection tools now have improvements for face stepping, checker selects, next/previous, and multiple axis mirrors. Other small improvements have been added to triangulate & poke, grid-fill non uniform grids, hole support for intersect tool, and the split-by-edges tool.
Blender has also added white balance and tone map strip modifiers. Sculptors can now use a new rake option for the snake-hoke brush, with improvements added to its interaction with extruded segments. Weight painting now has better auto-normalize behavior, better multi-paint behavior, and vertex painting with orbit last stroke support.
Animation users can explore these new perks:
- Constraints: added new method to interpolate based on “Polar decomposition”.
- Graph Editor: “Cursor X” property now allows fractional values when working with Drivers, added options to insert keyframes at the cursor point.
- Dope Sheet: better frame range for new editor instances.
- Armatures: selection now supports selecting children, immediate children and siblings, added options to draw custom shape scale.
- Motion Paths: Clear Paths operator now acts on all objects/bones, Update Paths button is now shown in the toolbar too.
Grease Pencil has many updates, too! Highlights include Stroke Sculpting, a proper “Edit Mode” in the 3D View, recoded eraser with pressure sensitivity, an operator to restrict editing to the active layer only (Isolate Layer), Transform Manipulator support, animation editing improvements including copy/paste, and more advanced channel filtering. Game designers have new features to enjoy. Blender has added a Max Jumps value to the character physics and a Screenshot Actuator that can be found in the game actuator.
Please note that Blender has removed support for Windows XP and the SCons build system, and that Blender also now requires OpenGL 2.1 minimum.
As I always say, as with all animation software, it’s worth noting that the program itself isn’t the most important thing to know; the principles are. All 3D software should be viewed as nothing more than a different tool to help you get the same job done, with many programs being perfectly acceptable. It’s great to find out which one you like best but different employers use different software, so it’s likely that over the course of your career you’ll be asked to learn a few different animation programs. Try them all and have fun!