Wed, 22 Jul 2009 Blender 2.49 review
Free 3D modelling, animation and game-creation tool proves that open source doesn’t have to be second best
Blender’s one of those rare open-source tools, like Inkscape and Open Office, that come so close to professional standards that you can imagine it boxed and happily selling for a couple of hundred quid. In Blender’s case, you could probably add another nought on the end – considering its commercial rivals are the sort of tools Pixar and Dreamworks use to make Oscar-winning 3D movies.
As such, Blender is not the kind of program you’ll get the hang of in an afternoon. It’s a complex and complete system for 3D modelling, rendering, animation – even game creation. Though lots can be achieved in the main work area with drag-and-drop movements, there are modes and menus to learn, keyboard shortcuts and workflows. Blender isn’t so much a piece of software as a hobby.
This should give you some idea of the power you’re dealing with. Fortunately, Blender has a thriving community – creating open-source examples you can load into the application. This makes it much easier to discover what all those parameters actually do. There are video tutorials and lots of documentation as well.
The development community is heading slowly towards a 2.5 release for Blender. The version we’ve been playing with is 2.49, which improves painting directly onto 3D objects, has a tweaked game engine and enhanced physics libraries. Perhaps most impressively, the release supports VideoTexture, a system that enables you to define any video or image format supported by FFmpeg as a model texture.