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The State of Open Source 3D Modeling 267

gmueckl writes "Since Blender was released as open source in 2002, it has basically owned the open source 3D modeling scene. Its development has seen a massive push by both the community and supporting organizations. However, the program has been showing its age all along and efforts to improve on it have either been blocked or have failed in the past (note the dates). Authors of new modules are forced to jump through hoops to get their work glued onto the basic core, which still dates from the early 90s and has gone almost unchanged since. There are many other active projects out there like Art of illusion, K-3D, and Moonlight|3D. Each of them offers a modern, much saner, more coherent, and more powerful basic architecture and could match Blender in a couple of months' time with some extra manpower. So how come these projects don't get the level of support they deserve? How come developers are still willing to put up with such an arcane code base?"
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The State of Open Source 3D Modeling

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  • by Blikkie ( 569039 ) <> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @01:51PM (#19011605) Homepage

    As much as people may hate Blender, the main advantage of the program is that it is there, and that most things work. Some parts are even great. Personally I happen to like the poly-workflow, which is very fast. The main problem with blender for most users is that it takes a while to learn, but once it's learnt, it has a very effective workflow.

    I think that the OP is very optimistic when he sais that it takes only a few months to port everything (and the kitchensink) to another app, that is just impossible, even with open code.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      I agree that the blender workspace is more productive and somewhat more artistic.
      If you look at even commercial software such as Maya or 3ds max there is essentially very little difference other than the interface and i find 3ds max interface perplexing confused and illogical (looks like some one ate to many widgets and threw-up) blender was a semi steep learning curve but once you have the basics a bit guesswork you can make some alright looking models even without any experience.
      But then again i like Povr
      • Personally I like the way Rhinoceros 2.0 did things, seemed to work great but as the program is mostly meant for engineering, it's not very good for art.

        Designing machine parts however...
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Jeff DeMaagd ( 2015 )
      I think that the OP is very optimistic when he sais that it takes only a few months to port everything (and the kitchensink) to another app, that is just impossible, even with open code.

      It does sound like some Pollyanna that either hasn't coded or hasn't tried coding 3D software. 3D programming on that level is HARD.

      Heck, I even tried making a 2D CAD program once. The basic math was relatively easy but the UI and object database handling is a bitch. 3D is is a lot worse in many respects, the main advanta
      • by gmueckl ( 950314 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @06:27PM (#19013865)
        I'm the main author of Moonlight|3D. Getting that program to where it is now is the result of many a long night of coding during the last couple of years. Some parts of that type of software really are hard to create. In that part you seem to have made the same experience. But I've also gained enough confidence in the basic design of that application (and learned many lessions from it, too) that I have a pretty good idea of what is possible. And I honestly believe that a project like K-3D can show a higher pace of development than Blender with equal manpower because the foundations are laid out properly. This is not a plug for my project. I am fairly certain that my program is not the one that takes on Blender if that ever happens. I know that I have made my share of (incredibly stupid) mistakes and correcting them will take a considerable amount of time.
        • by LetterRip ( 30937 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @07:49PM (#19014641)
          "But I've also gained enough confidence in the basic design of that application (and learned many lessions from it, too) that I have a pretty good idea of what is possible."

          Pretty much every developer that has joined Blender has spent some time looking over the codebases of the other opensource 3D applications. Your claim of a month is absolutely ridiculous - even a year would be an insane time line. At a minimum you are looking at a requiring a similar sized developer base as Blender at least 3 years of full time development before any of the other 3D apps can even come close to Blenders functionality as of right now.

          Here is a very brief list of what you need to approach the basic functionality that Blender has

          Modeling tools - asside from Blender the only half reasonable polygon modeling tool available is Wings3D(which is written in Erlang). In addition to a strong core of standard polygon modeling tools Blender also has sculpt modeling, curve modeling, metaball modeling, NURBS, etc.

          UV Unwrapping - wings has basic UV unwrapping - Blenders are considered one of the best implementations in the 3D industry. As far as I'm aware all of the apps you mention have at best very basic tools.

          Texturing - Blender has full node based materials and texturing; Blender has 3D painting and texturing tools. To my knowledge none of the apps you propose have either of those features.

          Basic animation - you need good rigging and skinning tools for character animation. You need cage deformation, hooks, a driver system etc. I think AOI has okay rigging but other than that?

          Simulation - physics, particles, fluids, crowds, hair. Presumably some of the apps you list have very basic collision integrated? Some also might have very basic particles. The difference between where they are at, and where they would need to be to match Blenders current capabilities is tremendous.

          Compositing - not crucial for a 3D application to have - but this is a powerful feature of Blender having an integrated compositor in its rendering pipeline.

          Rendering - do any of the projects you list have multipass rendering even?

          Scripting - Blenders API has been refactored a few times, this has caused some pain among scripters, but the API has been steadily maturing and is quite large and powerful.

          Exporters and Importers - how many and how mature are exporters for any of your suggested programs? A fairly complete and mature exporter or importer can in itself represent numerous man years of effort.

          Sequencer - again not crucial to meet the definition of a standard 3D animation suite - but again a powerful feature that is part of Blender.

          Logic nodes and game engine - yet another feature that wouldn't be a strict requirement to become a reasonable competitor in the 3D animation suite space, but another tool that is an important part of Blender for part of our user base.

          I get the impression that you have absolutely no idea how much time and effort it would take to become a serious competitor as a 3D animation suite. No disrespect but Moonlight 3D isn't even 1% of the way there, and yet in your estimation it would only take a month to 'catch up'.

          • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

            by root_42 ( 103434 )

            Sequencer - again not crucial to meet the definition of a standard 3D animation suite - but again a powerful feature that is part of Blender.

            And may I say: The sequencer is one of the BEST parts of blender. Nothing beats whipping up a short presentation movie with the blender sequencer. It is quite intuitive for a blender user, since it uses the same key and mouse mappings. We use it all the time when we want to stitch together some clips.

    • by Howitzer86 ( 964585 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:43PM (#19012413)
      Right, learning Blender is no worse than learning Maya. Also, the interface is unique, but I wouldn't dare call it dated. Finally, I'll have to disagree with the jumping-through-hoops thing. A guy named Brecht has created a Sub Surface Scattering module, which will has been added to the 2.44 Release Candidates only 2 weeks after he began showing it off. - Avid user of Blender
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by ville ( 29367 )

      Lack of ngons is a serious workflow deficiency and something that forces one to kludge around when building models. No point stating quad-only models are better anyway, supporting ngons isn't about that. Having ngons while you model speeds up the workflow when you don't have to work around them and can leave them in temporarily.

      Apparently work is done to introduce a new mesh type and tools that support ngons. Just pointing out that right now blender's workflow is rather restricting.

      // ville

    • by alphamugwump ( 918799 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @05:28PM (#19013317)
      Frankly, the OP is full of shit. While blender development is a bit slow, they have made substantial progress. Recently (as in 2005) they rewrote the framework in order to allow 3dsmax-style widgets. They've added fluid simulation, scripting -- all kinds of stuff. They made an animated short, partly to see what features artists wanted, and partly to promote blender. This article is on par with the "BSD is dying" troll, except it's more like saying "Linux is dying", as Blender is easily the most advanced OSS modeler out there.

      People like to bitch about the interface -- yes, it is confusing at first. But you have to use it for more than a few hours. Do the blender tutorial. After playing with blender, I took a class in 3dsmax -- seriously, once you learn the keystrokes for blender, you never want to go back. In this, it's comparable to vi or emacs.

      Most likely, the OP got his nose bent out of joint because they wouldn't switch over to XML, so he decided to slander the project on slashdot.
  • Rewriting (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Nick_taken ( 1090721 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @01:52PM (#19011607)
    I dont think blender code is that arcane, i know Tom was doing some rewriting, they are aware that the core needs updates and they are doing it, it just needs time. Game engine was coded again with a different engine, render path it hink got updated too.
    • I don't think he does a good job of really explaining what's wrong with Blender. He points to k-3d which also dates from the early 90's, and mentions that back in 2003 a patch for XML support wasn't accepted. Maybe he really wants a 3-D app written in Java (like Art of Illusion) and XML?
      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by gmueckl ( 950314 )
        Blender is a design that was never intended to grow into what it is now. Remember that it was an inhouse developement of an animation studio so the whole application was designed to get the job done that was at hand. But when the program itself was commercialized it started to outgrow itself. This was never anticipated and Blender still suffers from that. The other applications that I pointed out have a solid design which is able to grow. Commercial applications like Maya, Softimage and Houdini have demonst
        • Re:Rewriting (Score:5, Insightful)

          by shaitand ( 626655 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @04:16PM (#19012649) Journal
          'it started to outgrow itself'

          In what manner?

          'Blender still suffers from that'

          In what way does blender suffer?

          'have a solid design which is able to grow'

          In what way are the designs solid? What about the design of blender makes it less solid? Specifically what aspect of blender is unable to grow and what is the difference in these other applications that makes them able to grow?

          'applications like Maya, Softimage and Houdini have demonstrated that'

          In what manner?

          'Comparing blender to all of those on a design level makes blender stand out as the toy.'

          In what fashion?

          Do you have any constructive criticism or is this entire post just a troll? Can you name any specific features, design constructs, or methods that are actually superior in these applications or do you just prefer in the interface in the commercial applications you learned in?

          • Re:Rewriting (Score:4, Interesting)

            by gmueckl ( 950314 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @05:21PM (#19013235)
            All the programs I tend to point out are usually built around a scene representation that is more than just a simple scene graph. There is some serious parametrization going on at some level. In Maya, for instance, every operation that goes beyond tweaking the positions of some mesh vertices is stored as a separate node in the graph with parameters that can be altered after the fact. This provides a base for lots and lots of features: it's easy to animate node parameters if that should be desired. Art of Illusion for instance allows those nodes to be user-defined scripts (maybe Maya allows that, too - I don't know). YOu can go back and change things you did earlier without rebuilding the entire object if you find out that you made a mistake (e.g. if a revolved or lofted shape doesn't quite look like you want). If you know GEGL you could think of the design that I'm talking about as some sort of of 3D version of that approach. Every decent 3D modelling program that I've seen implements a variation of that, Blender being the big exception. If done right, this design is incredibly versatile and modular. Implementing a proper user interface on top may be a bit tough, though.
          • 'it started to outgrow itself'

            In what manner?

            Have you actually looked at blender's code? I haven't seen it in about 18 months, but when I did look through it, interested in adding a feature, it turned out to be a complete mess. I haven't read the post of the person you're replying to, but (s)he might have said "It started to outgrow itself", because it's obvious that the code has had many things tacked on wherever it works, rather than through a cyclic (re)design-document-implement-test-release process.


        • Re:Rewriting (Score:5, Informative)

          by LetterRip ( 30937 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @05:57PM (#19013583)

          I'm sorry sir but you seriously mistaken,

          Blender is a design that was never intended to grow into what it is now. Remember that it was an inhouse developement of an animation studio so the whole application was designed to get the job done that was at hand."

          Perhaps you should read about Blenders actual history?

 on/history/ []

          Blender was a rewrite of the inhouse design tool of neo-geo. The design of the rewrite was very forward looking. There were a few design errors, one such design error due to Blender being used inhouse is that the input design wasn't made easily customizable. This error is one that we are going to correct with Blender 2.50.

          "But when the program itself was commercialized it started to outgrow itself. This was never anticipated and Blender still suffers from that."

          It had been anticipated that Blender was to be commercialized. The technological and design foundations of Blender are pretty impressive. Blender has had some issues (all but a small handful of which have been addressed), but not anticipating commercialization is not one of them.

          "The other applications that I pointed out have a solid design which is able to grow. Commercial applications like Maya, Softimage and Houdini have demonstrated that. Comparing blender to all of those on a design level makes blender stand out as the toy."

          I suspect that you have close to zero knowledge about the designs of XSI, Maya, or Houdini similar to your close to zero knowledge of Blenders design.

          Blender has been able to sustain absolutely ridiculous growth rates in its code base and functionality. Professional 3D artists find the pace of development eye popping/jaw dropping.

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by dhasenan ( 758719 )
        Yeah, all three examples of patches not being accepted had to do with XML, and it's entirely possible (and reasonable) to think that XML might not be the best format for Blender to output. Not to mention, just because the file format is still binary doesn't mean there's no progress.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I am always a bit skeptical when someone says the code is bad because it is old. Its not a question of age but whether or not the code is maintainable and works well or not.

  • Showing age? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Xzzy ( 111297 ) <sether@tru 7 h .org> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @01:53PM (#19011623) Homepage
    It's easy to pick on the XML bit (though I don't understand why XML is so awesome it has to be used), but that's a pretty small demerit compared to all the major feature enhancement Blender has attained over the past few years.

    It's earned a fluid simulator. Particle effects have been dramatically improved, yafray integration was a huge improvement for rendering, materials can now be created with a node based system.. the list goes on and on. The feature enhancements that went into the latest point release is worth an essay all on their own: ender-243/ []

    Blender stays afloat because it's seeing active development and is already a mature platform. People are used to the interface (one that newbies hate, but veterans fall in love with), and it runs on all three of the major operating systems.

    I don't think an aging codebase is a critical flaw. Too often people think redesigning the wheel is a panacea for repairing a kludgy system, without realizing that all code projects fall prey to this at some point in their life. Sure we could rewrite Blender.. but to what end? It'd take another 5 years to get where we are now.
    • by Goaway ( 82658 )
      the interface (one that newbies hate, but veterans fall in love with)

      Are you sure you don't mean "one that only the few people who are able to love it ever use for long enough to become veterans"?
  • by Fyre2012 ( 762907 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @01:54PM (#19011627) Homepage Journal
    So how come these projects don't get the level of support they deserve?

    Because the issue hasn't been posted to the front page of /. until now.
    • Re: (Score:2, Funny)

      by Yubastard ( 989606 )
      indeed! I just checked those other apps and I settled on AoI, cuz' of it's simpler interface and my noobiness. blender works great but I tend to be a more visual person and like an interface with buttons and such things... thanx a lot!
  • by Animats ( 122034 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @01:57PM (#19011663) Homepage

    There have been huge changes to Blender over time. For example, the physics engine in the game engine was replaced with a much better one. The original poster is apparently wound up about some XML import/export thing, which is minor. You can write Blender import/export filters in Python, and many such filters exist.

    Blender has some problems, but converting its files to an XML format isn't one of them.

    • by gmueckl ( 950314 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @02:22PM (#19011855)
      No, but it touches on an aspect of Blender that I happend to be familiar with at the time: the crufty file loading and saving code. All that XML stuff would have helped to sanitize that part of the code. The basic idea behind Blender's file format is not bad, but with all the changes that were made to Blender's data structures the strong ties between the file format and data structures led to long lists of hacks that were introduced to keep the program compatible with older versions. I picked that example for two reasons: it's documented and easy to get into. Many other issues are only discussed in IRC so there is no real record of them.

      Another problem is Blenders old user interface code. It dates back quite some time and it surely has been updated time and again. But because it is a library that does everything by itself on top of OpenGL and thin wrappers around the actual windowing system it did not get proper support for multiple screens yet although this has been called for some time now. User interface translations are a similar topic which has been tried time and again and still isn't fully accomplished. Back in the days when Blender ran on SGI workstations the decision for an own UI toolkit made sense. But times change.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by ville ( 29367 )

        Then you're probably happy to hear, or already aware, that the UI/event part of blender is slated for rewrite.

        // ville

  • by msh104 ( 620136 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @01:57PM (#19011665)
    I dont't see any open source competitor for blender any time soon.
    blender already has quite a lot of features, not to mention game engine and other tools.
    plug the fact that it's light weight, fast and cross platform. (while maintaining the same UI everywhere.)
    blender may have some old cruft every here and there.
    but it doesn't really bother me.

    so what do these are "not yet here" apps offer me?
    • so what do these are "not yet here" apps offer me?

      Actually working on 64-bit platforms is nice. Reference []

      Also, I think it's a personal problem, but I haven't been able to get Blender to even work on my system. All the controls show up, but the actual modelling area is blank. No grid, no objects, just dull gray nothing. And it seg faults when I try to add an object. Maybe it's just a precaution since I wouldn't be able to save correctly anyway.

      Personally I like K-3D better, although I haven't b

      • by LetterRip ( 30937 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @06:28PM (#19013875)
        "Actually working on 64-bit platforms is nice. Reference"

        Blender worked on 64 bit platforms, but it wasn't recommended since the output of the files wasn't guaranteed to be portable between 32 and 64 bit versions of Blender. For 2.44 being 64 bit clean again (it was for the majority of its history) was one of the goals.

        "Also, I think it's a personal problem, but I haven't been able to get Blender to even work on my system."

        Sounds like a bad opengl driver, you can try upgrading or downgrading your driver; turning down hardware accelleration; and turning off antialiasing - those tend to fix 99% of the common issues.

    • by nurb432 ( 527695 )
      Its also one of the oldest, and most used ( i would imagine anyway ).

      Ive been a fan of it since back when you still had to buy a license. ( and yes, i did buy one even though you could get one in 20 seconds they deserved the donation )
  • Doesn't matter (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2007 @01:59PM (#19011677)
    Well instead of trying to match Blender, maybe it would be a good idea for them do do everything right that Blender does wrong.

    But it doesn't matter anyway. Basically, the hype and bullshit surrounding the 3d modeling app market is already so saturated and misinformed, it makes a SNES vs. Genesis debate in the cafeteria in the 6th grade look like a congressional fact finding comittee. Almost anyone involved in 3d modeling as a hobby develops their own ideas about what is good and what is bad for their way of working. Most of the time, Open Source modeling apps fall in the "bad" column.
  • by dublinclontarf ( 777338 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @01:59PM (#19011681) Homepage
    Blender's UI is the Emacs of the 3D Modelling world, it's got a steep learning curve but when you get it(in the three or so years it'll take), boy will you be marginally productive.
    • Re:It's obvious (Score:5, Insightful)

      by runningduck ( 810975 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @02:20PM (#19011845)

      Blender's UI is the Emacs of the 3D Modelling world, it's got a steep learning curve but when you get it(in the three or so years it'll take), boy will you be marginally productive.

      Actually it is the Vi of the 3D Modeling world; it has small footprint and a marginally steep learning curve, but when you get it (in three or so weeks) you will be amazed at what you can accomplish with relatively little effort.

      • by capsteve ( 4595 ) *
        i agree. once you master the basic navigation, creation and editing functions down, it's amazingly efficient.
      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by Dr_Mic ( 975409 )
        I have to respectfully disagree. Blender's learning curve is horrendous. I spent a fair amount of time (all of my free time+ over the course of about 3 weeks) and got no where when trying to create simple animations for my physics students. I spent a weekend with POV-Ray [] and completed the first of many such short animations.

        I know that Blender's capabilities blows POV-Ray's out of the water, but I couldn't do simply and easy stuff easily with Blender that I can with POV-Ray. Every so often I'll spend a
  • by capsteve ( 4595 ) * on Sunday May 06, 2007 @02:23PM (#19011863) Homepage Journal
    your question isn't so much a question as much as it is whinging... maya and lightwave and studiomax are also showing their age based on a mature code base, but consistency in the user experience, incorporating improvements into the base application without jepordizing usability are stilll very important. and just as these applications have improved over the years, so has blender. i haven't seen alot of improvements with AOI...

    Blender probably "owns" the open source 3D graphical modeling scene because it's the most complete, full fledged, and the most mature of all the applications out there, with the exception of POVray. aside from blender(combined with yafray), the only other apps i use(and would consider recommending) would be wings3d(currently testing sunflow). typically i'll start with wings, import into blender, and use yafray for rendering. this combo seems to work well, wings is superior to blender in certain types of modelling. i don't think the other apps you mentioned play well with other apps, maybe that's the problem...

    i've tried many of the OSS 3D apps out there(including AOI, have not tried k3d or moonlight thou) and the problem was often that the user interface was clumsy, the code was only available on one platform(i.e. moray), or the project was not mature enough for real work.

    blender is'nt the easiest 3d app to work with, but then again 3d modelling in and of itself is not an easy task. since this discussion is about 3d modellers, it's important that an artist is able to navigate, switch tools, and move around an application in as smooth and fluid like as possible. it might seem like an oxymoron, but it is possible to do this in wings and blender(i never thought it would be). blender especially is a steep curve application, but once you get to know the most basic commands of edge/vector/face selection, creation and editing of primitives and vertices, things start moving quite well. there is a lot of thought that went into both blender and wings UI to make them easy to use. can you say that about k3d/aoi/moonlight?

    you complain about the underlying architecture, but it's not the code that a user is interfacing with, and the interface is what is driving a highly graphical app like blender. it helps when architecture and UI are both well conceived.

    does that answer your question(s)?
    • by Eideewt ( 603267 )
      N.B. Pov-ray isn't actually open source. It's open-ish source in that one can download the source and create modified versions, but only under strict terms. Not a bad model for what they want to do though.
      • by capsteve ( 4595 ) *
        i stand corrected regarding the licensing issue, you are correct it is open-ish(pov license) with regards to downloading of app/source, re-distribution, modification, etc. it's not open source cause it's not using an osi recognized license(povray is pre gpl), however it is written and distributed in the spirit of open source. that being said, i mentioned pov as an example of another(non-commercial) 3d modeller.
        • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

          by cab15625 ( 710956 )
          Firstly, the current development version of POV may be the last one released under the POV license... there is talk of releasing it under GPL [] along with Moray in the future. Secondly ... POV-Ray is not a modeler. Unlike Blender or Moray, Povray scenes are coded, not modeled. That's kinda what the scene description language is all about. Moray and other modellers that can output .pov files are kinda like using Visual Basic to write a program ... but not really.
          • by capsteve ( 4595 ) *
            pov MAY be released under a different license with ver 4... if they can replace all the bits of code from all the contributors. i actually consider pov as a modeller. pov may not be a modeller in the same way that blender or wings are, but it does build scenes: with text, not mouse movements. you can export files from/to other modellers (including blender) and pov. moray is a graphical front end bolted on to pov as a backend. at the end of the day it's about describing vectors in 3d space, and rastering the
    • Wings3d is written in Erlang, correct?
  • It's a pain. (Score:3, Insightful)

    by sbaker ( 47485 ) * on Sunday May 06, 2007 @02:23PM (#19011865) Homepage
    Blender isn't well thought out - it's evolved. The user interface is still pretty terrible. Python scripting totally sucks - the interfaces change with every release (often in ways that break existing script), are very poorly documented and yet never seem to keep up with the functionality in the core package. The code base is a terrible mess. People I know who have wished to write significant additions to blender's core have found their work rejected.

    But the problem is that it's just barely good enough - such that developers simply don't feel it worth the (not inconsiderable) effort to do something truly world-class to replace it. Artists eventually learn it's weirdnesses.

    If blender mysteriously vanished overnight, we'd be in a terrible state for the next year - but what would emerge as a result would be a hundred times better.

    • Re:It's a pain. (Score:5, Informative)

      by Briggs_Bl ( 1098445 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @02:47PM (#19012039)
      Your correct in saying that a lot of things are a mess, however as a develoer, I can't agree with your asessment of our feelings about the state of the codebase. Right now we are currently working on several large-scale refactors of core portions of Blender's code-base. This isn't something that happens overnight though. We certainly want things to get better, but it has to be the right thing and the right time and for the right reasons. Otherwise we might end up with something worse than what we have now.

    • by bky1701 ( 979071 )
      I thought the same thing about the interface, until I learned to use it.

      One of blender's shortcomings is that there are a number of ways to model with it and the most efficient, I have found, is not the standard "extrude it from a box", and only a few tutorials cover the more different methods (like drawing outlines as a 2d plane and moving them into their 3d positions).

      Judging by the fact you don't seem to know the interface, I can't help but think you are just parroting things you heard form annoyed
      • by flewp ( 458359 )

        One of blender's shortcomings is that there are a number of ways to model with it and the most efficient, I have found, is not the standard "extrude it from a box", and only a few tutorials cover the more different methods (like drawing outlines as a 2d plane and moving them into their 3d positions).

        You've just described every single modeling app out there. However, sometimes the "extrude from box" is the most efficient. It all depends on what you're modeling, what you're modeling for (animation-ready models can have different requirements from "static" models), and of course, the artist at the keyboard and mouse.

        As for tutorials, if you're looking for modeling tutorials, look at tutorials written for other apps. The one thing about modeling tutorials is that they can basically apply to any app

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      > Blender isn't well thought out - it's evolved. The user interface is still pretty terrible.

      Same can be said for 3DSMAX. Extremely powerful because it's evolved, but with a terrible, archaic user interface that newcomers like VUE leave for dead. Same for Poser and DAZ.

      Being first to market is a huge advantage, but in time, you're left lugging a dinosaur around while sleek, warm blooded animals breed and overrun you. Say... is that snow? :-)
  • Yeah, it's not exactly a 3D modeling app, but you can pick it up with no prior experience and throw together a map of a building in an hour or so.
  • by chocobanana ( 974767 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @02:27PM (#19011891)
    Well, all I can say is that Blender rocks. It has its unique UI, which is fine for me, but maybe instead of thinking about core code, how about making UI derivatives without messing with the functions? As I said, I like the UI but others may not. But what I think that is missing from the open-source scene is something so crucial, I can't do but wonder why it doesn't exist: an OPEN-SOURCE PARAMETRIC 3D MODELLER! Please!!!!! I'm an Industrial Designer and I'm obliged to have Microsuffer Winblowz just because of one single type of program. I wish I could go all OSS, but this is my main brake. So I ask you, Slashdotters! Who's willing to help and start a OSS Parametric Modelling program? (like Solidworks, Alibre, Pro/Engineer, etc.) Thank you for your attention!
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      These aren't instant solutions to your need for an open source parametric modelling app, but if you're interested in pursuing parametric modelling within Blender you might be interested in these threads:
    • K-3D *is* a parametric modeller. Blender, in fact, is gaining parametric features, slowly. However, k-3d is quite fully-fledged, with parameters that take inputs from and provide output to other nodes, etc. It looks like a great solution, except... well, it still feels very awkward to model with, for some reason. Maybe I just haven't given it enough of a chance yet. Also, the UI in K-3D has a perfect structure, but is much to space-consuming (see how the node properties panel/toolbar needs around a thi
  • Very True (Score:2, Informative)

    by neosiv ( 320921 )
    This is a fairly timely post for me. A few weeks ago I was interested in creating some fairly simple 3D objects, the first piece of software I tried was Blender 3D. After about a night's work of playing around with Blender I still couldn't get it to do what I wanted it to. A few days later, I came across Art of Illusion, and within an hour I was able to create what I wanted. It may be that Blender may be better for the more experienced user but Art of Illusion was a lot more intuitive and productive for the
  • by kscguru ( 551278 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @02:36PM (#19011967)
    Disclaimer: I haven't actually looked at any of these codebases. BUT - this jumped out:

    Each of them offers a modern, much saner, more coherent, and more powerful basic architecture and could match Blender in a couple of months' time with some extra manpower.
    Here is the problem. Actually, there are several problems all tied up here.
    • Each of them: great, there are three projects offering equivalent functionality, each hoping to supplant the current favorite? And which, pray thee, should an experienced developer contribute to? "Any of them"? --- bzzt, wrong answer. You're asking somebody to contribute when there is a 2 in 3 chance the contribution will be dead code when one of these emerges as a favorite? A born-into-money aristorcrat who doesn't have to make his own living can do that; the rest of us have more limited time and can't. Hint: companies pay product managers quite a bit to keep developers from doing wasted work, partly to avoid overhead but partly because wasting a developer's work is the fastest way to kill any enthusiasm. Picking one option (even if it's wrong) is better than indecisiveness. And if you truly think multiple options are the best, then find a way for them to coexist (pluggable rendering cores) instead of killing each other off.
    • modern, much saner, more coherent, and more powerful: all of these are in the eye of the beholder. But here's an opportunity to defend yourself: if these new architectures are that much more powerful, it must be possible to implement the blender architecture with them. Which happens to be a sane migration path, instead of the throw-away-anything-old not-invented-here approach of an entirely new project. Blender is open source: fork it and insert the new architecture, instead of griping about how somebody else should do something better. (I know full well this isn't as simple as I'm making it out to sound. But you know full well these new architectures aren't unambiguously better than the old.)
    • could match Blender in a couple of months' time: such a confident development-time prediction! Anyone with predictions that solid should be administrator of a project already! Now that I'm done being sarcastic, "a couple of months" is totally unrealistic. Every additional developer needs ~1 month to get up to speed on a new codebase (and understand what Blender does), another X months to implement the new functionality to match Blender, and 2X months to work the bugs out of the new functionality. Wine has been a few months from being usable for general apps for years; Gnome has been a few months and a few developers from being able to replace Windows for years; Windows has been a few months from being bug-free for a decade.
    I don't mean to degrade the whole idea of finding something better than Blender. It's a fantastic goal, advances the state-of-the-art, and all sorts of other good things. I do dispute the misrepresentation of the ease with which it can be done: if it were even a tenth that easy, it would already be done.

    Developers are willing to put up with the arcane code base because (1) it works, (2) it's Good Enough, which means anything newer has to overcome the training / usability barriers associated with switching, and (3) the newer options are not unambiguously "better". Remember: if app Bar (Blender) is already the standard, app Foo (these alternatives) not only has to be better for someone just starting, but also has to be better for an experienced user of Bar.

  • re: (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Their main problem is the interface, which they are attempting to fix IIRC.
    Just do the modeling with Wings 3D, or whatever you happen to like, and do the rest with Blender. It's a very capable piece of software.
    And many artists use many applications to do their work, for example, they could use Modo for modeling, Lightwave for rendering, etc. So it would be perfectly normal if you use Wings for the modeling, some other application for animation, Blender for rendering, etc. This way, you are using the parts
    • Re: (Score:4, Informative)

      by flewp ( 458359 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:26PM (#19012291)
      Indeed. I use modo and Silo for modeling hard surfaced objects, and rendering in modo or Maya (via Mental Ray). Then there's sculpting specific apps like Mudbox and ZBrush (which also does texturing).

      You'll rarely, if ever, find a studio using one program. Certainely none of the bigger ones, and I don't even know of any smaller studios that rely on one piece of software for all their needs. For the hobbyist though, this isn't always a viable option due to the costs associated with some of the software.

      Modeling especially, seems to be segmented. Model a base mesh in modo/Silo, bring it into ZBrush/Mudbox for sculpting, rebuilding topology in modo or Silo again, and then bringing it all together into Maya/XSI/3DS/LW/etc.
  • by mpn14tech ( 716482 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @02:52PM (#19012065)
    Blender has a rather unintuitive interface and most of the documentation is not that great. Fortunately I came across this excellent tutorial []. The file is a pdf. It took me about a month of evenings and weekends, but once I was through the tutorial I was quite comfortable with the interface. It is really amazing what you can do with Blender once you get over the learning curve.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bemopolis ( 698691 )
      I can't speak to the helpfulness of your tutorial (amazingly, one of the few I haven't read yet), but what got me over the Blender hump was the open courseware materials for a class [] at Tufts University. The professor, Neal Hirsig, has posted an extensive set of UI-centric tutorials (both PDF and video). If you can get past the general distaste for Real Player streaming video, and the extremely minor annoyance of him saying "ver-teh-cee" when he means "vertex", you will go a long way towards mastering the
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday May 06, 2007 @02:52PM (#19012073)
    Inkscape is making moves toward 3d. Just being able to produce a wireframe in Inkscape would take much of the pain out of using Blender. mmer_Of_Code#3D_Tool [] IMHO Blender and the deranged robot of the same name have a lot in common.

    My daughter just attended a seminar where the UI expert posited the three Es. Ease of use, ease of remembering and something else that translated as power. The way the presenter described it, you couldn't have all three. Bullroar. A good program is one that I can use intuitively. If I am going to use the program a lot, there are shortcuts available. For instance, my students can get something to work with menus and the mouse. I can do the same thing two or three times as fast from the keyboard. I guess the thing is that a decent program has more than one possible UI.
  • Wings 3D (Score:2, Interesting)

    If you want a nice natural intuitive modeler, look no further than Wings 3d:

    Wings3D []

    It has some strange dependencies, but you might be able to find a precompiled version for your platform. (It's in Gentoo's portage for example).

  • So it's not cool to have no choice? I thought we were against choice? Doesn't everyone want either KDE or Gnome to die?
  • I used to think so, but when a friend of mine recently tried...

    He is a graphics designer by trade and has Windows at home (he hates Macs, but has to deal with them, because every single designer shop in Germany uses them). He wanted to build something in 3D and tried to install the Windows version. It wouldn't even install due to some Python related problem (Python seems to be for the plugins, but why would it break the basic install anyways?). I tried to help him over the phone and he installed different v
  • I love blender, but I do agree with the bit about people jumping through hoops to make any changes to it. I rewrote one of the import scripts because it only handled a tiny subset of the specifications for the file format it was supposed to import and I needed it to import more diverse forms of OFF files for my work. I posted my changes with example files for review and didn't hear back for months. When I finally did hear back they wanted me to create more example files to show them what the point of my cha
  • FragMotion (Score:2, Redundant)

    by llZENll ( 545605 )

    fragMOTION is a powerful 3D modeller specifically intended for the creation and animation of characters. fragMOTION is intuitive and easy to use and contains many features that are only found in top of the line modellers. And if that's not enough for you, the event driven scripting system makes it a breeze for you to add your own features.
    Notable Features

    * Load and edit multiple motions in the same workspace.
    * Merge any s
  • by gmueckl ( 950314 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:42PM (#19012409)

    This is to all those people who claim that you just have to learn to use Blenders user interface: My question really was initially not that much about the user interface, but the user interface really is at the core of the problem, but not in the way you probably expect.

    The alternative applications that I have pointed out are really designed for a job. They adhere to basic MVC patterns and whatever else you would expect from such a big application. These patterns really are a big advantage when it comes down to coding stuff. Blender on the other hand has a "user interface driven design", as Ton once said. And this term fits well: the user interface - and I almost literally mean the buttons on screen and whatever event handling that is attached to it - are the only glue that keeps everything together. So when you talk about the user interface you also talk about Blender's internals. There is not much of an abstraction between the user interface and the data that is manipulated. So the bottom line is that any change to Blender's user interface is a change to Blender's design.

    • by Papulizer ( 1053120 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @06:16PM (#19013745)
      The core of Blender is its database concept. The UI is exchangable and it will be refactored during the course of this year. You're right, blender is about UI, but what that really means is that there are some basic guidelines (e.g. non-overlapping, muscle memory) Here is a statement of a blender developer: "This may be shocking, but we kind of like the interface the way it is. You see, we have the source code. If we wanted it different, we would have changed it already. Could it be better? Sure. Will it evolve over time? Without a doubt! Though it seems unfamiliar, Blender's interface is based on principles from Jef Raskin's "The Humane Interface". There are other applications with a different user interface paradigm. I'm sure you can find one you like. "
  • IMHO, the problem is that specialized subjects (unless it's something directly related to systems software) are harder to get going in open source projects. Some domains, like computer algebra, operations research, visualization, etc., demand a domain knowledge that is not widely available. Being able to program in C/C++/C# or Java, etc., is not enough. A lot of programmers in the OS world know Unix. But knowing Unix does nothing for your, e.g., workflow, spreadsheet, or number-crunching software (scientifi
  • Professional roots (Score:3, Informative)

    by nurb432 ( 527695 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:51PM (#19012475) Homepage Journal
    Dont forget that Blender came from professional roots. NeoGeo actually USED this software for their work, back when it was purely internal.

    Most everyone else is coming from a hobbiest viewpoint. and are most always doomed to stay there, if they manage to survive at all.
    • by chriss ( 26574 ) *
      The company that produced Blender was NaN Technologies (Not a Number, from the error message []). Neo Geo [] was a game console based on arcade games in the 90s.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by flewp ( 458359 )
        Neo Geo was also a Dutch animation studio. Blender was developed for in-house use at Neo Geo.
      • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

        by nurb432 ( 527695 )
        Go further back in history.

        NeoGeo ( in the Netherlands ) was ( still is? ) a PR firm, that originally wrote and used blender.

        NaN was created as a separate entity when blender was released to the world to manage the operations and eventual 'opening of Blender.
  • by UglyMike ( 639031 ) on Sunday May 06, 2007 @03:51PM (#19012477)
    Kdawson submitted some anti-Blender tirade written by gmueckl. Fair enough, the guy has a right to his opinion.
    I want to check it out so I go to the never-changing site of AoI and look at the gallery. Well, maybe they keep their best stuff somewhere else....That stuff has been there forever.
    Next I go to K-3D, fondly remembering the build-in tutorials in the 'old' K-3D, the one before the never-ending refactor. Site doesn't load.
    Head over to Moonlight3D. Hey, I remember that from about 10 year ago! Sad story: guys write Moonlight (closed source) Later they come up with Moonlight Atelier. Loads better but still closed source. ( had a nice Moonlight section) They open source the old code base, lose interest in Atelier and that's it. End of story. OK, so some guys decide to try to revive the old codebase, did some hacks and changes. Project died. This seems to be the legacy. Go look at news. Hey! Who's that posting there? It's our old friend gmueckl! So the anti-Blender tirade looks like a serious bout of jealousy to me...
    If that is the competition Blender has, I suspect it'll be on top for quite a bit longer.... Just compare development pace, feature set, support (2 modern Blender books with a third one on order), roadmap.
  • If you want to get anywhere in the industry doing modeling, you need Maya. Don't waste time with anything else.
  • There's the OpenSceneGraph project []. Not all 3D is Blender/Maya, it really depends on what you want/need to do. If we stick to the title "3D modeling", I guess even some 3D game engines [] can fit in! :-)
    "The OpenSceneGraph is an open source high performance 3D graphics toolkit, used by application developers in fields such as visual simulation, games, virtual reality, scientific visualization and modelling. Written entirely in Standard C++ and OpenGL it runs on all Windows platforms, OSX, GNU/Linux, IRIX, Sola
  • by Qbertino ( 265505 ) <> on Sunday May 06, 2007 @05:05PM (#19013049)
    As far as I can tell K3D and Moonlight haven't moved an inch in the last 5 years. They both look like students summer projects to me.
    Blender has weedy parts in its codebase, everyone knows that. Any programm this complex and mature has those. But they are being replaced fast and thouroughly by a thriving core team lead by the founder of Blender. Blender runs out of the box on 7 plattforms and has a featureset that closely competes with current topline commercial tools. Try to catch up on that alone 'in a few months' Mr. Smartass. Blender is responisble for the recent price drops in the 3D tool industry alone and when it eventually fully supports Renderman yet some toolmakers are going to have to redo their businessmodel big time.

    The usual UI bickering is bogus aswell. Apart from being just as hard to learn as any tool of same capabilities, blenders UI has been comletely OpenGL accelerated from the begining - one of the things it's unique in iirc. Blender's learning curve is steep, as with any high-end 3D tool without a stack of books. But with the amount of material and books available on the web for free nowadays makes this learning curve not nearly as hard as it was 5 years ago. The featureset is breathtaking and has commercial providers such as Newtek struggling to catch up in some areas (notice the recent addition of an improrved node editor to Lightwave 9 - nothing but a response to Blenders node editor). Sidenote: I own a professional licence of LW 8, a commercial licence of Blender (from the NaN days) *and* use Blender since back in the days of 1.8. I haven't updated to LW 9 for the very reason that Blender 2.43, a few little things aside, offers everything professional 3D needs. And then some - an full-blown integrated compositor for instance.

    Blender is as mature and developed as any open source project could wish for. As *any* software project could wish for actually. Features and improvement are being added on a regular basis and it's fully backwards compliant with any blender file, and it's professional roots not only show but have become more and more visible.

    Bottom line: The submitter of the above article either doesn't know what he is talking about or is a troll. Or both.
  • The codebase of those from scratch projects is probably less complex because they do not yet implement the last 30% of complex functionality implemented by the codebase you inherited.

    Requiring users to learn a new UI and new ways of doing things, not to mention each having a long list of missing functionality, will alienate your userbase and reduce funding.

    Likely the codebase appears more complex to you than it is because you are inexperienced with it.

    If the issue is the complexity of the plugin interface,
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Some guy has been working pretty hard on a new 3D solid modeling CAD program over the past few months called avoCADo. It is geared more towards 3D CAD engineering and design, but I thought it deserved mentioning. Does avoCADo have potential? or is it just another modeling program doomed to sinking in the sea of open source 3D apps? []

The unfacts, did we have them, are too imprecisely few to warrant our certitude.