“This is the first Blender version I can work without referring to the Wiki”
The highly anticipated release of a major new version of the open source CG application Blender took place this last week when the Blender Foundation released Blender version 2.5 Alpha 0. This free open source program has had a huge and loyal following since its lead developer Ton Roosendaal appealed to the Blender community for funds to purchase the source code in 2002 and raised over $100,000 in seven weeks. The non-profit Blender Foundation has been seriously developing Blender for years with summer coding retreats and through a spectacular series of animated film productions designed to expand and improve the program to a level compared to other CG applications like Maya and 3ds Max.
Over the years, code has been added and re-worked in Blender to such a degree that it became difficult to re-work Blender without a serious re-write of the fundamental code. Version 2.5 is the first version since to be re-coded from the ground up. This new version is Alpha 0 and the goal is to bring out several more Alpha upgrades until the stable version 2.6 can be released in the summer. In effect, version 2.5 is a “test” version, but even so, early comments in forums and around the net are extremely positive. Hopes are that this new version of Blender will push the program over the top and allow it to appeal to a wider user-base and make it a much easier and more professional program. If the above quote is any indication, it looks like the Blender Foundation just may achieve their goals.
Let's look at some of the new additions/changes to version 2.5:
The new GUI is very impressive with it's new Apple-like color scheme and design. Immediate impression is very positive, and information is intuitive instead of being hap-hazard. Where the default set-up in the old version consisted of a top-view window, a cube and a light, the new version looks a lot like other 3D applications with main window, control panels/settings on the right and the animation time-line at the bottom of the screen.
Much easier to create a 4-window set up in Blender 2.5 since you just click a button in the lower left hand corner of any screen. Any panel can be brought into a new window now. On the right, the controls/settings panels can be scrolled using the mouse wheel, and there is a full tab for modifiers now. The whole interface looks welcoming and when you look for something you can generally find it now. You can now search Blender 2.5 for items in your project and for help, although the system is still being developed. The new event system in Blender 2.5 now allows you to animate anything inside of the application and you can run an animation while rendering or adding materials. And some users report a 10x increase in render speed with the new architecture of Blender 2.5.
The tool system in Blender has been re-designed so that now everything that was a tool is now called an “Operator” and can be called to function by menus, buttons or through a Python script. Ray Trace acceleration has been completely re-worked and now supports "instancing." Blender 2.5 contains the first versions of the new Color Management system and Deep Shadow maps. The quality of the bump maps is also something that's been improved considerably.
This version of Blender is a test version though and there are still bugs to be fixed and functionality that hasn't been coded yet, but it certainly is a wonderful start. You almost wish they would have called it Blender 3 it's been re-designed so much. And since the Blender Foundation is currently using this new version of Blender for it's current Animation project, Durian, they'll be re-working the application even more based on the front line experience of their professional animation team. Certainly no other CG application interacts with their community this way, something I think sets Blender apart from it's commercial counterparts. I've already purchased the incredible Durian DVD package coming out in March which was my contribution to the development of this incredible free and open source CG tool.
Blender 2.5 could be a new beginning for an already highly successful CG tool. With a spanking new interface and deep re-coding (not to mention that it's FREE), I have a feeling Blender 2.5 is going to appeal to a lot of people with this new, more user-friendly version of Blender.
Blender 2.5 can be downloaded from the Blender Foundation website along with documentation and a full list of tutorials. The Blender community is one of the most helpful and wide-ranged of any CG community on the net. You can also check out Renderosity's own Blender 3D Forum for more information.
Editor's Note: Be sure to check out all the valuable resources available right here on Renderosity, for all your artistic endeavors, starting with the following related links:
Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.
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