8 Weeks with Blender: History and Community
This is the fifth chapter of a series of posts about my experience working with the open-source application, Blender. I'll spend at least 30 minutes every day over a period of 8 weeks working directly with Blender and I'll post my discoveries, links and ideas at least once a week
Although I'd like to spend the time completing my zombie character from MakeHuman (mentioned in last weeks article), I only have 8 weeks with Blender, so I'm going to put the project aside and talk about something that I think is not as widely known: the huge, Blender community.
Blender and Ton Roosendaal (the founder) is one of the oldest Open Source applications (1995). In fact, it was one of the applications/organizations that became a model for what Open Source should be. And from the start the community was large and active. Remember, Ton put the call out the call to "Free Blender" funds to buy the application from the defunct company that owned. In less that two months, Ton raised over $100,000 to release the Blender source code (2002).
Since then, the Blender community has grown in quantum leaps with coders, writers, artists both professional and amateur from all over the world contributing to making Blender the very best Open Source 3D application on the planet.
Initially, Ton created the Blender Foundation as the umbrella organization to manage and officially distribute Blender. You can find out about the Foundation at the official website: Blender.org
Eventually, after years of effort to build Blender into a professional tool (while fighting the view from the professional world that it's not really ready for high level work), the Blender application has been used in TV commercials, NASA and major motion pictures. Since the application is free and Open Source, it is ideal for a professional company to re-code to fit their in-house pipeline.
The Blender Institute is now the permanent office and studio to more efficiently organize the Blender Foundation goals, but especially to coordinate and facilitate Open Projects related to 3D movies, games or visual effects.
The Institute currently employs 8 people. It houses offices for administration, the e-store, a small render farm, space for workshops/sprints and a large studio for animation film productions.
The Blender Cloud I recently joined the Blender Cloud for $9.90 a month. This new service provides hundreds of hours of training in Blender, all of the open movie files and tutorials, thousands of textures and HDRI's from Blender and the ability to sync Blender settings across devices.
The Blender Cloud, along with grants, fund-raising, subsidies and Blender store sales, allow the pre-funding of all Open Movie projects at the Institute. The most recent of which is the just-announced "Hero" a Blender '2D' open movie project, directed by Daniel M Lara.This is the 6th short film funded by the Blender Cloud.
This project is aimed at improving the Grease Pencil tools and make them production ready in Blender 2.8.
The Open Movie idea has been a huge success for Blender. In addition to pushing Blender using actual professional production, the movies have turned out great and are very popular. I suspect that the success of these films in addition to the rise of the indie game movement have made Blender the application of choice for indie gamers (and proffesionals).
The Blender Community
In the dozen years I've been covering computer graphics, I've worked with many support communities for 3D applications and hardware. The Blender community is the largest and most active of any other 3D community I've been a part of.
Every day, you can get updates, news and tutorials/training at both Blender.org and BlenderNation.com. Moreover, there are innumerable plug-ins being developed and released (some are free, some cost a small amount). These plug-ins are often announced at both the above sites or at Blender Market.
Support for every level of Blender skill is wide-spread and uniformly friendly. Blenderartists.org is one of the best as well as the Blender forum at Renderosity.com. I don't think the forums for any major 3D application have as wide a range of users than Blender. Which means if you are a beginner, there are people who will cheerfully help you; if you are pro, there are those with equal skills who can help you solve a problem.
In the 4 weeks I've been cramming in Blender, I've communicated in a number of forums and support chats with questions and problems. Not once was my situation treated as anything less than important. The general feel of the entire Blender community across the net is one of helping each other solve problems and learn to be a better Blender artist.
In short, Blender and the Blender community have become so successful and fun because of the hard work and good will of the Blender community. And I think that is awesome.