Blender (software)

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File:Blender 2.49b.png
Blender 2.49b Splash Screen
Developer(s) The Blender Foundation
Stable release 2.49b / September 3, 2009; 404285351 ago[1]
Preview release 2.5a0 / November 24, 2009; 397200551 ago[2]
Written in C, C++, and Python
Operating system Cross-platform [3]
Type 3D computer graphics
License GNU General Public License v2 or later

Blender is a 3D graphics application released as free software under the GNU General Public License.

It can be used for modeling, UV unwrapping, texturing, rigging, water simulations, skinning, animating, rendering, particle and other simulations, non-linear editing, compositing, and creating interactive 3D applications, including games.

Blender is available for a number of operating systems, including Linux, Mac OS X, and Microsoft Windows. Blender's features include advanced simulation tools such as rigid body, fluid, cloth and softbody dynamics, modifier-based modeling tools, powerful character animation tools, a node-based material and compositing system and Python for embedded scripting.



File:Blender3D 2.4.5-screen.jpg
Blender 2.4 screenshot
File:Working with Nodes Blender.PNG
Blender making use of the node editor to create anisotropic metallic materials
File:Lone House.jpg
Blender can create very high resolution models and renderings

Blender was developed as an in-house application by the Dutch animation studio NeoGeo and Not a Number Technologies (NaN). It was primarily authored by Ton Roosendaal, who had previously written a ray tracer called Traces for Amiga in 1989. The name "Blender" was inspired by a song by Yello, from the album Baby.[4]

Roosendaal founded NaN in June 1998 to further develop and distribute the program. The program was initially distributed as shareware until NaN went bankrupt in 2002.

The creditors agreed to release Blender under the terms of the GNU General Public License, for a one-time payment of €100,000 (US$100,670 at the time). On July 18, 2002, a Blender funding campaign was started by Roosendaal in order to collect donations and on September 7, 2002 it was announced that enough funds had been collected and that the Blender source code would be released. Blender is now Free Software and it is being actively developed under the supervision of the Blender Foundation.[5]

The Blender Foundation initially reserved the right to use dual licensing, so that, in addition to GNU GPL, Blender would have been available also under the "Blender License", which did not require disclosing source code but required payments to the Blender Foundation. However, this option was never exercised and was suspended indefinitely in 2005.[6] Currently, Blender is solely available under GNU GPL.


In January/February 2002 it was quite clear that NaN could not survive and would close the doors in March. Nevertheless, they found the energy for doing at least one more release, 2.25. As a sort-of Easter egg, a last personal tag, the artists and developers decided to add a chimpanzee primitive. It was created by Willem-Paul van Overbruggen (SLiD3), who also named it Suzanne, after the orangutan in the Kevin Smith film Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.

Suzanne is Blender's alternative to more common "test models" such as the Utah Teapot. A low-polygon model with only 500 faces, Suzanne is often used as a quick and easy way to test material, texture, and lighting setups, and is also frequently used in joke images. The largest Blender contest gives out an award called the Suzanne Awards.


Blender has a relatively small installation size and runs on several popular computing platforms, including Linux, Mac OS X, and Microsoft Windows, along with FreeBSD, IRIX, NetBSD, OpenBSD and Solaris. Unofficial ports are also available for AmigaOS 4, BeOS, MorphOS , Pocket PC and SkyOS.[7] Though it is often distributed without documentation or extensive example scenes, the software contains features that are characteristic of high-end modelling software.[8] Among its capabilities are:

  • Support for a variety of geometric primitives, including polygon meshes, fast subdivision surface modeling, Bezier curves, NURBS surfaces, metaballs, digital sculpting, and outline fonts.
  • Versatile internal rendering capabilities and integration with YafaRay, a Free Software ray tracer.
  • Keyframed animation tools including inverse kinematics, armature (skeletal), hook, curve and lattice-based deformations, shape keys (morphing), non-linear animation, constraints, vertex weighting, soft body dynamics including mesh collision detection, LBM fluid dynamics, Bullet rigid body dynamics, particle-based hair, and a particle system with collision detection.
  • Modifiers to apply non-destructive effects.
  • Python scripting for tool creation and prototyping, game logic, importing and exporting from other formats such as OBJ, FBX, DXF, COLLADA, task automation and custom tools.
  • Basic non-linear video/audio editing and compositing capabilities.
  • Game Blender, a sub-project, offers interactivity features such as collision detection, dynamics engine, and programmable logic. It also allows the creation of stand-alone, real-time applications ranging from architectural visualization to video game construction.
  • A fully-integrated node-based compositor within the rendering pipeline

User interface

Blender has had a reputation as being difficult to learn for users accustomed to other 3D graphics software. Nearly every function has a direct keyboard shortcut and there can be several different shortcuts per key. Since Blender became Free Software, there has been effort to add comprehensive contextual menus as well as make the tool usage more logical and streamlined. There have also been efforts to visually enhance the user interface, with the introduction of color themes, transparent floating widgets, a new and improved object tree overview, and other small improvements (such as a color picker widget).

Blender's user interface incorporates the following concepts:

Editing modes
The two primary modes of work are Object Mode and Edit Mode, which are toggled with the Tab key. Object mode is used to manipulate individual objects as a unit, while Edit mode is used to manipulate the actual object data. For example, Object Mode can be used to move, scale, and rotate entire polygon meshes, and Edit Mode can be used to manipulate the individual vertices of a single mesh. There are also several other modes, such as Vertex Paint, Weight Paint, and Sculpt Mode. The 2.45 release also had the UV Mapping Mode, but it was merged with the Edit Mode in 2.46 Release Candidate 1.
Hotkey utilization
Most of the commands are accessible via hotkeys. Until the 2.x and especially the 2.3x versions, this was in fact the only way to give commands, and this was largely responsible for creating Blender's reputation as a difficult-to-learn program. The new versions have more comprehensive GUI menus.
Numeric input
Numeric buttons can be "dragged" to change their value directly without the need to aim at a particular widget, thus saving screen real estate and time. Both sliders and number buttons can be constrained to various step sizes with modifiers like the Ctrl and Shift keys. Python expressions can also be typed directly into number entry fields, allowing mathematical expressions to be used to specify values.
Workspace management
The Blender GUI is made up of one or more screens, each of which can be divided into sections and subsections that can be of any type of Blender's views or window-types. Each window-type's own GUI elements can be controlled with the same tools that manipulate 3D view. For example, one can zoom in and out of GUI-buttons in the same way one zooms in and out in the 3D viewport. The GUI viewport and screen layout is fully user-customizable. It is possible to set up the interface for specific tasks such as video editing or UV mapping or texturing by hiding features not utilized for the task.

Hardware requirements

Template:VG requirements

Blender has very low hardware requirements compared to other 3d suites. However, for advanced effects and high-poly models, a fast system is needed.

File format

Blender features an internal filesystem that allows one to pack multiple scenes into a single file (called a ".blend" file).

  • All of Blender's ".blend" files are forward, backward, and cross-platform compatible with other versions of blender, and can be used as a library to borrow pre-made content.
  • Snapshot ".blend" files can be auto-saved periodically by the program, making it easier to survive a program crash.
  • All scenes, objects, materials, textures, sounds, images, post-production effects for an entire animation can be stored in a single ".blend" file.
  • Interface configurations are retained in the ".blend" files, such that what you save is what you get upon load. This file can be stored as "user defaults" so this screen configuration, as well as all the objects stored in it, is used every time you load blender.

The actual ".blend" file is similar to the EA Interchange File Format, starting with its own header that specifies the version, endianness and pointer size (for example BLEND_v2.48), followed by a collection of binary chunks storing the data blocks, and all the type and struct definitions also known as DNA. Although it is hard to read and convert a ".blend" file to another format using external tools, the readblend utility can do this. Dozens of import/export scripts that run inside Blender itself, accessing the object data via API, make it possible to inter-operate with other 3D tools.

Jeroen Bakker documented the blender file format to allow inter-operation with other tooling. The document can be found at mystery of the blend. On this site also a DNA structure browser is available.

Blender organizes data as various kinds of "data blocks", such as Objects, Meshes, Lamps, Scenes, Materials, Images and so on. An object in Blender consists of multiple data blocks - for example, a polygon mesh has at least an Object and Mesh data block, and usually also a Material. This allows various data blocks to refer to each other; there may be, for example, multiple Objects that refer to the same Mesh, allowing the mesh to be duplicated while only keeping one copy of the mesh data in memory, and allowing subsequent editing of all duplicated meshes at the same time. Data block relationships can also be changed manually. Data blocks can also be referred to in other .blend files, allowing the use of .blend files as reusable object libraries.

Comparison with other 3D software

Blender has a depth and breadth of features comparable to commercial, proprietary, high-end and mid-range 3D software. A fairly comprehensive comparison between the available 3D software can be viewed at the TDT 3D comparison of major 3D packages and at this comparison chart. Blender has areas where it is more limited than many of its commercial counterparts such as a lack of Font Preview for text, lack of N-gon-based modeling workflow and some missing or incomplete modeling tools, and a lack of a standard library of material presets but does have downloadable resources; however, in other areas Blender is on the leading edge such as the advanced algorithms utilized for its UV unwrapping.

Blender has also tended to lack up-to-date and complete documentation (because it was originally an in-house program),[9] an issue that is being addressed through the wikification of the Blender documentation project, the 2006 Blender Summer of Documentation project, and the June 2007 introductory book "Essential Blender", which was published by Blender Foundation. Additionally, a number of other books on using Blender have been published by publishers unaffiliated with the Blender Foundation.

The Blender installer is small compared to other fully-functional 3D graphic software. For example the Blender installer of 2.49 build for Windows 32 bits is 10.5 MB, requiring 36 MB after installation, and a lite build takes 2.2 MB; whereas software like AutoCAD requires around 2 GB. As such, Blender can be easily downloaded (although some guide books still include Blender on a CD).


Since the opening of the source, Blender has experienced significant refactoring of the initial codebase and major additions to its feature set.

Recent improvements include an animation system refresh; a stack-based modifier system; an updated particle system (which can also be used to simulate hair and fur); fluid dynamics; soft-body dynamics; GLSL shaders support in the game engine; advanced UV unwrapping; a fully-recoded render pipeline, allowing separate render passes and "render to texture"; node-based material editing and compositing; Projection painting [10]

Part of these developments were fostered by Google's Summer of Code program, in which the Blender Foundation has participated since 2005.

For a more complete and in-depth view of Blender's development history, you can view the release logs.

Game engine GLSL materials.

The current release version is 2.49b. Primarily, the last release, 2.48a was an update to reflect many of the Blender Game Engine changes made throughout the Yo Frankie! project; including real-time shading, many real-time GLSL materials, and updates to the Physics components. Version 2.48a also made changes to the Animation systems, adds Wind simulation, and fixes a number of backlogged bugs.[11]

Blender 2.5 is currently in development with release goals including:

  • a completely new redesigned interface allowing for multi-windowed support
  • custom key mapping
  • an animation system upgrade

The test version release cycle is active with the release of Alpha 0 version in 24 Nov 2009[12]. The 2.5 project is set to wrap up spring 2010 with the last beta to be released around the Durian premier and a stable 2.6 release planned for the summer.[13][14]


In the month following the release of Blender v2.44, it was downloaded 800,000 times;[15] this worldwide user base forms the core of the support mechanisms for the program. Most users learn Blender through community tutorials and discussion forums on the internet such as Blender Artists (previously known as elYsiun); however, another learning method is to download and inspect ready-made Blender models, available from resource sites such as the Official Blender Model Repository.

Numerous other sites, for example Blenderart Magazine—a free, downloadable magazine with each issue handling a particular area in 3D development—and Blendernation, provide information on everything surrounding Blender, showcase new techniques and features, and provide tutorials and other guides. Other sources provide Video Tutorials such as Montage Studios, Blender Tips and Totally Blended.

Use in the media industry

Blender started out as an inhouse tool for a Dutch commercial animation company, NeoGeo.

The first large professional project that used Blender was Spider-Man 2, where it was primarily used to create animatics and pre-visualizations for the storyboard department.

"As an animatic artist working in the storyboard department of Spider-Man 2, I used Blender's 3D modeling and character animation tools to enhance the storyboards, re-creating sets and props, and putting into motion action and camera moves in 3D space to help make Sam Raimi's vision as clear to other departments as possible."[16] - Anthony Zierhut, Animatic Artist, Los Angeles

Friday or Another Day was the first 35 mm feature film to use Blender for all the special effects, made on GNU/Linux workstations.[17] It won a prize at the Locarno International Film Festival. The special effects were by Digital Graphics of Belgium.

Blender has also been used for shows on the History Channel, alongside many other professional 3D graphics programs.[18]

Elephants Dream (Project Orange)

In September 2005, some of the most notable Blender artists and developers began working on a short film using primarily free software, in an initiative known as the Orange Movie Project. The resulting film, Elephants Dream, premiered on March 24, 2006. In response to the success of Elephants Dream the Blender Foundation founded the Blender Institute to do additional projects with two announced projects: Big Buck Bunny, also known as "Project Peach" (A 'furry and funny' short open animated film project) and Yo Frankie, also known as Project Apricot (an open game in collaboration with CrystalSpace that will reuse some of the assets created during Project Peach).

Big Buck Bunny (Project Peach)

File:Big buck bunny poster big.jpg
Big Buck Bunny poster.

On October 1, 2007, a new team started working on a second open project, "Peach", for the production of the short movie Big Buck Bunny. This time, however, the creative concept was totally different. Instead of the deep and mystical style of Elephants Dream, things are more "funny and furry" according to the official site. The movie had its premiere on April 10, 2008.

Yo Frankie! (Project Apricot)

Apricot is a project for production of a game based on the universe and characters of the Peach movie (Big Buck Bunny) using free software. The game is titled Yo Frankie. The project started February 1, 2008, and development was completed at the end of July 2008. A finalized product was expected at the end of August, however the release was delayed. The game was released on December 9, 2008, under either the GNU GPL or LGPL, with all content being licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 3.0.[19]


Plumíferos, a commercial animated feature film created entirely in Blender,[20] is currently in the works at the Argentina-based Manos Digitales Animation Studio. Trailers of the movie were shown at the 2005 and 2006 Blender Conferences (Link to Google Video)

Sintel (Project Durian)

The Blender Foundation recently announced its newest Open Movie, codenamed Project Durian (in keeping with the tradition of fruits as code names). It is planned to be a fantasy action epic, at six to eight minutes. It is currently in a state of pre-production. Some sections were displayed on October 25, 2009[21], while the full 6–8 minutes movie is planned to screen in 2010.

See also


  1. "Get Blender". Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  2. "Blender 2.5 Release-Blog". Retrieved 2009-11-29. 
  3. "Features". Retrieved 2010-01-03. 
  4. Kassenaar, Joeri (2005-05-21). "Brief history of the Blender logo". Retrieved 2007-01-18. 
  5. " history". Amsterdam. 2008-06. 
  6. Roosendaal, Ton (2005-06). "Blender License". Retrieved 2007-01-19. 
  7. "Get Blender". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  8. "Comparison of 3d tools - CGWiki". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  9. "Architecture". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  10. "Dev:Ref/Release Notes/2.49/Projection Paint - BlenderWiki". 2009-06-03. Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  11. "Blender 2.48". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  12. "Get Blender 2.5 Alpha 0". Retrieved 2009-11-29. 
  13. "Blender 2.5 unveiled at SIGGRAPH, expected release date announced!". Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  14. "Blender Developers Meeting Notes 7". Retrieved 2009-10-18. 
  15. "Meeting Agenda, April 15th 2007". 2007-04-15. 
  16. [1][dead link]
  17. "blender". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  18. "Blender on the History Channel at BlenderNation". Retrieved 2009-10-22. 
  19. "Yo Frankie! - About". Apricot Open Game. Blender Foundation. Retrieved 2008-08-18. 
  20. "Blender Movie Project: Plumíferos". 2006-03-08. Retrieved 2007-02-04. 
  21. Durian First Minute - 01

Further reading

External links

Personal tools

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