Blender is a free 3D graphics application. 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. Blender is available for several operating systems, including Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Linux, IRIX, Solaris, NetBSD, FreeBSD, OpenBSD with unofficial ports for BeOS, SkyOS, AmigaOS, MorphOS and Pocket PC. Blender has a robust feature set similar in scope and depth to other high-end 3D software such as Softimage|XSI, Cinema 4D, 3ds Max, Lightwave and Maya. These 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.
Blender was developed as an in-house application by the Dutch animation studio NeoGeo (not to be confused with the Neo-Geo game console) 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.
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, approximately US$147,000 as of January 2008). 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.
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. 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 chimpanzee in the Kevin Smith film Mallrats.
Suzanne is Blender's alternative to more common "test models" such as the Utah Teapot. A low-poly 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 features an internal filesystem that allows one to pack multiple scenes into a single file (called a ".blend" file).
However, a ".blend" file is less a structured specification of objects and relationships and closer to a direct binary dump of the program's memory space. This makes it very hard to convert a ".blend" file to another format using external tools, although 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.
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.
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 latest stable release, 2.45, also has the UV Mapping Mode, but it has been merged with the Edit Mode in 2.46 Release Candidate 1Hotkey 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 directly be "dragged" to change their value 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.
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 NGon 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.
Until recently, Blender has also tended to lack up-to-date and complete documentation (because it was originally an in-house program), 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 only 8 Mb and only requires 27 Mb after installation, 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).
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.
For a more complete and in depth view of Blender's development history, you can view the release logs
The current release version is 2.47. Primarily a bug-fix release for the previous 2.46 version. The latest test client is 2.48 RC1. Largely a vast update for the Blender Game Engine; including greatly increasing the quality of real-time rendering and physics.
Friday or Another Day was the first 35mm feature film to use Blender for all the special effects, made on GNU/Linux workstations . 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.
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