I love watching movies, especially films in the Science-Fiction/Fantasy genre. I’m mesmerized by the sight of aliens, spaceships, giant robots, mutant creatures, and dragons. Visually, these elements are realized by a team of creative, talented and skilled Designers, Animators and Visual Effects Artists using the latest digital tools to bring them to life. These same tools, Computer Graphics or CG Animation programs, usually cost thousands of dollars and are targeted to the Animation/Visual Effects studios involved in feature film and TV projects.
What aspiring Animator/Effects artist has $2,000 or more for an Animation program? Seriously, who could spare that type of moolah? I’d have to eat Kraft Dinner every night in order to have a roof over my head! Of course, one could acquire the same software through “questionable” means (I know what you’re thinking! Let’s not go there!). Is there an alternative?
What if I tell you that there is an alternative CG Animation software on the Internet that anyone can download for free? Yes, that’s correct! FREE! I am talking about a program called “Blender.”
Blender originally started as proprietary software for a small Amsterdam studio in the early 1990s. The program became “Open Source” software in 2002. Open Source software allows anyone from around the world to tinker with the program in order to collectively improve its functionality. It’s available on Windows, Mac OS X, and Linux. Currently, it’s maintained by the Blender Foundation. With a strong online user community, Blender is consistently updated, including new tools.
Like the CG animation software used by professional studios, there are plenty of things Blender offers:
- modeling tools where you can create characters, environments or props
- digital sculpting tools similar to the industry-standard sculpting application, “ZBrush”
- particle effects to create hair, smoke, fire, clouds, etc.
- physics simulator to mimic clothing or replicate two objects colliding
- a built-in video editor
- a built-in game engine
And much more!
The Blender Foundation organizes “Open Movie” projects to produce animated and live-action short films. The Open Movie model provides an opportunity to put the program into use on an actual film production. Once the short film is completed, it is released online to the public under a Creative Commons Licence. Plus, the Blender program files are released so that anyone can use them for educational, non-commercial or commercial works. The Blender Foundation has had four Open Movie projects to date. Now, they are starting a fifth project, a full-length animated movie.
Did I mention Blender is free?
If you’re curious about Blender, the Blender Foundation’s website (www.blender.org) is a great place to begin. If you would like to learn to use Blender, YouTube has a plethora of video tutorials. Who knows? You could produce your very own Pixar-style animated project!