Software Spotlight: Blender

What is Blender?

Blender was first produced in 1994 by Dutch Animation studio NeoGeo and has seen extensive use across the media, gaming, and science industries, including pre-visualizations for Spiderman 2 and Captain America: Winter Soldier, special effects for The Man in the High Castle, and interactive models for the Mars rover Curiosity produced by NASA. It is a fully customizable, free, and open-source software used primarily for animation and 3D editing, but with a robust and far-ranging set of features useful in the pre-production, production, and post-production process. Features can be grouped according to their uses: art and design (modeling, painting, and sculpting), editing (video editing and compositing), simulation (cloth, fluid and smoke, and particle simulation), and various other features (3D printing, 2D animation, and real-time rendering). This is in no way an exhaustive list of what Blender has to offer, but some core features.

So, what makes Blender useful anyway?

Beside packing enough features to support the animation process from storyboarding to rendering, Blender is useful for several reasons. First, and foremost, is the fact that it is free, open-sourced, and continuously supported (version 2.83 was released this year on June 3, 2020). Anyone can download Blender for the Windows, Mac, or Linux operating systems and once it is downloaded, it is free for life. However, Blender is not only free, but also includes an international support community that regularly creates content for end-users to learn and grow their craft.

Blender is also incredibly customizable and includes a tabbed workspace feature. When you download Blender, the software comes with 10 pre-created workspaces, ranging from layout to modeling, sculpting, and compositing to support the entire animation workflow. Each workspace includes the tools and windows necessary for the job at hand, and you can quickly switch between workspaces and edit modes to ensure you have all the tools for the job. In addition to the pre-created workspaces (which are all customizable in their own right) you can craft your own specialty workspaces to meet your creative and project needs. And, if you do not see what you need in Blenders’ stock program? There are a range of official and community add-ons to augment and adapt the program to your specific needs.

But why should you use it?

So why would you choose Blender if you could select another program? Blender is a professional grade program with access to a robust international community that any level of user can access and utilize. This has the added benefit of familiarizing yourself with the animation workflows and tools, if you plan to pursue animation beyond a hobbyist level—whether that be for creative side projects or full professional pursuits. While there are other programs with the same range of features and more intuitive interfaces than Blender there are none with the same breadth of functionality, the same degree of customization, and the level of community support that Blender offers for free.

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