Blender is an open-source and free 3D content creation package that according to its official website "supports the entirety of the 3D pipeline—modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing and motion tracking, even video editing and game creation." The software has been collaboratively developed by a range of people, from professionals to enthusiasts. This software supports both a GUI, as well as Python scripting. The current review is based on the GUI.
Tutorial for Hello World
Without experience, a 'Hello World' took ten minutes, most of which was spent on finding the right buttons or shortcuts.
Minimum/Recommended System Requirements
Three button mouse is highly recommended!
32-bit dual core 2Ghz CPU with SSE2 support
OpenGL 2.1 w/ 512 MB RAM
2 GB RAM, 1 GB available space
DirectX Compatible Sound Card with latest drivers
Windows Vista and above, Mac OSX 10.6 and above, Linux
64-bit quad core CPU
OpenGL 3.2 compatible graphics with 2 GB RAM
8 GB RAM
Beginner: no experience with the GUI or overall workflow| 1 hour
Intermediate: some experience with the GUI and overall workflow | <30 min.
Advanced: experience with the GUI and overall workflow | <30 min.
Expert: lots of experience with the GUI and overall workflow | <10 min.
High: powerful rendering engine for three dimensional models at various levels of detail. The entire software runs on OpenGL, including the GUI, through which all 3D interactions in any of the modeling environments run very smoothly.
The workflow is somewhat excentric, but once understood logical. However, there is no clear roadmap as to what workflow works best for this software. This masks some of the functionality, such as the animation editor and node editors that are highly powerful and useful tools in modeling.
Blender integrates seamlessly with Unity3D. Just save .blend-files in your Unity project's assets folder, and they are immediately ready for use; updates to the Blender file will automatically update your Unity instances as well.
Once modeled, textured, and animated, projects can be baked into any file-format required by the next piece of software in your pipeline. Outputting a 250-frame animation to MPEG-2 at 1080 x 1920 at 100% quality may take two hours on Windows 7 64-bit, 2.90 ghz (i7-4600M) @ 16 GB RAM.
Asset creation: excellent tool for constructing objects and assets from scratch. Highly powerful as standalone software, though not intended as such. Use in conjunction with other software packages, such as Photoshop (for texture editing) and Unity (for scene creation), rather than expecting Blender to do it all.
Other: has a built-in game engine and supports animation. The animation components work reasonably well, and are not to uncommon in their use (e.g. keyframes and frame-by-frame rendering). However, the game engine uses a Visual Programming Language that is not always intuitive. Although the software allows games to be run within the software, it is limited in its capabilities (for example, one can model an ocean, yet not display it in the game engine environment) and therefore should not be used for the entire production pipeline.
Overall, Blender is a really powerful tool in the modeling process, but one of many. The interface is not intuitive and does require a great deal of exploration on the user's part. User input (e.g. mouse-buttons) do not always correspond to common use (e.g. right-click selects rather than left-click) and the user will have great trouble finding the right functions. It is highly recommended for users to use key combinations and shortcuts! Blender can anything required in modeling, including physics simulation, and does it well though does so at the cost of learning.
Blender: getting to know Blender
Tutorial #1: 'Hello World'; get a handle on the basics of Blender's GUI; learn some shortcuts that will make your life easier. Time: ~30 min.
Tutorial #2: 'Hello World' meet 'Sphere'; create simple objects that interact with each other. Time: ~30 min.
Tutorial #3: 'Hello World' and 'Bye World'; follow-up to Tutorial #2 with multiple objects interacting. Time: ~30 min.
Tutorial #4: 'Baking Stars for VR'; how to make a 360 degree video that you can view through YouTube on your mobile phone. Time: ~30 min. + n-hours bake-time.