Blender Free Open Source 3D Modeling and Animation Software
Blender is a free, open source 3D modeling and animation suite that comes with a built-in game engine. Although it is not as widely known or supported as 3D Studio Max and Maya, it has been in active development for years and has a large and enthusiastic following. Blender has been used to create several short animated films that rival the production values of big budget Hollywood titles and some of the artwork created by its users is simply stunning.
History of Blender
Blender began life in 1995 as an in-house production tool for NeoGeo, a Netherlands-based animation studio. In 1998, Ton Roosendaal, founded a new company, Not a Number (NaN), to further develop and promote this product. Unfortunately, owing to poor economic conditions, NaN was shut down in 2002. Ton knew that Blender was too valuable to let go, so he started the non-profit Blender Foundation and on Sunday Oct 13, 2002, Blender was released to the public under the GNU General Public License.
In 2005, the Blender Foundation released the first open source animated movie, "Elephants Dream". The success of this project led Ton to open the "Blender Institute" in the summer of 2007 which is the official center for the Blender Foundation. In April 2008, the Institute released the open movie "Big Buck Bunny", and in September 2008, the open game "YoFrankie!" The Blender Institute's latest smash hit is the short film "Sintel", released in September 2010.
Blender artists have used Blender to create some truly fantastic CG art. As you can see from these examples, Blender is capable of a diverse range of styles and effects rivaling the best that tools like 3D Studio Max and Maya have to offer.
Check out some of the amazing art being created by Blender artists.
Of course, Blender was designed for much more than creating CG renders: it was designed for animation. And, as Elephants Dream, Big Buck Bunny, and Sintel show, it is every bit as powerful and professional as any other tool on the market.
The great thing about many of the movies created in Blender is that they are open source, which means that other animators can view the production files to see exactly how these movies were made.
With so much power and versatility, it only seems natural that Blender has been expanded into the realm of 3D games by incorporating its own game engine. The Blender Game Engine (BGE) is still in its infancy but it is already capable of creating some truly impressive games. The BGE uses logic blocks that allow non-programmers to link together actions and animation sequences to prototype simple games. These games can then be extended by programmers using the Python programming language.
Edit: I just found this great review of Dead Cyborg, the game shown in the trailer, right here on HubPages!
Get Started with Blender
Blender has a reputation for being difficult to learn, but it's really no more complicated than any other 3D application. (In fact, I think the work-flow is greatly superior to others I have tried.) Now that Blender has gained a reputation as a powerful, flexible, and sophisticated tool, it is much more popular and new books are appearing all the time. The very best books are written by Tony Mullen, who is a recognized authority on using Blender.
The Future of Blender
If you have an interest in CG art, animation, or games, you really can't do much better than Blender. It is free to download and use and is as powerful and flexible as 3D Studio Max and Maya, development tools that are thousands of dollars to license. Blender also has a large, established user base; many blender artists have been using the tool for years and can answer any questions that you may have. Blender has even begun making in-roads into education, with training available at some universities. With universities getting on board, it's only a matter of time before game studios begin looking at Blender as a viable alternative to entrenched technologies.
If I've piqued your interest, then stay tuned for a series of tutorials that I am writing that will get you started on your path to CG art, animation, and game design.