Open Source Initiaitve

Is Open Source Software Production Ready?

I have always been a big fan of finding open source software that can bring something new to the table when it comes to computer animation or digital art.

Hey, we all like a freebie, right?

Well, over the years I have tried on multiple occasions to get Blender Institute’s Blender into my work pipeline.  It’s never been easy to do.  Blender was, for a long time, considered a bit of the 3D love child;  you can like it but don’t embrace it, don’t bring it into the fold.  It’s (shudder) open source.  That means no support, no repercussions when it all goes wrong.  When it (gulp) it crashes!!

But each year more people would watch the short films, Sintel, Big Buck Bunny, Cosmos Laundromat, and think, “Hmmm, I wonder”, So they navigate to the website, download the surprisingly small installer and put the software back on their machines.

Only to take one look at the interface and say, “What?  Naaah…” and promptly de-install it.

This interface may still be relatively the same as it always has been, and a bit hard to deal with for some, but the software itself is now very robust and capable of producing industry level work.  But people still feel a bit squeamish about using it.  But why?

On the DVD shelf at my local Supermarket is the film “Ozzy” It looks like a fun film about a dog.  Here’s the trailer:



Now, I’ve been in this game for some time and I would confidently say that the software, maybe not necessarily the final look, but the software that did this was definitely up to par.

Blender, all of it. Open Source Software.

The animation company, Tangent Animation, took a big decision when they were championed to make this film. 

“Do we pay a load of money to Autodesk for Maya and then hire a few good animators and a lot of juniors, OR, do we use this really impressive free software and use the money to employ great animators?”

Well, they took the challenge and made “Ozzy” with Blender.

Now if it was used in a production, then I think that constitutes the meaning of production ready.  Yes?  Yes.

And as such, I am now using it much more in my pipeline.  I use the fluids for paint drips, I used the particle system occasionally, but I do like the cycles renderer, which is good despite all the people on the forums who rave about it.  It’s quick enough and the results are physically accurate.  What’s not to love?

And with it now having grease pencil added, it is accidnetally looking as though it might revolutionise how 2D animation is produced as well.  Look here:


Pepe School Land’s Rigged grease pencil showing how combining the markup elements in Blender with the 3D side can produce amazing animation styles, which make animating easy.  I mean, really easy.

And all that stuff is happening in real time.  Which means that the render times for this sort of thing are so fast as not to be visible to the naked eye…okay, they will be, but still, they’re faster than most.

So what does this mean for the future of animation?  Well, it’s bright.  Brighter now than it has been for over a decade.  New talent can get their hands on fully production ready software for no cost at all.

Both Tangent and Pepeland have tutorials on their sites – hey who doesn’t these days? – and anyone who really cares to can learn how to animate.  Blender Nation is also a great place to learn stuff.  Hey,  if you really want to, for a measly €9.90 a month, (that under £9.00) you can join the Blender Cloud and get all the training courses and rigs you can lay your hands on. There’s no excuse to not know the skillset.

Blender is fast becoming the go-to software for animation – the rigging toolset is incredible – and is used in games now as much as Maya is.  So, give it a try.  Take the leap and look beyond the interface.

Whatever you choose to use in terms of software, do not look at open source as a stumbling block, but as a stepping stone.


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