Making the move, “From Commercial 3D Software to Blender” Part 1

So. I have used software like Maya, Lightwave and Modo for some time now. The reason I could do this is because I have gotten educational licenses for the software. Well, I actually have a commercial license for Modo but anyway…
If I want the latest editions of these packages, I would have to upgrade my educational licenses to commercial, and that is anything but cheap!
My economy these days suck big time, so I soon came to the conclusion that this would be impossible.
So what are my options? Blender!
I have tried Blender many times before, each time there is a new version I download it and goof around in the the viewport, but every time I have been put off by the non-standard way of doing things compared to my other software.

The thing is that Blender IS a bit different from everything else, but that is not necessarily a bad thing.
It just takes some getting used to. I have never before actually tried to LEARN Blender, but this time I have seriously committed myself into learning this software.
I will not lie, it has not been all easy, and I still am in the very early stages of “Mastering Blender”, but for each day I learn something new, and discover the cool things that is different, but good.
So, my goal with this series of posts will be to share my experiences with moving from commercial software packages like Maya, Lightwave and Modo to Blender.
I’ll compare features and methods of doing things along the way as I discover this myself.

There are many good reasons for using Blender. These are my reasons:

  • Cost (this one is obvious)
  • In the latest version Blender has gotten bMesh and bSurfaces
  • The integration of Bullet Physics (Same as in Lightwave, Modo, Maya 2013)
  • A very active and vibrant user community
  • Always get the latest innovations for Free (as in beer)
  • Deep support for scripting with Python via the API
  • A new rendering engine with a superb node based shader system (Cycles)
  • Great modeler (once you get used to it)
  • Some of the best UV tools available both commercially and free

So this is a pretty impressive list if you ask me.

I’ll continue sharing my experiences with this project, hopefully some of you will see that there is actually an alternative to Autodesk!

I don’t say that Blender is the best tool for everything, but neither is any of the commercial packages. All has its flaws.
But if you ever thought of switching to Blender, now is a good time to do so! New tools and features makes Blender a serious competitor in the market of professional tools for creating Digital Art.

Happy Blending!

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More Lightwave praise… I’m not kidding, this is going to be Good!

I’ve ben praising Newtek and their 3D Suite “Lightwave” on a couple of occasions. This time I want to point the ones in doubt onto a track of future optimism and, hopefully, a shitload of fun.

The upcoming Lightwave Core, scheduled for Q4 2010, will incorporate seamless connectivity against the most promising standards out there, and will eventually include support for components mentioned in this text.

I’ve received questions by artists, or say, budding artists, that is in “serious” doubt about the big changes between the current (open beta) 9.6.1 64-bits Mac/Win release that uses the separation between the Modeler application (modeling) and Layout (everything else). Core will by default merge the different tasks into one application by dividing the UI into “workspaces”, without the need of “The Hub” for synchronizing data layers and plenty of other stuff. No more F12 for switching apps.

BUT, you can if you insist use the same workflow as in LW 9.x, this is a matter of preference settings. So no worries, your training won’t be “outdated” in a year.

The following workspaces will be available:

• Model

• Surface

• Setup

• Animate

• Render

• Composite

In addition to the above, the following items are also presented as aspects of the Animate workspace:

• Creation Tools

• Deformation (Subset)

• Transforms

• Dynamics (Collision Detection, Etc.)

• Constraints

• Scripting

Rendering:

LightWave 3D with CORE technology offers two different flavors of rendering: Viewport Preview Rendering (VPR) and CORE rendering.

VPR

The CORE viewport rendering engine allows for direct interaction with elements in the rendering, from the rendered view. Any viewport can switch to VPR, and even portions of viewports can be specified for viewport rendering.

VPR is essentially the CORE rendering engine operating in an iterative, interactive fashion. Whatever CORE can render, VPR can also render. The results will be virtually identical, with some exceptions, as VPR does prioritize to deliver on speed and interactivity.

As VPR is a complete version of the CORE rendering engine, not a subset, it can render global illumination interactively, however, with less interactivity due to the amount of performance required to produce GI renderings. Fortunately, the CORE rendering engine is fully multithreaded, another benefit leveraged by VPR.

The more processors you have available to you, the faster VPR will render.

Now, to the juicy stuff:

The Composite workspace in CORE is capable of image manipulation and compositing via a selection of internal tools, as well as available third-party plug-ins that support the OpenFX standard (OFX). OFX is an open source plug-in standard for developing 2D digital visual effects.

The Foundry (http://www.thefoundry.co.uk/), Re:Vision Effects (http://revisionfx.com/) and GenArts (http://www.genarts.com/product/sapphire/ofx/fxlist) and several other prolific plug-in vendors offer a variety of image processing and manipulation plug-ins in OFX format.

Core uses the industry standard file format Collada for scenes, as it handles cross pipelines, and the Collada format offers all the structures a combined application needs.

The optional Modifier Stack (Lightwave finally has memory!)

The CORE modifier stack is an attribute of each mesh item. Every CORE mesh item has a modifier stack behind it. The modifier stack is a living record of all of the geometric operations applied to a specific object. Operators in the stack can be rearranged (doing so can produce notably different results), enabled, frozen (so as to be un-editable or “flattened”), muted and deleted on command.

Scripting:
Every expression in Core are Python based.

Industry-standard Python forms the basis of the scripting in CORE (currently version 2.6). The Python implementation is layered into CORE via SWIG. SWIG is a language-interfacing layer that allows the CORE SDK to be accessed through languages other than the factory Python language that ships with CORE.

Now to the really Juicy stuff:

CORE integrates the popular Bullet Physics Library (http://bulletphysics.org/wordpress/)

into the CORE unified dynamics solver. Bullet supports both rigid body and soft body collisions. Bullet plans to offer OpenCL support in the future, which fits with the development of CORE.

The Bullet Physics Library offers the following benefits:

Open source C++ code under Zlib license and free for any commercial use on all platforms including PLAYSTATION 3, XBox 360, Wii, PC, Linux, Mac OSX and iPhone.

• Discrete and continuous collision detection, including ray and convex sweep test. Collision shapes include concave and convex meshes and all basic primitives.

• Fast and stable rigid body dynamics constraint solver, vehicle dynamics, character controller and slider, hinge, generic six degrees of freedom and cone-twist constraint for rag dolls.

• Soft Body dynamics for cloth, rope and deformable volumes with two-way interaction with rigid bodies, including constraint support.

In CORE, you can use dynamics for simulation, modeling, or interaction with scene items. Animation created in CORE can be exported into LightWave Layout (and other applications) via the MDD file format.

Modeling with dynamics example: Consider an alley scene with crates. You can choose to place the crates (and other debris) by hand, or you can choose to use the dynamics tools to help streamline the process.

TRUE MULTI PLATFORM SUPPORT

CORE is written in C++, and designed as an object-oriented application. CORE uses several different technologies and libraries to deliver state-of-the-art performance. For the user interface, CORE uses the Qt libraries from Nokia. The Qt environment is fast becoming a standard throughout the software development industry. It is available on all platforms, allowing for a single codebase development process, which is very important when you have more than one host operating system to support. By using Qt, Newtek can offer LightWave CORE for Linux as well as Windows X and Mac OS.

Lightwave is capable of every stage of production, from modeling to physics and animation. It’s priced at a fragment of other products that can deliver the same feature set. This makes it a perfect mach for wallets, individuals and small to medium studios.

Did I mention the 999 free network render nodes?

Need I need to say more?

Go get it!


When Lightwave comes with a “Hard Core”…

If you, like me, have been following the evolution around the next version of Lightwave, you also know that the details around the project, that the users (members) of the “Hard Core” community has been privileged to get insight in, is really promising.

I will not expose any of these materials in my blog, as they are “community only”.

Most of it will probably leek through via the wire elsewhere, but I don’t want to be the one to blame. One thing I must site from todays news update is not something that could be considered “exposure”, but maybe as a bait, or seed to grow confidence in a society that has kinda been an “underdog” in the sense of presence, at least for the last couple of years.

When I quote the words: “The Future is really bright for Lightwave”, and when these words comes from “the high order” of developers at Newtek, it should suffice.

As you see when visiting Newtek’s Lightwave web page, it’s Core we’re talkin’ here. A new way for developers and artists alike to build upon and take advantage of a product that has been tested by real users, flamed upon and beloved, constantly debated in a enthusiastic sub forum for registered users. Bugz have been corrected and through frequent “test releases”, the members have been able to actually use the upcoming product, from its infantile beginnings, all the way to the final release.

That’s pretty unique, if you think about it. I don’t know any other company (that does not operate with open source), that has enough guts to do a thing like this. But on second thought it makes perfect sense. It cuts development time and testing cycles, as most bugs and annoyances has already been seen and reported by loyal followers.

I must say, I look forward to the “New Standard”, that will actually change the possibilities in magnitudes, compared with todays work flow.

Thumbs Up, and good luck!

May the forces be with you.

I’m Waving again…

As readers might conclude from the previous post, I hereby declare myself as an official “Waver” again.

I’ve recently purchased a new Mac Book Pro, with the Nvidia GT GPU option and some ekstra RAM and a faster hard drive. I installed the 32-bit (will it ever be 64) Maya 2010, and Lightwave 9.6.1 (64-bit beta).

I took both applications for a spin.

You have to feel it to believe the performance differences between these applications. Well, ok, I know that Maya is a “giant” package, with LOTS of (maybe too many) features, but, nevertheless, I think a brand new MBP should be adequate for any application that is supposed to run on a workstation.

My rendering is sent to my two stationary Quad Core machines anyway, so I need good response when working IN the application. I don’t see why I should need a $3000 workstation, and a $4500 piece of software that runs like crap on my Mac, when I get by with my current setup.

Plus, now I get 999 FREE NETWORKED RENDER NODES with Lightwave, just in case!

Did I mention that Cinema 4D requires an additional “Advanced Render” module ($400), to set up 3 render nodes???

So, now I use Modo 401 (Runs fairly well in 32-bit) for the more organic modeling, Lightwave for rigging, animation, special FX, Rendering, pretty much everything.

For detailing I use Mudbox 2009. This runs well on my MBP. And off course I use Photoshop CS3, because I’m addicted.

Just for clearing up my mind, I needed to write this down… 😉