We've contacted artists with different backgrounds to discuss the state of Blender and talk about its future.
Blender 2.9 has just been released and it's now faster and more powerful than ever with new improvements to EEVEE, Cycles, sculpt, VR, animation, modeling, UV editing, and more. Industry giants like Epic Games, Microsoft, and Ubisoft are supporting the tool's development helping the Blender team add more powerful features to their open-source software. Do you think Blender will become the industry’s standard tool in the nearest future? What could it be used for? What does the Blender team need to improve to make it suitable for AAA workflows? We've contacted several 80 Level artists to learn what they think about this powerful free software and discuss what it takes for Blender to become the industry's next standard.
Shipra Pal: I strongly believe in Blender. I am a seasoned Blender user now. Even with the limitation back then, we used to create stunning outputs, and now after lots of support from the community and big companies, Blender’s development went sky high. After Blender 2.80 we have so many awesome new tools and the number keeps increasing.
From modeling to rendering it’s a perfect tool already. And studios like Embark, Tangent Animation are already using Blender and they are also very good supporters, not only helping with donating funds, they share new tools that they create in-house.
For the simulations part in the latest years, it got so many huge improvements which I have yet to revisit. But I still feel like there is a huge room to improve for the simulation part in Blender.
Anastasia Novikova: It is free and open, it offers many options and saves on budget. You can use Blender to model, sculpt, bake, create simulations, and more. It already integrates the capabilities of several programs required in the workflow. As far as I know, what Blender needs to improve is the performance when it comes to high polycounts.
Shaafi Ahmad: Blender is improving but for now I can see its appeal more with beginners, freelancers, indie studios, places where it’s not completely corporate, and there are no set workflows or pipelines.
Adoption into AAA studios will be slow. Since their workflows are set and they have people trained in the industrial standard Maya/3DS Max whom they can hire, big studios won’t be willing to retrain their entire art department when they already know the tools which do the same things. Blender is also not stress-tested in a production environment, and tools like 3DS Max have custom support from Autodesk.
But adoption into AAA studios is not completely out of the question. In July 2019 it was announced that Ubisoft would join Blender’s development fund and that the Ubisoft Animation Studio would use Blender for their productions.
I do believe Blender has a bright future ahead, it’s a great tool.
Pedro Damasceno: Blender has always been my main tool for 3D modeling and I never felt the need to change that. I also use other software such as Zbrush, 3DCoat, Krita, Photoshop, Substance Painter, Substance Designer. I believe that it is not yet a standard tool because the industry is already old, so several tools and several professionals (Seniors / Directors) have already established themselves with other tools, so this quick change is a little complicated, but I believe that in the future we will see more and more Blender in large studios.
Blender is not only good software but it also has a good community and it has an open-source license that makes it possible to create and disseminate knowledge in a fantastic and fast way… A great example is a work that Pablo Dobarro has been doing with the sculpt module of the software. There's also the UV tool that Bram developed, among many other things.
Dmitry Bely: In my opinion, Blender is already a part of the industry. I have always used this software for modeling. But still, you often have to collect the final asset in 3ds Max or Maya. Blender lacks accuracy in the final stages. You need to quickly arrange the correct names, conveniently configure pivots and scales, and improve the exporter. The tool is improving in this direction and many improvements have already been implemented, but it still lacks “adulthood”. Still, it is already good enough to create game-ready models featuring many advantages.
Jordan Jenkins: In my opinion, I can’t see studios switching to Blender in the next 5-10 years. Studios have workflows they have perfected, plugins they paid a lot of money for, and a hell of a lot of artists who are extremely good at using the tools they are currently using. Why would they switch to Blender? To save some money? It would cost a lot more than they are saving to transfer over. Blender would have to make it possible to transfer plugins in a few easy steps. Training artists would still cost money but it might be worth it. In my opinion, a lot of studios worry about time more, and learning Blender would take them more time than they can waste.
Hazel Webster: I'm impressed by some of the waves Blender seems to have been making recently. While it is a comfy place for me having spent well over a decade with it, I don't stick to it religiously and I still think there is a long way to go for it to become industry standard and threaten Maya's crown. After a certain point, it doesn't matter how good the tool itself is if the culture if support is just not there. The reality is that a lot of both individual artists and studios get comfortable with one workflow and changing from that is naturally very disruptive. I don't think that's unreasonable at all especially with the schedules we're on. Speaking personally though, learning a new tool is an awesome opportunity to learn how to view and approach a problem in new ways. I love change and I love some healthy competition so I'm totally excited to see what the Blender team can achieve given their current momentum!
Christoffer Ryrvall: I find Blender to already be an incredibly Innovative software. And considering the massive amounts of updates and overhauls that have already been done to the program. It's only a matter of time. Several large companies are already taking the initiative to switch.
What sets Blender apart is its vast amounts of areas of use. And that may sound very alluring, but It's also a weakness comparing it to ZBrush or Substance Painter.
ZBrush being a program completely specialized in one particular task, sculpting, makes it difficult for an all-around software like Blender to compete at the same level a tool completely built around one task does.
George Garton: A lot of AAA studios have custom tools and scripts that are built to work with Maya/Max etc, not to mention all the employees who would need retraining. What I do think we’ll see is more studios accepting Blender as an industry-standard tool alongside Maya/Max. I could however see Blender becoming the standard tool for indie studios, primarily because of the financial gain from using free, open-source software.
I’ve been using a combination of Blender/Maya/Max for about 5 years now, and despite being free, I’ve actually found Blender to be the fastest and most intuitive one out of the three. Once you get to know all its shortcuts you can model and iterate blazingly fast, and if you utilize the modifiers you can do it in a fairly non-destructive way too. There are of course features present/missing within each program. For example, Blender is missing Max and Maya’s ability to make additive adjustments to meshes while preserving the UV’s. However, Max and Maya both lack Blender’s amazing point to point selection tool which I use all the time when working on complex organic shapes (Max sort of has this but it’s really clunky). These differences may sound minor, but to artists who have invested years in their chosen software and workflow, it can really make or break the decision between which software you choose.
However, given that Blender is open-source, and has a really strong and talented community behind it, new features are can be added more quickly than with Max/Maya. With more studios coming out recently to support the Blender Foundation I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Blender!
James Thirlwell: I think Blender has done a great job at becoming closer to becoming an industry-standard tool, you can do a lot inside of Blender, which eliminates the need to use different software for modeling, animating, and sculpting. A massive drawback for companies adopting Blender as their sole software is retraining people to use something completely new. I’ve recently started using Blender for some portfolio work, and it does take time to make the transition. They now allow you to change the navigation tools to work with "industry-standard" settings which change the navigation to work as it does in Maya, which would be massively useful to some companies. I don’t think it will be long until we see companies bringing Blender into their pipeline.
Art by James Thirlwell
Andy Baigent: When I started in the industry, Blender was the go-to piece of software for hobbyists due to it being free (which is understandable) and it was always frowned upon by the industry in general but now it’s really gaining some momentum and so many people in the industry are using it for their personal work. However, I don’t think Blender will become the industry standard but at the rate it’s going, it wouldn’t surprise me if some studios make the switch in the next couple of years, making it one of the industries standards. Especially now that it has backing from major companies such as Ubisoft, Microsoft and so many more. I’ve not used Blender yet (it’s on the list of things to learn) so I can’t really judge or give suggestions on what to improve but I think to really make it a strong competitor, it would be cool to either see something completely new that no other software can do (or can do well) or drastically reduce the time needed for a particular task. But as I say, I’ve not used it at all so it might already do these things!