Insights from a Blender Conference
"Let's see an example of a problem." - I was not expecting this.
The theatre was full, people sitting on the floor, and more were still coming in. Ton Roosendaal, the founder of Blender, was getting ready for his opening speech. When he started, three main ideas came out: change, diversity and quality. Blender must be able to respond to an evolving world, be able to face the challenges set in game design, in films or in science. And it is must do that at the same quality standards as other first-class software. Also, of course - "Blender has to be fun!", said Ton.
Blender has the potential to be a great 3D tool for the occasional user, for printing purposes, for education. Kids should be learning 3D tools at school as well as programming languages - such as Python, the language behind Blender. It should be as essential as any other speaking language, such as English.
What makes Blender so great? It's free! You can make a living out of it while you are learning how to master it. And it has an open culture behind it, with a community of contributors and developers who must be cherished for sharing their work and making Blender more user-friendly and keeping it fresh and challenging.
In truth, I did not know what to expect from this conference. Of course I had the conference program and I researched the presentations to be made. Looking into the profiles of the presenters, I found out where they worked, on what they worked, some of their websites, looked into their worlds.
Given my participations in scientific conferences, I certainly was not expecting for such an attention to problems or people saying something like "It took me two years to make this game; I started everything the wrong way. And for that matter, I lost a full year. I learned from my own experience". I don't know (yet) if all technical or software for 3D animation conferences are all like this one, or if it was due to Blender's free and open-source nature. A great part of the presentations I saw were done by people not afraid to show their insecurities or issues risen while modelling, making films or even boring repeated tasks.
"If you don't make it [Blender] your own, you're doing it wrong". Another main advantages of Blender is that it's highly customizable to everyone's workflow. Whether it is in game design, sculpting or making films. Or else it will consume your time and patience doing repeated steps to reach your goal. You just need to learn how to code, just a little bit of Python; or count on the good will of your fellow developers.
3D printing was well represented, whether with plastic, on wood or even the rumours of sugar and spice. I got to see the Goddess of Shopping in wood, on a photo only, though. I admired the wonders of pie menus to solve some of the dark pits of virtual effects. I gazed through a complex networks of nodes that could be make buildings fat or grow into the sky. I even saw how we can cheat on 3D animation using the "matte painting approach".
Much more was seen and could be said about this [Blender] conference but you can find that on your own on Blender conference website and look for the documentation and videos.
One last sentence that I kept in my mind was "Limits help the creative process".
I leave you with the links to the winning animations of the Suzanne Animation Festival, so that you can have a glimpse of what you can accomplish with Blender:
Best Animation: Télé célébrité by Arnaud Travert;
Best Design: Jonas by Gael Larousse & Clément Ducarteron;
Best Short film: 11 Paper Place by Daniel Houghton et al.
And then, after three full days of presentations, discussions and enlightenment, we saw ourselves back to a full theatre for the quickest ending speech from Ton [Roosendaal]. "It was great to see you all. You are the ones who make Blender. Thank you!", and that was it.
As quickly as it started, we were sent back to our little 3D world.