Blender

Blender has been quoted as an example of failed commercial software in the comments here. It is a remarkable story and worth a post.

Blender was created as a rewrite by a Belgian company and spun off in its own company Not a Number Technologies. They expanded too fast and went bankrupt. Blender lives on under the umbrella of a non-profit organization The Blender Foundation. A failure it is not. About every two years, the organization produces a new animated movie and continues to thrive on donations and other revenue.

“The Blender Foundation is an independent organisation (a Dutch "stichting"), acting as a non-profit public benefit corporation, with the following goals:

  • To establish services for active users and developers of Blender
  • To maintain and improve the current Blender product via a public accessible source code system under the GNU GPL license
  • To establish funding or revenue mechanisms that serve the foundation’s goals and cover the foundation’s expenses
  • To provide individual artists and small teams with a complete, free and open source 3D creation pipeline.

As an application, Blender is quite challenging to use. I certainly have not mastered it but several of my students have. There are enough tutorials on the web to allow anyone to make nice 3D images. Animation is also possible but adds another level of complexity. I have used Blender to make a few logos and other images worth the effort to add 3D effects. The concepts are all simple and necessary: light, shadow, reflections and surfaces. Oh, colour is in there too, as part of light.

A typical tutorial on using Blender is http://vimeo.com/31973698. It’s way too fast but quickly shows the features of the programme. Hot keys and mouse clicks abound… A text tutorial is far easier for a newbie to follow… Unfortunately the change in UI for version 2.6 has left the bulk of tutorials behind

Blender.org is visited by most countries in the world with 14 million visits in 2011. 10.55% of those visits were from GNU/Linux, so even folks using that other OS and MacOS appreciate Blender. There are more than 3 million downloads of the binary per annum. It is a cooperative project of the world, which can and does make its own software.

see blender.org – Blender Foundation.

About Robert Pogson

I am a retired teacher in Canada. I taught in the subject areas where I have worked for almost forty years: maths, physics, chemistry and computers. I love hunting, fishing, picking berries and mushrooms, too.
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34 Responses to Blender

  1. Yonah says:

    notzed, you’re way off track. The argument is not against free software. Rather it’s the people who, for whatever reason, limit themselves to ONLY using free software. From an outsider’s perspective, they seem to develop a kind of abnormal bias that causes them to declare the free software they are using is superior is nearly every single way to any proprietary competitor. THIS is what the arrangement is about. And if you don’t like it, well… I think you know what to do.

  2. oldman says:

    “For the filthy scum here it seems to be they will complain about anything that is free just because it’s free.”

    Check your premises.

    The contrarian posters here are responding to Blog posts by Robert Pogson About closed source software in general and microsoft in particular that they feel are grossly ignorant and/or misleading and/or downright lies. Since this blog allows responses, we use the mechanism that we have been given to bring what we feel are corrective information into the discussion.

    And discussion it is, for whether you like it or not there are more dimensions to this story than Pog allows, and as long as he allows to post, we shall do so.

  3. notzed says:

    Well this thread is amazing. It really shows the sort of bottom feeding scum your blog attracts.

    Complaints about blender? Who is forcing you to use it? Are you even an artist, or just a whinger?

    And why SHOULD a GPL piece of software be compatible with a proprietary ‘workflow’ – that’s specifically the sort of theft avoidance the GPL is chosen for in the first place.

    If people have complaints about blender, just don’t use it, but it’s an awesome piece of software for many people.

    For the filthy scum here it seems to be they will complain about anything that is free just because it’s free.

  4. oiaohm says:

    Chris Weig section 2.4 EULA FBX SDK the extra disclaimer that might require the Python interface to be shipped separate to blender main .exe so the disclaimer is displayed right. Yes there is a mandatory disclaimer for interfacing against the SDK. Due to Blenders dynamic interface this can be added into blender when the importer exporter is installed. Yes the about dialogue entry include.

    Then there is no reason why the FBX SDK and the python import/export interface for blender could not be shipped as a addon package. The installer could download and install the FBX SDK as well.

    One SDK is pure python that is nicely cross CPU. Just happens to be compressed into a Linux x86 ELF file. Yes there is a reason why the Linux python file is way larger than the rest because it don’t depend on the binary runtime.

    I don’t know what is wrong at autodesk have to release 3 python packages all compressed inside executable for that platform. One generic could have been made.

    If you want to install on something not x86 you are in trouble.

    There is always more than one way to skin the cat. But not all of them are sane. Blender works on multi cpu types as well.

    Some of the issue is the way the sdk is packaged as well it does not exactly play well if executed from inside an application.

    Basically blender is powerful enough to support FBX. Just Autodesk if you wanted to create a SDK that is a prick to use gets top marks.

    Yes some of the disclaimer requirement also make it impossible add as a third party addon to 3d max and a few other 3d packages because you cannot place the disclaimers at the required locations to pass the EULA FBX SDK requirements. So at least blender is better than that what is not at all.

    Chris Weig this just happens to be an area that I know inside and out because was was doing up some conversion tools. You know the ones from this 3d format to that 3d format. FBX caused me to curse major-ally and make the thing standalone instead of being a set of plugins.

    EULA FBX SDK has teeth out to bite you all over it.

  5. Chris Weig says:

    The original problem was: can Blender use the FBX SDK? The answer is: yes, they can. With the provision being that, in absence of a written consent by Autodesk, Blender users would have to install the SDK themselves. The requirement of distributing the FBX functionality in source code shouldn’t be a problem, as Python FBX exists. The FBX importer/exporter can be written in Python and distributed in source, and then the user installs both FBX SDK and Python FBX.

    No problem. At all.

  6. oiaohm says:

    Chris Weig no I am not reading it wrong.

    Evaluation License and the Permitted Number will, by default, be one (1).

    I have spoke to Autodesk over this. Notice something hear. Trialware Auto-desk registration number is 1.

    Trial-ware you are allowed to ship the SDK with it. Nothing else. The FAQ says written permission and the written permission for trial-ware is in the EULA SDK.

    Sorry Chris Weig pick up the phone and call the Autodesk legal department and ask about getting a registration for a trial-ware product to ship sdk. You will be laugh at told use 1 and learn to read the EULA.

    So trial-ware you don’t have the restriction of shipping the SDK. Everything else you do.

    You are not a tools developer. It shows Chris Weig.

    In fact by law the FAQ has no legal base in a court of law. Its what is written in the license that is all important.

    “written permission from Autodesk” Is a very creative loophole. If it was not for the case of the written permission for trial-ware in the EULA it would be a written document from our licensing department or equal.

    Basically you cannot read Chris Weig the wording of the FAQ is very particular. Makes people presume they cannot ship the SDK when the SDK license allows it for one particular case. Yet the FAQ is not wrong because of the wording used. The EULA is still a written permission from Autodesk.

  7. Chris Weig says:

    Chris Weig the EULA is written permission you twit.

    Yeah, and you’re reading it wrong. Hence the FAQ by Autodesk for backwater boys like you.

  8. oiaohm says:

    Chris Weig the EULA is written permission you twit.

  9. Chris Weig says:

    LOL. Mr. Ham, especially for you, who apparently can’t read:

    1.2 Can I redistribute the FBX SDK?

    You cannot redistribute or repackage the FBX SDK without written permission from Autodesk. If you create open-source code that uses the FBX SDK, distribute your code and include a link to the Autodesk FBX website so the user can install the FBX SDK. If your code needs a specific version of the SDK you can distribute the complete .exe from the Autodesk FBX website.

    http://area.autodesk.com/forum/autodesk-fbx/fbx-sdk/fbx-sdk-faq

  10. oiaohm says:

    Chris Weig “The FBX SDK cannot be redistributed or repackaged without written consent by Autodesk. Meaning, in absence of such a written consent, the Blender user would have to install it him- or herself. That’s it.”

    Really what BS have you been reading.
    http://www.blender.org/bf/Autodesk_FBX_License.rtf
    1.1.3 section

    You can redistribute without needing written consent as long as your product is not given away for free.

    “The FBX SDK cannot be redistributed or repackaged without written consent by Autodesk.”
    Not true at all.
    1.1.3 (you can) reproduce, distribute and sublicense free of charge or for a fee Licensee Product(s) provided that Licensee must sublicense the Software, the Developed Software, the Library, the Sample Code(s) and the Modified Code(s) “as is”, without warranty of any kind. Various License Types are described in Exhibit B. In any case where the License Identification does not specify a License Type or Permitted Number, or there is no License Identification, the License Type will, by default, be the Evaluation License and the Permitted Number will, by default, be one (1).

    You have written consent to repackage or redistribute without any consent that what is in the EULA.

    So with a Evaluation License product you can ship it as much as you like. Only when it comes that they want to buy the full product do you then have to make a deal with Autodesk. Trials are fine as free but who wants that. Also you are not allowed to provide support of the trial product.

    Chris Weig your a wikipedia idiot. I read the full license of the SDK.

    Thing is Evaluation License would be in conflict with all open source licenses. Since the program would no longer really be the open source license.

    Chris Weig the troll who does not read.

  11. Chris Weig says:

    If you are referring to selling software then M$’s other OS is not commercial. They sell licences.

    Funny, you get down to semantics when you’re backed into a corner. But I assure you, selling software is in this day and age pretty much synonymous with selling licenses.

  12. Chris Weig says:

    Its not GPLv2 that is the problem. Its that blender is given away for free. Under the Autodesk FBX EULA license only trialware can be given away for free. So any free program using the FBX SDK is in fact in breach of license unless its limited trialware. This is why there is not a contrib package for it either.

    Ohio Ham, master of BS.

    This statement is just so out there, it shows that your Wikipedia knowledge doesn’t go a long way.

    The FBX SDK cannot be redistributed or repackaged without written consent by Autodesk. Meaning, in absence of such a written consent, the Blender user would have to install it him- or herself. That’s it.

  13. oiaohm says:

    Chris Weig DVD with resources is where the recent work has been. Exactly what is the point of just a book.

    Also you have to ask your question of selling software. The software is on the DVD’s. Along with other content.

    Where do these videos come from some are out of the movie making process some are part of other projects blender is development. So blender foundation uses blender themselves to produce sellable works. Commercially developed or supported to support there own operations.

  14. Chris Weig wrote, “If you refer to selling software, then Blender is not commercial.”

    If you are referring to selling software then M$’s other OS is not commercial. They sell licences.

  15. oiaohm says:

    Ivan really you did not check out link there are Blender Foundation authored items.

    http://www.blender3d.org/e-shop/default_dvds.php

    Yes they do a lot more Dvd with electronic books these days.

    Ivan a Blender install is two parts. One the blender core that is GPLv2 stuff. Two the contrib addons that are not GPLv2 all the time.

    Ivan
    “On the contrary Mr. Ham, it is a problem for Blender. All of the internal workings of Blender, including the bits that load the addons into memory and interpret the other thing-a-ma-jiggers into whosiwhatses Blender can understand, are all licensed under the gpl 2.”

    Anything working in the internal working has to interact with everything else in there.

    Autodesk’s SDK C++ don’t help in fact. Reason internal struts of blender are different. You cannot change internal struts of an application and magically make it work. Since all the tools in blender depend on on its internals being a particular way. So read and remap is kinda required. C++ SDK is no magic short cut.

    FBX is not designed to be very portable blender is one of the few that even attempt to read it.

    SHOCK HORROR: http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/User:Ton/Autodesk_FBX_EULA
    Its not GPLv2 that is the problem. Its that blender is given away for free. Under the Autodesk FBX EULA license only trialware can be given away for free. So any free program using the FBX SDK is in fact in breach of license unless its limited trialware. This is why there is not a contrib package for it either.

    So if someone wants to make a commercial extension that they charge you money for they can use the FBX SDK. Anyone wanting to give something away for free has to reverse FBX that is end of story..

    Other than the blend format in blender all the rest are exported by python in blender. There is no particular advantage to exporter in C++. Python is not what you call that slow. Main reason for python is lower skill set required to edit the importer/exporter in case of trouble.

    IVAN the thing you are missing not everything has to be “distributed with Blender” Distributed as a addon package is a valid option that exists as a contrib bundle at the moment of scripts.

    Some things like FBX due to nasty licenses either have to be reversed or commercial made extensions.

    Adding a commercial extensions does bring some of its own evil.

    There are two ways around problem.
    http://www.blender.org/education-help/faq/gpl-for-artists/#c2129 Python anything coded in pure python is not restricted by GPL.

    The can I sell plugins solution.
    http://www.blender.org/education-help/faq/gpl-for-artists/#c6711
    The program processing the format must be able to stand on its own two feet. So if blender can talk to it and extract what it needs by a pipe link everything is good.

    GPL does have lines in the sand. Making the part a true externally run-able program is a valid option. So outside the reach of GPL is perfectly valid.

    GPL is not the big bad devil a lot of people try to make it out. Yes there are rules. But the rules are no different to if the program was closed source in the first place.

    Blender internal format is blend files or what is called sdna. What shock horror is a form of database that can be requested to store anything.

    There is no reason why FBX cannot be converted to sdna in blend files. Problem is making sure blender has the interfaces to know what the sdna information is telling it and not stomp all over it. If not external render program.

    Magic of FBX is the complete idea that you will want to process inside Autodesk own library and not have your own data structs so they don’t provide very good information on the rules between stuff.

    Design of blender. Any new feature of any new format you add becomes part of the core blend file in future versions of blender. So blender fileformat expands in features.

    Yes for particular external rendering engines in blender information is stored in the blend files just for them completely no use at all to core blender. You can write python interfaces to alter and monitor the changes to make sure those values remain valid for the exporter.

    So there is nothing stopping FBX support being added to blender using the Autodesk SDK other than the fact coders don’t believe anyone will pay and two excepting blender has its own internal engine that must be respected.

    By the way Autodesk SDK includes a full python implementation of FBX. That could be used by blenders python extension interface to safely import export other than the fact I would have to provide that extension to you as either a trial or commercial ware. Its the Autodesk license were the big problem with FBX is. No free copy of FBX can exist based off the Autodesk SDK.

    Ivan if you knew the problem with Autodesk SDK of FBX you would have never brought it up. You are blaming the wrong part for the problem. Its not blender its Autodesk. Blender can work around that but are you willing to pay to have FBX or will you just use a different format.

  16. Chris Weig says:

    Now you demonstrate to us, Mr. Pogson, that you don’t know the difference between “writing” and “publishing”. If you’d taken only one look at this page:

    http://www.blender3d.org/e-shop/default_books.php

    you’d have seen that only ONE book remains which is deemed “offical”. And even that book has not been written by a Blender Foundation employee.

    Face it. Blender is commercial software and it’s FLOSS.

    That depends on your definition. If you refer to selling software, then Blender is not commercial. If you refer to the FLOSS view that software is commercial if it’s commercially developed or supported, then Blender is also not commercial. So what’s left? People using Blender commercially, meaning that they earn money with the things they create with Blender, which would be the weakest, most vague definition of them all.

  17. Ivan wrote, “No writers are employed by the Blender Foundation.”

    Hmmm…
    “The Blender Foundation has offices in the Amsterdam Blender Institute. Revenues from e-shop and publishing enable Ton Roosendaal and a small staff to work full-time on Blender, organize activities like for Siggraph or the Blender Conference, support development/documention projects, maintain and host blender.org services, and pay for bookkeeping and administration expenses.”

    see http://www.blender.org/blenderorg/blender-foundation/about/

    That sure reads as though some writing happens. What the heck are they “publishing”?

    also, “The Blender Store offers the official Blender Foundation books and a selection of the best third party books.”

    see http://www.blender3d.org/e-shop/

    Face it. Blender is commercial software and it’s FLOSS.

  18. Ivan says:

    So they do higher technical writers.

    No, they don’t. Those books were written by authors unaffiliated with the Blender Foundation and are only sold there.

    No writers are employed by the Blender Foundation.

    You’d know that if your experience with them went beyond the shallow google searches you use to support your arguments.

    Blender interface is written in python. Importers and Exporters in blender are also written in Python.

    As you are an expert in everything, Mr. Ham, you certainly have to understand that _everything_ distributed with Blender must be compatible with the gpl2 and that Python has C and C++ bindings which are used for much faster exports, right?

    This is absolutely not a problem for blender. Importer/Exporter has to obey python license not blender gpl for an Extension.

    On the contrary Mr. Ham, it is a problem for Blender. All of the internal workings of Blender, including the bits that load the addons into memory and interpret the other thing-a-ma-jiggers into whosiwhatses Blender can understand, are all licensed under the gpl 2.

    As you are an expert on everything, you have to realize that requires anything being distributed with Blender to be licensed under a gpl 2 compatible license.

    It’s why they ship a reverse-engineered and broken FBX io addon rather than use Autodesk’s SDK to provide a working exporter.

  19. Finalzone says:

    Correction,
    Not An Number was a Dutch Company founded by Ton Roosendaal, himself Dutch. Blender Foundation lives in Amsterdam.

    http://www.blender.org/blenderorg/blender-foundation/

  20. oiaohm says:

    Chris Weig
    http://www.mattmurrayanimation.com/archives/category/pyqt

    He might have left blender but the python he learnt using blender remains with him.

    Python has become the universal programming language in most VFX shops. Interesting point the First VFX to support that was blender.

    Degrees of separation. Skin deep as normal Chris Weig.

    VFX world never fully stops changing but the one thing that is true is open source is taking a larger and larger roles.

  21. Chris Weig says:

    That’s tradition, nothing more. Maya and its predecessor PowerAnimator were primarily built for IRIX. And since basically every ex-Unix VFX shop switched to Linux, Alias/SGI had to follow suit.

  22. Interestingly, Autodesk releases a version of Maya for GNU/Linux but they do not have a version of AutoCad for GNU/Linux.

  23. Chris Weig says:

    http://www.mattmurrayanimation.com/about-me

    I knew I wanted to be an Animator ever since I saw Toy Story (me and everyone else). Once in high school my family finally got a computer that could run something other than DOS and I found Blender!(after finding out the cost of 3dSMax…yikes!) Blender was amazing and everything I thought 3D would be, I made tons of images and animations, I even had some work displayed at the Blender booth at SIGGRAPH 2000.

    I went on a mission for my church to South Korea, and upon my return found that Maya was kind of the standard to learn so in 2006 I started to attend Collins College and received a bachelor of Arts in Animation degree three years later.

    What a shocking surprise!

  24. oiaohm says:

    Ivan Blender Foundation sells technical manuals.
    http://www.blender3d.org/e-shop/
    Technical writers is one of there income streams. They do normally release for free a generation behind of the manuals. Yes its a curse there are different income models. You want a current complete manual you pay.

    So they do higher technical writers.

    Also you are a idiot Ivan. Blender interface is written in python. Importers and Exporters in blender are also written in Python.

    “No, Bob, I’m suggesting that it is flipping stupid to use the gpl when the file formats that you will be using require linking to libraries that are distributed under incompatible licenses and therefore can’t legally be distributed under the terms of the gpl.”

    This is absolutely not a problem for blender. Importer/Exporter has to obey python license not blender gpl for an Extension. http://wiki.blender.org/index.php/Extensions:2.6/Py/Scripts There are quite a few non gpl scripts. There are closed source Extensions to blender as well.

    Ok the importer/exporter might have to ship as a Extensions not installed by default. But blender supports Extensions and 2.5+ supports means to turn Extensions on and off on the fly.

    So really Blender could ship with a second installer that installs the extensions using closed source crud and not void GPL. Reason the interface library is linked to python not blender.

    If you wish to play with blender core yes you do get into gpl only code.

    Ivan the problem might exist for some other programs using gpl but it really does not exist for blender. Please in future don’t presume crap and do your homework. Homework on blender checking out the extensions would have shown the existence of closed source in extensions that is legal.

    A program with a proper designed extension system never has this problem. Its like idiots saying linux kernel cannot run closed source programs because its gpl. There are lines where gpl and closed can link. Normally by a bridge interface of some form. For blender the bridge interface is python. Really is the library ever linked to the gpl code by the python bridge. No its not. Its a dynamic on the fly connection.

    Ivan to be correct the way blenders extension system is licensed there is nothing you cannot connect to. There is just a line in the sand. If you want to alter the internal C and C++ yes you enter blenders zone of gpl.

    oldman out of all the tools blender is the only one that can dynamically change is interface on the fly. So allowing the interface to match the char you are working on. Blender comes into its own in rigging and model control. Since each model can have its own customised control interface.

    Of course using blender to that level to set it up does take some serous skill. But operator using model does not need as much to make the model move correctly after it setup.

    oldman go look at the books and videos the people who use blender are very serous people.

    Ted people like Ivan are masters of fud. They forget you cannot judge a book by it cover.

  25. kozmcrae says:

    “Telling an inconvenient truth is not FUD.”

    When I hear one I’ll remember that, thanks.

  26. Ted says:

    “Telling an inconvenient truth is not FUD.”

    Quoted for Truth.

    The same way that;
    Verifiable facts are not FUD
    Reasoned opinions are not FUD
    Deserved criticism is not FUD
    Fair comparison is not FUD
    And as you say – the truth is NEVER FUD.

    All too often, the “FUD” term gets slung around, with the FOSSies forgetting it was first levelled at IBM, one of their current darlings. It does not and has never meant “Anything that supports Microsoft in any way, shape, or form.”

  27. oldman wrote, “Two guesses what most people who are serious about what they are doing will do.”

    Folks who use Blender are creating files. They can easily create them in any open standard file-format and others can use them if they wish. File-formats are not a lock-in for people creating stuff. If the work is good, the recipients of the files will find a way to use them.

  28. oldman says:

    “If that’s the issue, the real problem is the licences of those libraries. ”

    It doesnt work that way Pog. The formats exist and are part of the environment. You dont just get to wish them away because they are not idealogically pure.

    In that context the options are as follows:

    Pay for the body to do the conversions to an from blender.

    Dump blender for a tool that can do the full job, even if you have to pay for it!

    Two guesses what most people who are serious about what they are doing will do.

  29. If that’s the issue, the real problem is the licences of those libraries. You should use open standards so the requisite libraries are available as FLOSS. Closed standards are not good IT. IT should not be enslaved, otherwise it is a burden, not a blessing.

  30. Ivan says:

    The GPL says nothing about file-formats. The GPL does respect copyright. Are you suggesting it does not?

    No, Bob, I’m suggesting that it is flipping stupid to use the gpl when the file formats that you will be using require linking to libraries that are distributed under incompatible licenses and therefore can’t legally be distributed under the terms of the gpl.

  31. oldman says:

    “True to the Cult of Microsoft spirit Ivan tries to BS his way to FUD on Blender.?”

    Telling an inconvenient truth is not FUD.

  32. kozmcrae says:

    True to the Cult of Microsoft spirit Ivan tries to BS his way to FUD on Blender.

  33. Ivan wrote, “can’t legally provide support for common interchange formats because of the gpl’s stupidity”.

    The GPL says nothing about file-formats. The GPL does respect copyright. Are you suggesting it does not?

  34. Ivan says:

    It is a remarkable story and worth a post.

    It would be a remarkable story if the Blender Foundation hired a technical writer and wrote a fricken manual, they can certainly afford it.

    A failure it is not.

    It’s software from a source that can’t legally provide support for common interchange formats because of the gpl’s stupidity. The interchange formats that it can legally support are only partially supported.

    That means Blender requires a full time developer to shoe-horn it into existing pipelines, that cost is prohibitive for small studios that aren’t built around the tool’s short comings.

    Now, are there studios that have been built around Blender? Sure, but there are studios that have been built around Lightwave and Realsoft (other low end tools), so who cares if a few obscure studios that have done nothing worth mentioning use a piece of software.

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