Tuesday, July 29, 2014

The Big Switch - II

The title says it all but to recap from part I, I had to switch from Maya to Blender and I was a very unhappy camper. Its not like I had stock options in Autodesk that I was getting separation anxieties, but I read somewhere that it if you have a strong will it takes only 30 days to get into a new habit. Lets just say my ‘will’ had not had a workout in a while. It was quite the weakling.

My first week at Blender was nothing short of a car crash. More like multiple car crashes with some helicopters thrown in for effect. I’d been a Mayan (how cool does that sound) for so long that just basic moving around in Blender was like writing with my left hand (I’m right handed in case you didn’t catch that). Stuff that I could do in Maya with my eyes closed with one hand tied behind my back, become tasks that took me hours, well not hours but much, much longer than usual.

I was well and truly on my way to hating the software when I had a couple of really fascinating experiences. The first was when I tried using Fur in blender. Now every Maya user will agree if Maya has a pain point (and I’ve admitted it has a few) it’s the hair and fur system. Fur in Maya requires some very special handling. A. You need a bad-ass system that can output the fur B. you need to pray that Maya had gotten up on the right side of its bed, cause I don’t remember ever trying Fur in Maya without it dying on me. And by dying I mean smoke coming out of your system and you pulling out half your hair in frustration. But Blender, Blender was just something else. It has something called Quick Fur. I almost chocked on my coffee when I heard this. The words Quick and Fur don’t really go together when it comes to 3D software, but when I tried the option it was amazing. I’m not saying I created fields of corn and grass but the ease of handling and the fact that the system didn’t die and continued to work smoothly was just too fascinating to ignore.

So, reluctantly at first, I started to dig deeper. I started to see that the tools in Blender were at least as powerful as the tools in Maya, if not more so. Though it was like learning a foreign language, once I got over the initial learning curve and the many many, many keyboard shortcuts, I found working in Blender was blazingly fast. I’m not just talking about rendering the output, I mean the process of creating models, animations, particle systems, all the usual and some of the not so usual things that one uses when working on a 3D project. I started feeling like Blender was freeing my mind. I could turn my ideas into reality a lot faster.

Besides its workflow and such, there were other things in Blender that I found too amazing to wrap my head around. For starters its latest version weighed 106.8 MB… 106.8 MB! A full-fledged 3D software!! To give you some perspective, Maya’s installer file stands at 1.8 GB… GB. Shockers. Makes you wonder what the hell is packed into it when they both let me do the exact same thing.

My curiosity now fully ablaze, I found more and more things in Blender that were quite fabulous. Besides letting you work on your 3D elements, Blender also has a Video Editor. Even though it looked a little different to your typical Premiere Pro or Final Cut Pro set-up, all the tools were there. But wait it didn’t stop there, I could Composite in it, I could Sculpt in it and and and.. it had an inbuilt Game Engine … The OpenGL-based engine uses a graphical interface for building game behaviors without coding. It features a bullet physics engine for real-time collisions and interactions, and has support for vehicle dynamics. Oh yeah and all this was free. Like free free. Blender is an open source software. You can download it off the Blender website... again, for free. This is the part where I stood up and gave the Blender guys a standing ovation.

The thought that Blender is a free open source software hadn’t even crossed my mind yet. After working on Blender I feel like it’s amazing that companies and production houses would want to spend bundles of money on their setup with Maya.

The winds of change were definitely blowing. I had this renewed fervor to want to do as much as possible in Blender. Push it to its limits so to speak. It was like reading a really great book that you just can’t put down. So I have to say coming out of the storm, after Blending (that sounds pretty cool too huh!?!) for a couple of months I’m officially converted. I feel like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. Maya will always be my first love but Blender is definitely where the future lies.