CategoriesGeneralWhy isnt Blender industry standard yet?

This topic contains 20 replies, has 15 voices, and was last updated by Cyro 1 month ago.

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  • henning
    Wizard @ FlippedNormals

    Now that Blender 2.8 is out, there’s a huge influx of new users, both beginners to 3D and professionals alike. Considering that Blender on the surface looks very similar to the industry leaders Max and Maya, it’s natural to assume it’s about to completely destroy them. Let’s discuss why Blender isn’t industry standard and if it will take over in the future. Keep in mind, in this thread I’m talking about medium to bigger productions and not teams of 2-3 people.

    TL;DR:
    – Doesn’t work well with other pipelines
    – Pipelines are already established and completely redoing your pipe is extremely expensive.
    – Blender is still catching up to the established 3D Software.
    – It’s really hard to find professionals who knows how to use Blender compared to Maya. This makes it a lot harder to crew up for productions.
    – The work the big studios produce is sometimes worth billions. Their biggest concern is the quality of the final product, not that their 3D software is free.

    Pipeline

    There are many reason why a software is industry standard, where maybe the most important one is that it plays well with other packages. In a production, you’ll never only work in one package. A typical production might look like this:
    – Concept sculping in ZBrush
    – Retopo and UVs in Maya/Modo
    – Texturing in Mari/Painter
    – Rigging and animation in Maya
    – FX and sim in Houdini
    – Rendering in Katana/Houdini/Maya.

    As you can see, the small things like how quick it to isolate selected, bevel edges, group items, etc – matters very little. It’s so easy to get laser focused on these features and assume that because modeling is gesture based in Blender, making it really fast, that this matters in the slightest when it comes to making it industry standard.

    If Blender wants to become more integrated in the industry, it seriously needs to play better with the other packages. There are a lot of issues with Blender in production  which is currently preventing studios from using it. When we worked on Giri Guru, the facial animation is based on swapping out the different expressions. When we cache the animation, we store it as alembic, which can easily store the visibility flag of an object. However, Blender doesn’t support this yet, meaning that there’s literally no intuitive way of rendering Giri Guru in Blender at the moment.
    In order to make Blender easier to use in a production, you need really need it to be able to quickly export and import alembic (abc) files, along with Open VDB and USD. These features aren’t sexy at all, but they are essential in order to facilitate adoption.

    Network of people
    Another problem which is arguably harder to crack is that because the industry is mainly using Maya, most people will then know Maya well. If you need to crew up for a production and you use Maya, it’s quite easy to find artists. However, if you need to crew up for a full Blender production, it will be significantly harder. While there are a lot of Blender users, the vast majority are hobbyists, so finding seasoned professionals is really hard. Lets say you need 3 riggers, 10 animators, 10 modellers and 5 lighting artists with VFX experience, this is really hard to find if you’re using Blender. There are thousands of artists available for these positions with years of experience using Maya.

    Of course you could re-train artists, but this is incredibly expensive. If you throw a Maya artist into a Maya production, they will be productive from day 1, but throw them into a Blender production and it might take them 6 months to get up to the speed they are currently working at in Maya. While Blender is free, training people certainly isnt and the loss of productivity can be far more expensive than Maya licenses.

    Solving a non existing issue
    While cost definitely is an issue when it comes to 3D software, the bigger studios are far more conserned with the final quality than the cost of software. For them, software is simply a cost of business. For a AAA games studios or high-end VFX studio, the most important area for them is making amazing work in a short amount of time. Keep in mind that the bigger studios are producing work worth literally billions of dollars. A studio is far more likely to move towards Houdini today than towards Blender. While you could potentially use Blender for modeling, you’d still render your work in a specialized software and render engine. The two most used engines in VFX are Renderman (prman) and Arnold, and no matter how much you want it to be true, they are not switching to Cycles anytime soon. Arnold and Renderman are heavily tested and are work horses. You can throw anything at them and it will render. Knowing that you have a reliable pipeline for rendering is absolutely essential for a studio and Blender being free really isnt a relevant factor here.

    Moving your established pipeline from what you have to something new is also extremely expensive; it requires a lot of RnD and a significant amount of time. In order to switch, the new pipeline needs to offer something which is completely groundbreaking and currently there’s absolutely nothing in Blender which would make people seriously considering switching.

    I’d love to hear everyone’s opinion on this and how to make Blender more popular in the industry!


    nox_000
    Artist

    You are right! I think blender can be pretty groundbreaking on indie studios, specially for doing fast action animatics with grease pencil, having 2D integrated with 3D cameras/objects can be useful for making animatics feel more alive and tweak shots faster, instead of redrawing all again


    chillywilson
    Artist

    I think half of what you said is correct. Blender supports Goz for zbrush, alembic files, renderman and Arnold for blender ,  has a bunch of retypo addons that I like better than maya.

    The reason I see it not in studios is lack of service if something breaks in blender you can’t call them up and get it fixed.

    The bad UX with blenders standard keys slow down creation to a crawl compared to max, Maya or c4d.

    That is, of course, you can do what a lot of artists do and insert the Maya hotkeys add on which give you all the Maya keys to work with only a few blender ones to learn.

     


    samiam
    Artist

    For indie devs it’s a no brainer. But I don’t see it ever becoming standard for “AAA”, because it’s open source. I can’t think of any open source software that’s industry standard! For me (someone who as ever only exclusively used 3ds Max) it’s work flow is to distructive and I end up getting put off learning it. Which is a shame for me because Max licenses (even the indie) are just too expensive. 🙁

     


    bvz
    Artist

    I spend most of my days working at a studio that primarily relies on Maya, Renderman, Houdini, and Clarisse iFX (among others).

    That said, I can see Blender becoming a more integral part of our pipeline over time. Everything you mention is true, but some of it could also have been said of things like Softimage and Shake. I remember when we switched from Softimage to Maya back at ILM. It was a painful transition, but it was accomplished in less than a few years.

    I don’t see anyone (other than Blender enthusiasts) seriously suggesting that Blender will supplant Maya any time soon. But that doesn’t mean that it won’t start to find a foothold now that 2.8 has managed to kill a large part of the “non industry standard stink” that the previous versions had.

    Here are some reasons why I think Blender will actually start to make inroads faster than your article would suggest (inroads means some adoption, not becoming the primary application used by studios):

    1) Samiam suggests that open source is a liability. I would disagree. Open source is actually a benefit. Most major VFX studios actually rely quite heavily on open source software: Linux. Having the ability to customize the specific functions of your 3D pipeline is part and parcel of a larger studio. Often it involves writing glue code between commercial packages, but it can also benefit from modifying the actual functionality of the tools themselves. Specifically referring to the alembic exporter in Blender. The deficiencies that it has in this regard is theoretically possible to fix at a studio level (Not super likely for the reasons pointed out in the article – other packages already in use do it better). But all it takes is one studio making that change and upstreaming the changes for all studios to benefit. This is a snowball kind of effect. As smaller changes get made, adoption goes up. As adoption goes up, more interest in making changes (and upstreaming them) happens. This drives even more adoption. Note: I am not saying this WILL happen. Just that it can (and there is a precedent for it in the rest of the open source world as open source projects matured they became as good as or better than commercial systems in SOME cases.)

    2) Finding professional level artists who are familiar with Blender. This may also start to change over time. As smaller studios are much more price sensitive (and are less reliant on older, established pipelines) they may begin to adopt Blender for some of their workflow (now that it is so much easier to start using without massive re-training). Once you have smaller studios showing some demand for this package, you will get a few more artists who are comfortable with Blender. These artists will then start moving to larger studios and occasionally bring with them the skills and/or desire to use it at their new jobs.  Again, to be clear, I am not suggesting that this WILL happen, nor that it will be widespread. But it is a way that new tools make their way organically from one market (small studios to larger ones). This is only feasible because 2.8 has a significantly lower barrier to entry (ease of use) than before. The quality of the tool (for specific, limited pipelines) does matter. It is a similar reason why ZBrush, even with its non-intuitive interface, took the market by storm (over a fair number of years actually). It is a high quality tool. Blender is starting to become a high quality tool in some areas. This will help with its adoption on the fringes. And things on the fringes, assuming the quality of the tool encourages it, will start to move to the mainstream.

     

    Ultimately I think the question of whether Blender will supplant Maya is really only interesting to hardcore Blender enthusiasts. Professional artists will choose the tools that:

    a) are available to them

    and

    b) help them get their work done faster, better, and cheaper

     

    Blender has long solved A. It runs on every platform and has zero cost. But it suffered quite a bit when it came to B (though, in some cases, more as a perception issue than a real one). With 2.8 they are starting to address B. As they start to provide small solutions to real problems that are better or different than other packages, people will start to use it for that.  Even if it is just for a few minutes a day for a specific, well defined purpose.  But this will drive familiarity and acceptance. As long as the Blender developers (who are AMAZING BTW) continue now to focus on B (even if some of their changes infuriate older Blender fanatics) they will find the adoption rates increasing. Will it supplant Maya?  Who cares. But I think it will find a home in the studio environment.


    samiam
    Artist

    I should have emphasized in my comment that I’m coming from a Game Dev perspective. Which (in my experience) uses very little to no open source software. Other than sublime Personally I don’t think that open source is a liability, but the upper management and above may think that. Could that be down to lack of knowledge on their part? Possibly, but I think more likely that the idea of taking something that’s “tried and true” and has active support and swapping to something “new” that would take RND time and money to get everyone back up to speed would be a difficult pitch the board of directors. Also as mentioned in the article it would cost a lot to train up artists on new software, which I reckon would be most of not all of their artists. Most of the artists I know either know: Max, Maya or both, hardly anyone knows blender as they have never had to learn it professionally.

    I doubt that if a studio were to adopt and make changes to it that they wouls push it up stream for the benifit of others. The game industry like to keep their cards close to their chest when it come to in house tech and processes. The VFX industry may play ball a little nicer 😂


    AlphaAngles
    Artist

    In terms of Blender becoming industry standard, there are a lot of misconceptions made about blender and its difficulty to learn. The software is by no means difficult to use (IMO), Its intuitive and works well at keeping you focused on what you’re working on rather than relying on UX to solve your problems. Pre 2.7, I agree with many the user interface was lacking however it limited the number of tabs on a screen and reduced the amount tedious mouse working you’d generally find in software like Maya. On the support side, the support is phenomenal and you can 90% of the time expect a developer to respond to your problem immediately, and there’s also the added benefit of you the consumer being able to fix the problem yourself being that the software is open source. Now I understand that many pipelines have been made already with Maya, Max and Zbrush, however this shouldn’t discourage studios from attempting to use different tools because at the end of the day blender is a free software that can save studios money on paid software while maintaining the same functionality. I remember when i was first getting into 3D modeling I had a teacher who taught us how to use 3DS Max however he was a stickler for the industry standard getting upset when I recommended using blender, now some of you might think it wasnt my place to say something like that because its apart of the school curriculum however it just shows how ignorant people can be when deciding to move forward.

    Personal Point: I get really annoyed when I see people constantly saying “why would I update when this works perfectly”


    zedmax
    Artist

    nce you have smaller studios showing some demand for this package, you will get a few more artists who are comfortable with Blender. These artists will then start moving to larger studios and occasionally bring with them the skills and/or desire to use it at their new jobs.  Again, to be clear, I am not suggesting that this WILL happen,

    actually this is just happened, if u didn’t follow the news Ubisoft animation studio is starting to use blender in their production mainly because many of their artists showed interest in using blender for their work and if everythings go well it will spread across their other studios, the same happened with Khara/Q studio from japan, i think you are not far from the truth.


    henning
    Wizard @ FlippedNormals
    OP

    Thanks for the great discussion! It’s awesome to see a good and balanced talk around this and not just how Blender will never replace Maya – or how it will replace it tomorrow. These are the two opinions I see the most.

    Bvz, you raise an excellent point here – Once the studios really starts to use it, they will develop tech for themselves, which hopefully will end up back in Blender, like Cryptomattes. The more production features you have, the more likely it is that other studios will integrate it.

    No bigger studio will ever do a full switch from what they are using to Blender overnight, but what could (and is) happen, is that individual artists start using it, and slowly but surely it takes over from Maya. The most obvious areas here is really modeling, as that’s the area which is most outside of an established pipeline. I can also see that previz starts to be done in Blender with Eevee. The fact that you have a video editor, comp, rigging, animation etc – all in one package is a huge win for previz!

    I also dont think Blender 2.8o is more of less difficult to learn than Maya. I’ve heard some people claim that Blender is better because it’s easier to learn, which isn’t true in the slightest.

     


    Arev
    Artist

    I dont know where the idea about “Blender becoming the industry standard” originates from. But among artists using blender this is not a  widespread belief. As blender has already aquired a foothold i can see it taking a portion of the market though,a nd in the next few years that portion will most likely grow.

    I do think however blender will continue to improve and will eventually proove you wrong Henning. I have only used blender so it is dificult to go into a debate on  everything you are talking about.  But it seems to me that some of the issues you are having is because you are attached to Maya/3dsmax.  Well ok, there are some issues  with exporting to other packages, but they do have Alembic at least.


    bvz
    Artist

    The VFX industry is a nightmare! 🙂

    But there is a strong history of studios open-sourcing their work. Much of that might also trickle down to game studios (though I do not know as much about that).

    Examples are:

    Alembic file format, USD file format, EXR’s, VDB’s and so on. These are just file formats, but our studio also gave time for one of our developers to work on cycles. We don’t use Blender (I am only dabbling in it at the moment, and I am nearly the only one) and are extremely unlikely to use cycles, but the developer was interested and the studio was interested in what it might lead to. I think there is a rich history of open source projects being backed by studios, including returning their code upstream.  It is kind of in our best interests. Nothing that we can come up with is going to be such a competitive advantage that we couldn’t release parts of it. Our strengths come from artists and institutional knowledge. The tech we use, with some exceptions, will be replicated industry wide in short order (if we aren’t replicating someone else’s). When we all release some work that is beneficial to others, everyone benefits. And this isn’t just pie in the sky. That is the reason why Pixar released USD and the code associated with it. They will actually benefit as other tools incorporate this standard and then they wind up with a more streamlined workflow.

     


    digitalhermit
    Artist

    I certainly do agree that cost is probably one of the smaller considerations for professional studios. As a hobbyist however (and someone who donated to help “free” Blender many years ago), it’s a different story. Maya is priced out of the reach of hobbyists like myself. I do purchase pro software for other interests (E.g., Matlab, Lightworks, Mathematica, among other software), but at over $1200/year Maya is not an option.

    Which brings up the technical capabilities of Blender (and other open source software in general). An associate of mine wrote a book about the “good enough” graph of open source software. When a new OS project starts, it almost invariably has fewer features than commercial offerings. This is a natural consequence of how software is produced.  Bill Gates described why products such as Microsoft Office had so many features. As they competed in the marketplace, consumers may have checklist of needed features. If a product could check off more features then it would win out.  That’s why Office dominated for so long. But development is not cheap, and these features come at a premium cost.

    But that “good enough” graph means that for a subset of the consumer base, the Open Source offering may at first be barely adequate. Then new features are added. Support and user base grows and even more features get added. Soon (sometimes measured in months, sometimes years), the Open Source version is “good enough”.  In the IT industry we saw this with hundreds of commercial software. Apache web server replaced IIS. Tomcat replaced Websphere. Linux replaced SunOS/Solaris and HP/UX. So right now Blender doesn’t meet the needs of most professional studios. It may never be *dominant*, but it may be good enough for a growing portion of that user base. At some point, that sliver of users may become the majority because cost is almost always a consideration.

    To be clear, I’m in no way saying that the Open Source version does have not have the same or higher quality, but that they may not yet be feature complete to satisfy the requirements of particular users.


    bvz
    Artist

    The thing that kept me from using Blender was the barrier to entry was too high for the time budget I had to offer.

    I would usually have about 20 minutes to spare. I would open it up and try to get one small, specific thing completed. In that time I would always struggle with the 3D cursor always jumping around every time I tried to select something. I couldn’t find any menus. I couldn’t even navigate the viewport easily until I had switched to the Maya standard.

    All of these things can be learned fairly easily, but I really had no incentive. Why would I struggle to learn these things when I had Maya that could pretty much do all the same things? I don’t pay for the Maya license, my studio does. So the effective price for me is the same.

    After faffing about for twenty minutes trying to do the simplest thing, I would usually give up. After that it would be a while before I would try again and the whole process would repeat itself.

    And there was no compelling need to get over that learning hurdle.

     

    Then I had an independent project and I didn’t want to pay Autodesk for even a temporary Maya license. So I downloaded 2.79 and took the time to get over those hurdles. I switched to left-click select. I modified the navigation. I watched tutorials to learn where the menu items were (1st clue, at the bottom, not the top). None of this was hard and in fairly short order I was moving about Blender with some ease. I really like it now.

    But it took a concerted effort of at least an hour or more before I could do even the simplest thing. When I am at work and I can just fire up Maya and get my work done in a minute vs. spending an hour or more to get the same thing done, there has to be a compelling reason. That tool B can do what tool A does is not a compelling argument in itself if you already have tool A. Even if Tool B has a slight advantage in one or two places it isn’t enough. There has to be a compelling reason.

    2.8 seems to have some compelling reasons. I like the new interface a LOT. They have removed many of the barriers that prevented experienced users from being able to pick the software up and use it (at a very basic level) in a few minutes. The nodes are superior to some commercial applications that I use. And the GPU renderer, while I have not used it myself, is pretty compelling. So I suspect this immediate dismissal will start to fade a bit.


    Stefan Ellis
    Artist

    I also dont think Blender 2.8o is more of less difficult to learn than Maya. I’ve heard some people claim that Blender is better because it’s easier to learn, which isn’t true in the slightest.

    That’s quite personal, I started with 3dsmax  which was also taught in school later on, but I never quite liked the interface so it never sticked (although I envied the vast majority of quality assets they have available). Then I tried Maya and I liked it a lot better so I used it for a few years… but it was by no means ‘easy to start with or pass on to others that are new to it’. Around the same time Modo began to gain traction (which was very primitive in those early days) but the interface and liquidity really made it a joy, so I’ve used it for 13 years. I had invested quite a lot in software and hardware so at the time Cinema4D was out of reach (cost is one thing but as you stated your investment in time is another), but for what I do it would have been the perfect match… as modo content is really limited, but that’s life. Recently I gave Blender 2.8 beta a try and I immediately saw similarities with other quality DCC’s and after a few days of research was on my way of using it. I didn’t even mind the different mapping of (navigation/hot)keys… because if you’re switching from a DCC to Zbrush and back you’re already used to quite a different set of navigation and general hotkeys and workflows. Surely plenty of thing I’ll have to figure out, but all in all it’s been a joy to work with so far.

    Much depends on who you can learn from and there’s some really great tutors for Blender. Same is true for Zbrush (and other programs). If you can find those passionate about the software with a decent skill to explain things (William Vaughan and Richard Yot for Modo, GreyscaleGorilla for C4D, Michael Pavlovich for Zbrush, Andrew Price for Blender, … there’s plenty more), then the learning-curve is a lot less steep and you’re on your way quite quickly. Back in the day it’s quality content on GnomonWorkshop and DigitalTutors (now Pluralsight) which made a lot of skills available to others, so they also narrowed the choice to 3Dsmax or Maya (which was of course also linked to the professional industry so totally understandable).

    Actually I don’t think we should care if it will ever surpass Maya or any program, as long as artists can use whichever software they are most proficient in (within those studios they work at) and enjoy the work they’re doing. And sure most studios require certain knowledge… so if you limit yourself you’ll often have to pass up on an opportunity because you’ve chosen another software package to be good at. That’s a loss for both, but should not be the end of your creative endeavour.


    marcclintdion
    Artist

    we store it as alembic, which can easily store the visibility flag of an object. However, Blender doesn’t support this yet,

    Are you saying that Blender’s alembic implementation is missing a specific feature regarding visibility flags or is it your belief that Blender doesn’t support Alembic at all.

    I don’t use it but so far as I know Alembic support has been in Blender for 3 years now.

    I’m certain the big factor that currently prevents Blender from being an industry standard is it’s inability to handle complex models and large scenes.  As an example, multi-res sculpting which is the most efficient sculpting in Blender can’t handle even 1/4th of the geometry that zBrush can easily process for single objects.  This problem affects every aspect of Blender because optimization was always treated as unimportant.   Devs at BF just want to keep adding features while ignoring performance.

    If optimization is not made *the* issue by a majority of users then it will continue to be ignored.

    It astounds me that so many people think making Blender look pretty will cause it to dominate the 3D industry.  Putting a Porsche body on some old economy car is not going to cause that car to win races.

    Movie houses aren’t going to train and pay a team of programmers to spend 6 months calibrating and hacking Blender’s code just to get a scene working properly.  That only works for short Blender Foundation clips.

    There’s a chart floating around on CGTrader that shows the most commonly downloaded file formats.  The 3DS Max native format was the highest at about 30% and .blend format was 1%.  That’s also about how often Blender is listed as an asset for game companies looking for artists, about 1 in 30 recruiters say that Blender users can apply.  Try and find a movie company that lists Blender as an asset.  They all accept Autodesk and zBrush users.  Eevee and a new UI will not change that.  Only high performance tools can do that.  Tools that are at least 4x more efficient that what we currently have in Blender.

    We cannot make reasonable progress when it takes 15 minutes for a cluster of rocks with 10 million vertices to decimate on an 8 core CPU that rarely goes above 18% while the GPU sits completely idle.  Multi-core processing, CUDA and OpenCL are being used for rendering and ignored for everything else.   https://streamhpc.com/blog/2013-06-03/the-application-areas-opencl-and-cuda-can-be-used/

     

     

     

     

     

     


    MthsBttgr
    Artist

    that I would say was true for blender 2.7. I would not say that that is true for blender 2.8. Blender 2.8 UI is very userfriendly and it is easy to start doing simple stuff such as modeling. Of course, there is more advanced stuff that takes more time to learn and is more difficult. But that, I would say, is true for most programs.


    henning
    Wizard @ FlippedNormals
    OP

    Are you saying that Blender’s alembic implementation is missing a specific feature regarding visibility flags or is it your belief that Blender doesn’t support Alembic at all.

    It definitely has ABC support, but it’s missing specifically visibility flags – among a bunch of other features.


    Arev
    Artist

    Are you saying that Blender’s alembic implementation is missing a specific feature regarding visibility flags or is it your belief that Blender doesn’t support Alembic at all.

    It definitely has ABC support, but it’s missing specifically visibility flags – among a bunch of other features.

    What other features spesifically is missing, and which ones are the most critical?


    PastyPict
    Artist

    Devs at BF just want to keep adding features while ignoring performance.

    Are you referring to tools handling high vertex counts in real-time, and general performance with really high res models?

    If that’s what you are referring to, I agree. As far as I have seen they seem to be mainly focused on how quickly you can render in Cycles. That’s something I still like to see improvements in, and I don’t have a problem with them adding more features, provided that those features are useful like Eevee and some of what they showed they are working on for sculpting. But I have been wanting real-time performance improvements for a while. If they have improved things in that area, then I haven’t noticed.


    xrg
    Artist

    Here is an interesting article on Studio Khara/Project Studio Q transitioning from 3ds Max to Blender. They’re using Blender on a Neon Genesis Evangelion movie. Grease Pencil, and lower cost seem to be major factors in the decision. The seamless mix of 2d and 3d animation in Blender seems like a no-brainer for anime studios. It’ll be interesting to see if more anime studios start looking into Blender in the next few years.

    https://translate.google.com/translate?depth=1&hl=en&rurl=translate.google.com&sl=auto&tl=en&u=https://japanese.engadget.com/2019/08/14/blender-khara/%3Fguccounter%3D1


    Cyro
    Artist

    For indie devs it’s a no brainer. But I don’t see it ever becoming standard for “AAA”, because it’s open source. I can’t think of any open source software that’s industry standard! For me (someone who as ever only exclusively used 3ds Max) it’s work flow is to distructive and I end up getting put off learning it. Which is a shame for me because Max licenses (even the indie) are just too expensive. 🙁

     

    You can actually get a decently non-destructive workflow in blender with modifiers (if that’s what you mean) you’d be surprised with what you can make, I really recommend looking at non-destructive tutorials such as ones from Curtis Holt on youtube. Don’t give up yet! 😀

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