Blender 2.62 Arrives, and Some Free Tools for Getting Going With It
The Blender Foundation has announced that version 2.62 of its hugely popular 3D animation and graphics application--which features some significant enhancements--is now available. You can find the announcement and the inventory of new features here. In the graphics and animation software arena, you can find plenty of expensive, proprietary applications, but few are as powerful as Blender. Here are details on the new version, and some very valuable free resources you can take advantage of to get started with Blender.
Blender is so powerful that it's been used to create very professional looking full-length animated movies. Here are six movies and animations created with it. The new version 2.62 has these enhancements among others, with notes from the announcement provided here:
A Cycles Rendering Engine. "A number of new features were added, including render layers and passes, multi GPU rendering and selection of GPU device, improved sampling for complex environment maps, border rendering, BVH caching for faster rendering of camera fly-throughs, and new shading nodes for color correction and a checkerboard texture node."
Motion Tracking. "Object tracking support has been added, so that not only camera animation can be reconstructed from footage, but also the animation or transformation of objects in the scene."
UV Tools. "Many new UV editing tools were added: an advanced interactive stitch tool, to align and join together UV islands. A subdivision surface aware UV unwrapping to reduce stretching."
Game Engine. "The game engine user interface was polished, editing text objects in the user interface and through the python API has been made easier, full screen and antialiased rendering has been improved, along with various other changes."
As we've noted a number of times, there are many free tools and tutorials for getting started with Blender. Here are some you may want to take advantage of:
Blender 3D: Noob to Pro is a free wikibook on using Blender. It's very thorough, and you can jump through the Table of Contents from the home wiki page. There are graphics that take you through exercices such as rendering a goblet, lighting and spinning your goblet, and more. For getting started with the application, it's a must-have resource.
Like any top-notch graphics and animation application, Blender has very flexible options for lighting scenes. Especially if you already have some facility with Blender, check out Aaron Powell's discussion of lighting and rendering techniques. Powell is the author of the book on these topics and knows his stuff.
Are you absolutely new to Blender? If so, the web, and the Blender.org site both have many Blender tutorials, and the free online book "Blender Basics" is a great place to start with the application. There are also many fee-based books on Blender, and one is reviewed here. Still, Blender is one of those open source wonders for which the free resources are easily as good as any fee-based ones.
Many have noted that, if you have the time to spare, Tufts University's free online course on Blender is absolutely outstanding. The Tufts free online Blender course is broken up into Learning Units, as seen here, and if you go through the whole course you get 68 hours of education. Of all the Blender resources we've collected, the Tufts material is the richest, and it's also fun to go through the online course. Just be advised that it requires a time commitment.