2 very useful Blender addons

Today I would like to introduce 2 very useful addons.

Layer Manager

If you remember, I mentioned earlier how terrible the layer management is in Blender.
This Layer Manager addon could be a great help for everyone (although it doesn’t solve all the problems).

BoolTool 

Just watch this video, it is a really great stuff for modeling.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SOEJ-mFBve4&feature=player_detailpage

You can download it from its BlenderArtists thread.

Thanks to the developers!

Blender – which external renderer to use?

As I see, it comes up regularly and it is not easy to answer, because it depends on the circumstances.

Free/OSS or commercial renderer? For production environment or for hobby? Easy/quick setup for custom shaders or using a ‘standard’ material library (like in case of archviz scenes)? Stills, animations or both? Do you want to learn renderers what are available on other platforms like Max? 

You see what I mean.
Although I use Blender for more than a year and I tested several external renderers, my recommendation at least partially will be based on my 3ds Max background and experiences.

So here are my answers:

As a hobby you can use anything.

There are 2 things what comes up regularly on forums.

1. Blender Internal is fast and offers great quality.
Well, it is not true, except of specific usage. I use it for texture baking and as a ‘draft’ renderer when I model in Blender and it is usable for that.
But if you turn on reflections, it becomes slow like hell; the default (and also very outdated)  3ds Max scanline renderer is faster (even without reflections) 10-20 times than BI.

2. Cycles is fast.
Well, Cycles is a great rendering engine and it support really fast material editing as a the built-in renderer for Blender.
But on notebooks (I mean running it on Mobile GPU or on CPU) it is slow and I lack the ‘biased’ features from it (literally you have to spend the price of Vray for Blender for a decent GPU to use it effectively and you still will be bounded to the memory limits of your GPU. 

If you need something serious and production proven stuff for archviz, try VRay. It costs money, but it is the industrial standard in archviz.
If you risk an alpha-stage renderer, I highly recommend Corona.
It is still free and offers great quality with incredible speed.
If you can, please support Joel’s dedicated work for Corona exporter for Blender (downloads are here).

 

What I don’t like…

is the fanboy attitude. I read forums, related to Andrew Price’s GUI proposal and I have to face too many times with human stupidity and fanboy attitude. Andrew put tons of efforts to his proposal and some of the users doesn’t even give a minimal respect for it. That is a shame. I use Blender for a year now, technically I would be able not to use 3ds Max anymore (not considering the much slower workflow for archviz). For custom modeling I use Blender all the time, except of some rare areas. I see Blender weaknesses – even more than I saw them from the beginning. Not mentioning the problematic things under the hood, the GUI is not good at all. It has noticeable, very smart features, but it is incredible far from being user-friendly and efficient (same for Max, no question). Andrew came up with some good ideas (although I don’t agree with all of them).

PS : I know this proposal is quite old, but I had no time for it.:)

It is a shame… Autodesk lost it…

As I mentioned earlier, I’m a 3d Studio Max user. I was part of the subscription plan for a while, what offered me yearly upgrades for an affordable price. Today I got a call from the reseller/distributor that Autodesk changes its upgrade policy.
There is no problem with that, the whole world goes to cloud, so why not?
With the Adobe Cloud even freelancers got opportunity to use the latest apps with almost affordable pricing, so I expected something like this – emotionally. I say ‘ emotionally’, because with rational thinking I had to admit that  Autodesk never – NEVER – did anything for their customers to make their life easier.

I checked their monthly subscription prices a few months ago…. they were like a bad joke. So, the reseller told me that I should upgrade to Max 2015, then pay yearly the double of the last subscription price I payed before. Also told me that I should be happy, because it is a great offer.

Well, I told that Autodesk just lost a customer and they will loose even more. And I also told Autodesk should take a look on Adobe Cloud when they guess their pricing. Or take a look on Modo (which is more and more close to be my new package near Blender).

Of course I will use Max in the future. My existing license will be useful for years; I changed my plans for the future, so I can live with an earlier version.

I think in a few years Autodesk will have serious problems with their competitors, so they will be forced to reduce prices.

Depth of field as post-processing

Although it is quite easy to use it in an ‘extreme’ way, DOF could be very useful sometimes for isolating the subject.
Rendering DOF in a scene during the ‘native’ process – although this could result the best quality – is very time-consuming.
That is the reason why in CGI it used to be replaced with rendering a Z-depth pass and then using the depth information to achieve the effect.
In case of rendering stills, we have several options to make this composited result.

1. Photoshop has a built-in Lens Blur filter with a decent result as output (not ‘outstanding’, but fair enough).

Cons:

– Photoshop is pricey

Pros:

– It comes for free with PS

2. Blender Compositor gives us this post-processing effect with nodes

Cons:

– It is slow
– It is an additional ‘element’ in the pipeline so it is not so comfortable to use

Pros:

– It is free
– It results affordable quality

3. DOF PRO for Photoshop

Cons:

– It is slow like hell (previewing is extremely slow, too)
– It doesn’t support 64 bit versions of PS
– I was not able to run it under other hosts (I tried some like PhotoPlus, no luck)
– It is pricey (USD 100) for a single filter
– GUI is outdated

Pros:

– Image quality
– Supports image sequences without additional costs

4. LensCare gives great speed and awesome quality with some compromises:

Cons:

– The workflow is extremely stupid (I’m not kidding, I was shocked, how idiotic it is).
– The built-in ‘reversing’ function of the Z-depth image resulted image errors on my sample render
– it is pricey, too (USD 89) for a single plugin (After Effects version comes separately and for additional fee, what sucks)

Pros:

– Image quality is great
– It is fast (beats everything in speed)
– Has a version for After Effects (although that is a different product)

5. Serif PhotoPlus offers a built-in Depth of Field filter

Cons:

-It doesn’t worth a penny. Crap. Piece of shit. (I’m talking about the built-in plugin, not the app itself!)

Pro:

– PhotoPlus could handle some of the PS plugins and LenscCare works on PhotoPlus
– PhotoPlus is the only affordable PS alternative for indies I saw until this time; even with buying LensCare it is far-far cheaper than PS itself and results better quality output

6. GIMP has a free plugin called Focus Blur

Cons:

– It is a GIMP filter and GIMP is something what I hate by heart for its GUI
– No previewing for the settings (one of the reasons why I hate GIMP)

Pros:

– affordable quality
– it is free

I miss Blender

I’m working on a project in Max and I miss Blender (I used it for organic modeling before this project started). Unfortunately the internal architecture of Blender cannot handle a heavy scene like the one I work on, but I miss the speed of the polygon editing tools.
In Max I feel as an engineer.
In Blender I feel as an artist.