The new version of Blender was recently released. This release is impressive by any standards and includes significant improvements from the Durian Project. Because version 2.64 contains several features that I am really excited about, I would like to list them here with short overviews of each.
First of all, there’s new masking, tracking, and keying tools. The Mask Editor looks like a dandy addition that allows the user to create masks simply and easily. Based on my initial tests, it seems to have an extensive feature set and has some interesting handle types for splines. The ability to assign tracking points to spline points is both exciting and unique. My only complaint is that it is too easy to add points in the along the length of a spline rather than at the end. I once tried to use the RotoBezier tool but gave up as it wasn’t intuitive enough for me when I already knew how to create masks in After Effects. The Camera Tracker developments look promising also. I miss the choice of trac
king methods, but tracking seems to work quite well with the Hybrid tracker only. The new planar tracker is something that I have been interested in for months, but sadly have not had the opportunity to test it out. One of the areas that Blender has been weak at is greenscreen keying. The good news is that the Compositor has received major updates to its keying capability. The new Keying node works quickly and allowed me to pull a high-quality key with little work.
A more minor update is the new color management system for Blender, OpenColorIO. This gives the option of setting image properties for different color spaces. It’s actually much more important than it seems due to the way that linear and gamma-corrected images work. Now you don’t have to worry about sRGB images being gamma-corrected both before and after rendering. This has really prompted me to work with linear images now more than ever. There is some more detailed information here.
The modeling tools have also received substantial upgrades. The Skin modifier is, in my opinion, one of the best new features to have been developed this year. It uses a similar concept from the ZSpheres featre in ZBrush to quickly create a mesh object based on the position and scale of an armature. This results in an object that already contains all of the bones needed for rigging. We also have the BSurfaces retopology addon included within Blender. I can’t say how it compares to the Shrinkwrap modifier, but I plan to do some further researching in that area.
Blender 2.64 is an excellent update, and the software continues to get better on a regular basis. It’s no surprise that Blender won the ‘Software Update’ award at the 2012 CG Awards. I plan to continue to explore this release further, so look for more updates in the future.