You're blocking ads, which pay for BlenderNation. Read about other ways to support us.

Where Are the Blender Products and Services?

33

TypwriterHere's a thought that has been nagging me lately: how come that there are virtually no commercial activities around Blender? A product with more than 250.000 users should be able to attract some entrepreneurial attention, right?

After some googling and thinking I came up with the following disappointingly short list of currently available services and products:

  • The Blender Guide and related products in the Blender Foundation's e-shop.
  • The project Orange DVD. (By the way: if you haven't done so yet I suggest you go and order one now; you'll be supporting the project and the Orange team directly).
  • The ResPower renderfarm supports Blender.
  • The yearly Blender Conference. I'm not sure if this qualifies as 'commercial' as it's run by the Blender Foundation, but the fact is that this is a professionally organised event and you have to pay an admission fee.
  • There are a few Blender objects available on TurboSquid, but I'm not really impressed with the quantity yet.

Three of the above are products of the Blender Foundation.

Why don't we see more of the following:

  • Top-quality training videos.There are already lots of video tutorials online, but the quality is often disappointing. If you want to know what I'm talking about, look at the trial video of Jeff Lew. This is excellent quality and entertaining to watch and I'd gladly pay $50 to get my hands on a similar Blender video. Instead of selling DVD's (pushing physical objects around the globe is always a pain) you could also try selling them online. As an example, check out the SimplyLightwave approach.
  • Commercial end-user support.Guaranteed answer to your questions on using Blender within, say, one business day. From my experience in the corporate world, this kind of support contract serves one major purpose: it allows you to convince your boss to use Open Source software. Having free software is great, but managers need to be be reassured that the continuity of their company is safe (which makes sense to me).

    I also see a shift in the corporate culture around me: companies have been using Open Source software for a long time without giving anything back, but now they are slowly starting to realise that they should (financially) support those projects if only to insure their survival. This usually is a 'bottom-up' process where the employees convince their bosses that supporting an Open Source project is a Good Thing. Again, it's easier to convince them if they get some kind of support in return.Of course, the above is a bit of a cynical view on the use of support; most companies need to *use* their support contracts as well ;-)

  • Commercial 'find-a-coder' support.Studios often need to have a bug urgently fixed or they need a specific feature for their current project. They don't know their way around the Blender community very well so they could use a service that hooks them up with a coder who has a good reputation. Again, having such a service available will make it easier for artists to 'sell' Blender to their bosses.
  • Commercial object and material libraries for Blender.I know that Blender can read files for other packages, but the resulting models are never textured or animated. You should be able to sell, for example, a good library of fully textured furniture or office supplies to architectural design studios. Maybe you can deliver models 'on demand'.

These three ideas are the result of just one hour of brainstorming so I'm sure you can come up with many more.

My theory is that the Open Source character of the software biases both entrepreneurs and potential customers but I believe that we are approaching a turning point. Project Orange is about to firmly place Blender on the map in the professional movies and design industry and with this new audience, new commercial products will become viable as well.

The interesting thing is that these services would not only be beneficial to the people who run them or those who use them; Blender as a tool will gain credibility as well. It is a strong signal when companies step up who say that they believe in it enough to invest time and effort in related services. At the end of the day everyone will be better off.

So: Where Are the Blender Products and Services? Now would be a good time to start thinking about how YOU could make a living by supporting Blender. The opportunities are there, you just need to seize them.

About Author

Bart Veldhuizen

I have a LONG history with Blender - I wrote some of the earliest Blender tutorials, worked for Not a Number and helped run the crowdfunding campaign that open sourced Blender (the first one on the internet!). I founded BlenderNation in 2006 and have been editing it every single day since then ;-) I also run the Blender Artists forum and I'm Head of Community at Sketchfab.

33 Comments

  1. Commercial user here too, we use Blender for small CG intros for some of our customers' sites (when they don't like Flash animated ones, Flash is still our main development/design tool) and in our multimedia products. In the company I work for the input for start using blender came from the bosses (well, it couldn't happen differently 'cuz I'm one of them :-P). What Bart's saying is true, commercial support is a key factor for an OSS to succed in the Business world (just think of Novell and their products).

  2. I see a need for professional training and training materials - without that you will not have a big uptake of people using Blender.

  3. I have a small business specialized in "technical communication". I am investigating how Blender can add a new dimension to the things we do (that is creating technical manuals, websites etc.). One thing Blender could do is add new ways of publishing CAD data (e.g. animations for the web or interactive game-like models for training purposes). Righthemisphere (www.righthemisphere.com) is now developing commercial software products with this idea in mind.

  4. Have you ever tried animating a character in Blender? it's not so easy, you need to do alot of tutorials. The most 'off putting thing' about
    blender is the amount work one has to do prevent sliding feet, IT'S A BIG LEARNING CURVE!,(the new tutorial is 41 pages long). This is why alot of people struggle to develop small time animations.We need to make more animation movies with Blender. Considering the average time of T.V advert is 115 seconds, and how many television commercials use 3d cartoon animation to sell their product?

  5. I agree with Ian r - basically a lot of modelling and stills rendering is done and there is not a lot of coverage in the documentation/forums for animation. I do, however, dispute that it is difficult.

    The main problem with the blender user base is that it is young. That market is not likely to pay for end-user support. BUT they are likely to buy books.

    More animation examples/interest needed to attract commercial use. Exactly what orange are doing.

  6. @Nicho: yes, training! I can't believe I forgot that :) The thing with 'real life' training is of course that people must be willing to travel to you. I wonder what a good location might be...

    @Ian R, Purple: there are of course still areas that could use more work, but I wouldn't quality the Blender community as 'young'; I have been involved for at least 8 years now. Of course, especially since open sourcing and Orange the speed of development has greatly increased. But, to stay on-topic: the REAL question that I should ask here is: if you think that the documentation of animation features is lacking, then why don't you go ahead and write a book about it?

  7. Right! Here the problem is that we're full of small (and sometimes not so clear) tutorials, noone has already started thinking about writing a REAL book or producing a REAL training DVD.

  8. Another commercial user here.

    I develop e-learning content for a company that develops marine mapping software. Flash is my primary design tool, but I use blender almost daily for visualizing complex ideas.

    If only blender could render vectors....*sigh*

    This has got me thinking, blender eLearning, hrmm

  9. another "commercial" or "pro" user here

    I do a lot of productions with Blender (those familiar with my website might already know) but I haven't felt the lack of learning-ressources yet.

    Surprisingly the lack of production-quality models was really an issue for me in the past. I could've saved a lot of time had I been able to just buy some high-quality models (instead of painstakingly modelling them).

  10. I have been interested, for quite a while now, in making professional-grade tutorials. I see that there is a great want for them now that I'm reading all of your responses. Unfortunately, at this exact point in time, I'm dealing with hardware and software issues at home. In possibly as little as 9 days, I'll be set to start making something worth the change in your pocket.

    Equipment includes:
    1) Canon XL-1S
    2) ATi All-In-Wonder X1800XL
    3) My Blender-obsessed Brain

    I would be happy to split the made profits in some way if someone else here would like to be a partner in crime. Work would likely involve:

    a) making text -- ie. "scripted" -- versions of the tutorials to provide with the dvd.
    b) generally being totally obsessed with the blender community
    c) umm... python scripting! One of the only things I'm not so good at. Remember that you don't have to actually know how to do everything you're trying to teach people given you do the right amount of research...

    Anyway, this is a very long response! I'm going to cut it here, and allow the thought to sink in. :D

  11. If there were some training that could be purchased, like that for lightwave, I would jump at the chance. I would even be interested in teaching the course. It might be worth investing some time and effort on getting more like minded people together and hammering out some form of training, be it eLearning or face to face. Because I think that fairly soon blender will really start to catch on. Which will bring in some people that have little or no background in 3D modeling. These People will want to know more, they will want to buy books or training. I think blender has reached more people than we realise. I think that a good many people have been discouraged by the lack of training, videos, and books. It can be a daunting task to learn blender, I hope that we can find a way to overcome this. :)

  12. Blender is the best, it is more stable than Animation master, the workflow in carrara is dreadful and the user interface in Truespace is painful.Amapi is a delight to use but sadly it has poor animation features. Max, Maya and Softimage are expensive.
    So why is industry not using Blender and what should be done?

    1. Blender needs to be distributed on disc (CD or DVD), to be sold in bookshops computer stores, airports and newsagents etc... Obviously the disc would include video tutorials and E- books and little movies, (printed manuals are a waste of trees).The disc should be priced between $7 -$15.
    2. It is a great pleasure to use blender, the new animation features are superb but sliding feet is still a big problem and this may put off a lot of potential animators.
    Just think one disc, containing a full animation studio, video tutorials from basic level to advanced, with blender file examples E-books, free models and a material library, available at your local shops. It’s never been done. BETTER DISRTRIBUTION AND BETTER EDUCTION. Think about?

  13. I also agree with Ian Ross Comments about Blender!!

    Brender for me.... is also the Best!..... i dont know Why?
    Very Stable,Very FastGui,Fast loading times....not so much Crashes in the Official Versions....You can do everything what you need...Cloth...Hairs...Fluid Simulations...Soft-Riggid Dynamics....Photorealistic Renderings...Open Communitys.....Worldwide....so many Python Scripts and Plug Ins for Blender around!All IS Possible!!!
    -I have C4DR6,3dsmaxR6-,I try also Maya LE,...But i dont like this Way to Work.and the Result is "i use all the time only Blender"
    I Blender all the things looks Visual more Professional like in other Applications for me!
    What a Programm and What a Development!!!
    Blender must be in Guiness Book of Records!

    1)Fastest Development speed of a 3D Application Worldwide!
    2)you can Rotate Grab and Scale a Object in only 1and1/2 second by using Gestures!
    3)Very Fast gui Working Speed (Combination mouse with Buttons Combo keys)
    4)No Crashes..or a little!

    Blender 3D and the Orange Team is Amazing! Superb!! Hip! Enthusiastic! Intelligent!! Lean! Great! Surprising! Lively!!! Dynamic! Healthy! Excellent! Action-packed!! Scalable!!! Democratic! Natural!! Flexible!! Efficient!!! Forgiving!! Friendly! Social!! Cosmic!!!! Exciting! Original!! and Free!!!!!!

    SeeYA

  14. Mmmm. I'm thinking about this article and I don't agree with some things pointed out here.

    First: we must remembre Blender is free (libre) software and there a few restrictions about what we can do with it commercially.
    Despite its GPL licensing, there's a philosophy behind free software and open source.

    Of course an open source program can be sold, you could charge for training and support, but maybe Blender Foundation takes the concept of freedom to a higher level encouraging people to contribute with (but not only) coding and documenting features.

    And maybe (I don't know, we should ask Ton and friends about it) there are no commercial goals beyond of simply keeping the project alive and get the resources for that.

    I think we should remember how we learned blender until now. Those tutorials can be sometimes outdated and lo-fi, but there's a lot of people contributing with better tutorials in wikis and personal pages.
    Even the Orange Project will publish its source project files under CC licence as an educational resource. (They sell the DVD, but only as a way to get funds for covering the costs of the production).

    For me, Blender Foundation isn't in business not because they can't. It's because it isn't their goal. Their goal is making the best 3d package for everyone, and they're succeeding!!!

    Don't get me wrong. I don't mean nobody can earn some money with Blender. It's ok you charge for your work (modelling or animation, teaching blender, making tutorials for sale), but I don't think that's the goal of Blender Foundation.

    Therefore I think it's a really good idea making a list of available coders for the industry. In that case, Blender Foundation would be the best place to do that.

    P.s.: My english sucks, i know. But I hope you understand my point :-)

  15. I dunno about the "no crashes" part, but at least bleder offers an extensive auto-save feature when the ever-so-popular Adobe products like Photoshop, Premiere, and others offer no autosaving what-so-ever... I always wondered: Why not!?

    To bring a tad more attention to your response Ian Ross, I think you've got a good idea about getting it sold in big retail stores like Barnes & Noble, Borders, and maybe an art supply store too...

    Its exciting to think that it will be legal for me (or any of you!) to start on such a project, and unlike the Luxuriosity incident, I'll be sure anyone who purchases the cd and booklet will be made well aware that they've got a copy of BLENDER 3D: "the open source software for 3D modeling, animation, rendering, post-production, interactive creation and playback. Available for all major operating systems under the GNU General Public License."

  16. Well, Bart, I speak from experience as my video series "Blender Essentials" was the first Blender training video series produced (for those unfamiliar it's no longer available and hopelessly out of date anyway).

    I think you are right that an updated series could be a valuable resource, but of course anything that is time consuming must also be profitable. I have thought many times about an update, but really, it's all I can do to keep up with the advancements in Blender myself!

    Here's the reality, I think. The number of Blender users that is unofficially put forth (250k) has not actually changed in about 5 years. The Blender community, like the entire special effects production community, is really quite small.

    Of those trying Blender, only a small, small percentage will take the time to master it, and of these, most will do as you and I did, which is use the internet and freely available resources to, you know, figure it out!

  17. Hi Bart, have you checked this thread on Blender Dev Forums http://www.blender.org/forum/viewtopic.php?t=7887 .

    The idea is to create a major portal for professionals using Blender, where you can have e-learning either free or for a fee, a job system, a bounty system, blender objects either for free or for a fee and more.

    For now there are only ideas there, but I plan to get my hands on it during the Libre Graphics Meeting, going to hack it a bit to try and get some functionality online for testing.
    I believe that once the Portal is up and running we can have a more centralized place for many of the things related to professional use of Blender.

    Join in the thread and post your own thoughts, the best we define the purpose and detail what is there, the best we can see Blender flourish and see more people selling services with Blender, even job opportunities for everyone.

    Cheerz,

    -- Rui --

  18. I have been trying for some time to gather a few well rounded users together to create a training series on DVD. My problem that I seem to run into is that no one wants to do this. The moment you mention selling DVD's everyone hides. I unfortunatly only know what I have been able to teach myself, and with a kid, wife and a full time job it is not near enough to make a training course I would feel comfortable charging money for.

    If anyone would like to contribute I would definitly be interested in working with them. If not me, please someone take this on.

    JABayne

  19. Just wanted to say thanks for including our site in your list. I truly appreciate it.

    -- Early Ehlinger, President, ResPower, Inc.
    3.3 THz Super/Farm With Unlimited Blender Support

  20. I'm fairly skeptical about offering commercial services within the blender community. I'm not sure
    there are enough professional users to warrant such a place. With a small userbase, you'd have to charge ridiculous membership fees. This skepticism might have something do do with the downfall of NaN, After all, if they didn't get it to work, why should I?

    Living off Blender? I'm not sure...

  21. I currently work in a virtual reality lab at school. The labs computers come with 3dsmax installed and has a year remaining on the license. Even so, I use Blender most of the time. The professor in charge of the lab was sceptic of it at first, but my work done within Blender made him less so.

    So yes, you can live off of Blender.

  22. The best things in life are FREE! And Blender is (still) one of them.
    Please don't corrupt this by subjecting a beautiful thing like the Blender community to the rules of the capitalist exploitation economy! It's already ruling most of the world unfortunately!
    I am a poor home user and I would like to keep on using Blender as I do now, with no-cost good quality tutorials and so on...

    I think this topic is like cursing in a church! (Dutch expression)

  23. To some of the commenters above: if you read closely I never suggested that Blender *itself* should become commercial again. It has been tried a few times (I was there twice when the company went bankrupt) and it doesn't work. What I suggested instead is that it should be possible to offer commercial products and services *for* Blender, and not replace all the free resources with commercial ones. There's a big difference :)

    Cheers,

    Bart

  24. Look at how the main linux distros make their money,
    I think that this sort of thing could be used with blender.

  25. Hey Bart,

    We at Manos Digitales Animation Studio have been working commercially for the last 3 years now, making VFX for television shows and TV advertising. Now we are working on "Plumiferos" which is a commercial film project too.
    (BTW, check the production diary: http://www.plumiferos.com now in english too )

    True is that we don't "sell" Blender "products" like the ones you've mentioned, no DVDs, books nor T-Shirts. Not for now at least. However, even with that lack of "products" offer in the web, there are much more "commercial" activity around Blender than what you have enumerated in your first post.

    Best regards and congrats on this site !

    malefico.

  26. I agree with malefico. I live in the same coutry but in a small town instead of the capital as he do.
    I must say I'm working commercially with Blender too, making all the 3D I need for cable TV Commercials and some other productions, and of course I charge for them.
    I could earn some money teaching blender to some people working at TV Channels and independant video producers too, so it's clear there ARE commercial possibilities with Blender. I think anyone who take it seriously could live off Blender.

    What I think it's not ok is the idea of turning Blender into a commercial app (it wasn't one of this article's topics, but somebody said it would be ok) and I don't think Blender Foundation should sponsor the kind of activities this this article is proposing.

    Blender Foundation is -as it name states- a foundation. It's not a corporation.
    If somebody want to create a corporation for making money off Blender, nobody can say they cant't. But that somebody shouldn't be the Blender Foundation, IMO.

  27. We also use Blender commercially !!

    Here is one example:
    Our client has to produce about 80 or more tv commercials for a magazine each year.
    That is 1 to 2 spots per week.
    The budget per spot is very tight, so they had one person make one spot in a half day using After FX.
    They tried to fake a 3D Look but in fact it looked very 2D.
    About one year ago the client of our client demanded a real 3D looking magazine tv spot but for the same amount of money in the same time.
    If that would not be possible, our client would loose his client.
    But they had no money to buy a commercial 3D package and pay a 3D operator and also outsourcing would not be an option.
    So we produced a prototype spot for them using Blender and also set up Blender in their office.
    Now they only need to change the images in the texture directoy, push the Render! button and in the next morning the perfectly 3D looking magazine Spot is finished (almost...).
    And they dont need to charge more money !

    Sorry for my bad english !

  28. I am a Lecturer at a technical college (TAFE for any locals) serving a population of about 40,000 people. We deliver 3D content as part of our "Multimedia" course. Starting in February this year, I moved from 3D Studio Max to Blender as the software our students use in the college. Part of the reason for the change was because our extremely limited budget would not extend to the constant upgrades required to keep up with 3Ds Max, but the main reason is that I just think Blender is brilliant. I love that it is open source, and think it is important that students are introduced to the philosophy of OSC early in their careers.

    I am also in the early stages of creating course content in the form of interactive on-line tutorials authored in Flash. I am still in negotiations with a potential funding source to develop these further, so can't share anything yet. However depending on how things go, I would like to be able to share this (or at least some of it) with the Blender community also.

    Anyway, back on topic, I suppose you could say that both my college & myself benefit financially from Blender.

    Also interested in hearing from any of you other guys who are developing Blender training resources, as I suspect there are a number of efforts like mine fragmented around the globe.

    Bye, and since this is my first ever post to Blendernation - Hi to all.

  29. liding feet is not a problem. as Ianr stated.
    I have used walk.o.matic it works fine.
    I tried to use stried root, but failed. There no step by step
    tutorial available. You can see a duck walking on my home page.
    It uses walk.o.matic. Just make a Path and with Ipo give the
    path different speeds after some frames. The walk.o.matic will
    change your character's walking speed accordingly. Amazing...

    The only problem is that there
    are a lot of tutorials available on the net, but they are scattered.
    The new features are good but tutorials are not available.
    There should be someone to answer on the forum, mainly for those
    queries which are not answered.

    2 Years back I downloaded Maya5 PLE,
    and you get Tons of tutorials on each small problems.

    There should be a Question and answer Bank in Blender according to the subject.
    The Groups should be organized some thing like this.

    Path Animation ( Main Group)
    and the sub groups like

    a. Path Speed Control
    b. Path Animation with NLA
    c. Path Animation with walk.o.matic
    d. Path Animation with Proxy
    e. Path Animation using Python
    ... and so on

    I am ready to pay for a detailed video tutorial if you can arrange.
    I have already purchased Organge DVD.

    My Suggestion is that the Blender Organisation should give one
    DVD in the same mannor as they did for Orange. You may ask for advance
    as you took in the case of Orange. Keep the same price, No Problem.
    Blender is NOT less then any commercial 3D Package. Your DVD
    should contain :-

    1. Latest Blender
    2. Vedio Tutorial of all features in detailed.
    3. Sample Blend Files with all the tutorials
    4. A lot of Royaltee Free Models
    5. Texure Bank
    6. One Big PDF Manual with latest feautes.
    7. All the Forum like http://www.elysiun.com/forum should
    contribute their matarials to fill the DVD.

  30. I think the GPL licence could be restricting some commercial activity. I have a small machine manufacturing company making CNC routers. I'm looking for a good 3d engine to generate specialized 3d designs for joinery and therefore came across Blender in my search.

    Many commercial packages in the industry are using autodesk products for their 3d engine. This makes them expensive. Now we do not have programming skills in house but we can hire well skilled programmers locally, but at a price. Also we would need to link the designs generated into a CAM program which is propriety. Therefore, two problems. Firstly I cannot tie a GPL product into a propriety product since the latter would not even make their code available let alone consider GPLing it. Secondly, I will have to invest a large sum of money on programming skills to realise my ideas, but making that code available by GPL would give me no commercial advantage if my competitors can just come and use it for their machines.

    My product is very niche and I doubt will attract large sales volumes, but it would improve my chances of selling my machines which is my primary objective. Therefore using an Autodesk engine is prohibitive.

    For the reasons above I think the GPL requirement denies your product the opportunity to be used in third party development that is aimed at creating new commercial uses for the product, and therefore a valuable source of income. Let me say that I think the LGPL licence is also maybe not good since it does not gaurantee income if used commercially. I think something in between is required.

    I am not an expert on licences but I try to be honest about using them (Including M$). I am a big supporter of open source and I know that the concept is still maturing. I would however like to see more opportunities created whereby open source products could be assured of an income other than by the begging bowl method of "please donate" which will be ignore by the majority.

Leave A Reply

To add a profile picture to your message, register your email address with Gravatar.com. To protect your email address, create an account on BlenderNation and log in when posting a message.