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Interview with Ton in Linux User & Developer Magazine


ab96dd9f72.jpgLast month we mentioned that issue 68 of LinuxUser & Developer magazine featured an interview with Blender's lead developer Ton Roosendaal. Editor Daniel James then promised us we could publish the interview text later on and he kept his word: here's the full interview! Thanks, Daniel!

3D Dreams

Ton Roosendaal is the creator of Blender, the leading free software and cross-platform 3D tool used by countless artists and animators around the world. As the Blender Foundation begins to plan its second open movie project, Roosendaal tells the story of how Blender freed the source

My background was in industrial design, and I worked as an independent designer through the 80's. I also had a technical background, so I liked to play with computers. In 1985, I bought my first Amiga, which had an amazing system with colour, and painting software - and you could do things with video. The Amiga also had a couple of 3D tools, and that's how I got in to 3D.

A couple of years later, I decided to start an animation company, doing video graphics, video animation and effects, mostly focused on 3D animation. It was called NeoGeo, or 'new shape' in Greek. The Neo-Geo was also the name of a games console, but that was a coincidence, and happened later too. We established our company in 1988, and a couple of years later the games console hit the market. It was difficult for us; people got confused with the name, especially if we did things for 3D games.

Later on, that work became the source of Blender, because in our studio we did a lot of our own software development; mostly because we didn't have money to buy all the expensive software. Also, we had switched to Silicon Graphics systems, because by the early 90's the Amiga was really dead. The Amiga still had an enormous advantage over Windows systems at that time, but Silicon Graphics systems were what the 3D industry was working with. So we decided to develop our software on SGI, completely ourselves.

Blender was actually created in 1995 - it was the third generation of our own tools. Completely written from scratch, it was designed to be the in-house production tool. By then we had six years of experience in computer graphics, and so the design for Blender was based on everything our own artists needed. Most of the development was even done by the artists, and that's what makes Blender unique. It's not a marketed tool; it's not based on easy learning. In a company, you can discuss with the artists how things work, and what those people want is extremely fast workflow. Once you get into Blender, it really flies. You have to grow into it, or the software has to grow on to you.

At the end of the 90's I decided to quit the animation studio, mostly because there was no real development in it. The Dutch media industry is pretty much corporate; we don't have a big movie industry. If you want to do animation work for movies, you have to go to England or you have to go to Hollywood, and that was not an option for us. So I decided to continue with Blender itself. The tool was great, and I thought it could be an interesting thing to work out how to market it. In 1998 we published the first public versions, including the first Linux port, and opened a website. It was freeware, back then; you could download it for free, but it was not open source. Because it was the first relatively-professional 3D tool for Linux, it became incredibly popular.

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About the Author

Avatar image for Bart Veldhuizen
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.


  1. Cool and huge interview...but I think thats a little bit not true that blender in 1995-2000 was absolutely was freeware on Solaris, BSD and other UNIX platforms, but for MS windows it was as shareware (the saving was not possible if you don't pay 100$:);s clearly written in 1.60 release notes .but it;s just kinda
    small thing...anyway

  2. This is a very good interview.
    I´ve always read about Blender´s history via a bunch of sites, but nothing is better than read Ton himself tell us about his point of view of everything related to our beloved Blender. =D

    Thanks a lot!


  3. What a great interview, kept me interested for the whole six pages! Thanks Ton, Bart, and Daniel.

    I'm delighted to read that other open movie projects are planned soon. It's great what came out of the last one, I have no doubt that the next one will be grat also and push Blender forward in the process.

    Though with only a small user base compared to the modelling/rendering side, I would love to see some sort of open game project sometimes. Perhaps after the Ogre integration and the other exciting additions to the game engine that could be an interesting project.

  4. I agree with Enriqolonius - in this "fast times" i think blender have an intresting and "long" history
    and an very intresting future in front.


    third what sanne said! ;)

  5. Read it, part that I like a lot is the open studio idea. Also wondering how they would qualify people for orange 2.

  6. Great interview, very interesting... yeah, I was wondering how on earth Ton could keep doing all the things he has been doing. I feel relief that Ton is going to delegate some more of his responsibilities to others , just so that he doesn't burn out or worse have a stroke.

    Ton, your the programmer of programmers I am sure, thanks for giving us this marvelous tool to work with. ANd thanks Bart and Daniel James for sharing this with us!!!!

  7. Every time Ton talks about Blender I felt more secure about the open source project and the strong of the way Blender took.
    Every time I felt more confident that Blender will change the 3D world forever with the open source ItÅ› not so a question of being free, itÅ› a question of the quality of the software itself. Open source is made with love, for all and to everyone.

  8. This article was so crispy! :D We love Ton.

    Oh, and I'm the bloke that remarked many times about non-open audio. I still think it's important that Blender start looking at audio more. Is anyone with me? Maybe we can make it happen! Audio is actually very easy conceptually.

  9. Ton!

    If you are in need of a professional in Blender who will work for love of the project (i.e. no fee whatsoever), let me know.

    Just ask on this blender forum for "Dude man" (or this email - my real email this time, he he ;) )

    I always appreciated what you and the other developers did, and since I'm such a lousy programmer - but an excellent modeller/animator/FX - I should put my efforts where it will pay off best.

    Call me when the time comes, give me some early notice, and I'll see if I can clear my busy schedule for ya!

    Take care, and thanks!!!!

    Dude man

  10. i second what Bmud said, i am a very beginner programmer and thats why i didnt got any further yet with my "dreams" on this side but once i proposed a blender and puredata integration to give the blender users contact to a audio interface also not only graphics, maybe i was wrong maybe not but the truth is im to amateur as a program yet to go for it so i am better improving my skills as a programmer before any attempts on this side, but if someday i have the knowledge to do something like that i would be very proud of it.

    Very cool interview and the studio idea is something that can really grow and benefit the whole OSS comunity, not only blender, thanks for sharing.

  11. Quite an awesome interview, and the cool part is that Ton has already been on the leading edge once with the first release of an open movie, but if the open studio becomes a reality, it will be another first!

  12. Very very cool Interview.
    I think the best resumé of ever for all the Blender saga from the beginning.

    My compliments Ton! ;-)

  13. Very nice interview! I'ts always awesome to dig little bits of info about Blender's history and development =)

    Best regards

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