Late last week, StÃ©phane Grabli of the Freestyle project sent an email to the Blender developer mailing list and posted an announcement on BlenderArtists.org, voicing an interest in integrating Freestyle into Blender and calling for assistance. For those of you who don't know, Freestyle is a very powerful open source non-photorealistic renderer (NPR) that's been developed as a joint research project between students at INRIA in France and MIT in the US. Below is an excerpt from his email to the Blender developers:
The condensed version: We are looking for one or (preferably) several developpers to integrate Freestyle, a Non-Photorealistic Renderer, to Blender (possibly through a Blender-endorsed Google SOC project).
And now for some details:
Freestyle is a renderer that generates line-drawings from 3D scene; similarly to Renderman, style is described through programmable shaders. It is the experimenting platform of a research project conducted jointly by teams from INRIA in France (artis.imag.fr) and MIT in the States (graphics.lcs.mit.edu). Currently, it is available from sourceforge under the GPL license as a standalone program. Images as well as a more thorough description of the software can be found at this address:
A video presenting the approach as well as some results can be viewed at this address:
Since its public disclosure, many people have been adventurous and curious enough to try Freestyle and have manifested a positive interest in such a renderer - to our very surprise, given its rather confidential release, and its pre-alpha state. Soon it became obvious that Freestyle, still a "researchy" software, had to evolve to meet the demands of a growing user basis. Amongst these users, many belong to the Blender community and suggested that Freestyle would make a nice complement to Blender. In particular, many artists have expressed their enthusiasm through threads of the blenderartists.org forums, and are rooting for a seamless integration in a future release of Blender:
Although Freestyle is only a first step on the road to a complete procedural NPR renderer (including handling of temporal coherence), it seems it would still position Blender ahead of existing commercial NPR packages.
Unfortunately, none of the main developpers of Freestyle (read: the two of us, Stephane and Emmanuel :) ) can currently carry on this development without help, because of time constraints as well as a lack of familiarity with Blender's sources. This email is intended to hopefully generate some interest around this project so that some developers that have both time and motivation could help us keep Freestyle alive as an extension to Blender.
I met StÃ©phane and (I believe) Emmanuel at the 2006 SIGGRAPH Conference in Boston and could barely contain my excitement when they told me that they were interested in integrating with Blender. This is for two key reasons: First, and most obviously, it would give Blender users a leading-edge NPR that produces beautiful results. Secondly, since Freestyle's shaders are written in Python, it wouldn't be a large stretch to think that this might lay some substantial groundwork for a full Python-based shader implementation to complement the already powerful node system we currently enjoy. That means that there are implications with this project that may extend beyond NPR and into other areas of Blender.
Originally, the idea was for this to be part of a Google Summer of Code project, but according to the developers, the size and scope of the project may be greater than can be squeezed into a 3-month period by a student. Either way, this is an interesting project that would be a benefit to Blender users across the board.