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Blender Institute Open Projects: An Overview


While we're all awaiting the release of Tears of Steel later today, let's take a look back at the five previous projects.

Open Project Goals

All Blender Institute projects focus on two goals:

  • Developing Blender in a particular area (like: character animation, fur, special effects). A team of developers is actively supporting the movie artists by creating the tools that they need, when they need it. As a result, Blender becomes a better production tool, and all the new functions have been heavily tested in a production environment.
  • Proving that Blender is a professional-grade 3D graphics suite by offering high-quality movies. Each Blender movie typically receives millions of views

As an additional goal, the Blender Institute actively promotes the concept of Open Content. By offering not only the final movies, but also all the production assets under a Creative Commons license it is one of the strongest advocates in this area. A good example of its impact is in the HD video industry, where the Blender Institute movies are commonly used as demo material. Sintel has even been been re-created on a 4K resolution for this reason.

2006: Elephants Dream

'The world’s first open movie', a dream-like and surrealistic story about Proog and Emo who are traveling through 'the Machine' - a hostile and ever changing environment. Proog tries to explain the nature of the Machine, but Emo rejects it.

2008: Big Buck Bunny

We follow a day of the life of Big Buck Bunny when he meets three bullying rodents, Frank (the leader of the rodents), Rinky and Gamera. The rodents amuse themselves by harassing helpless creatures of the forest by throwing fruits, nuts and rocks at them.

After the deaths of two of Bunny's favorite butterflies, and an offensive attack on Bunny himself, Bunny sets aside his gentle nature and orchestrates a complex plan to avenge the two butterflies. (Quote from Wikipedia)

2008: Yo Frankie!

Yo Frankie! Is the only interactive Open production. The platform game is based on the world and characters of Big Buck Bunny. It was a collaboration between the Blender Foundation and Crystal Space, which is why the game is available for download for two game engines.

2010: Sintel

The target for Sintel was to make an 'epic' movie, which is reflected in the elaborate landscapes, the huge city and the large number of characters. Sintel and Big Buck Bunny are regarded as the 'flagships' of the Blender community - awe-inspiring, high quality productions that leave many viewers in surprise when they learn that they are created with Open Source software.

About the 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.


  1. Sintel I think was a huge deal in my eyes. While the others did showcase the power of Blender, I think Sintel shows how it can be used in a serious movie production and be done extremely well. It didn't go the Saturday Morning CG Cartoon route, which it could have, but it pushed more for the Dreamworks Studio / Pixar quality with some really good story telling.

    Now .. if only the article didn't cut off ;)

  2. Alex Delderfield (AD-Edge) on

    Ahhh, I do hope for another Blender Foundation game-project sometime in the near future. This time without the associated mess that took place on the CrystalSpace side of the project.
    The BGE certainly proved itself with Yo Frankie under limited time constraints, it can easily do it again in a project which 100% focuses on game development using the BGE alone :)

    Heres hoping it could happen, anyway

    • I agree. The game engine is getting little attention and it would be great if another BGE project would be launched. One where they aim to improve the actual architecture of the game engine and simply make it a faster more optimized engine. Most of the graphics are already there. Most of it just needs to be integrated properly and optimized. I'd love to see a node editor for the full screen/screen space effects that's similar to the render node editor.

      I would suggest they don't go for the FPS genre though. That market is way too saturated and the engine will probably just be bashed.

  3. A very nice look back on the eve of the next big project being released to the world. It's been great seeing so many people on forums and in real life mention how much they are impressed with Blender's capabilities, mostly thanks to Ton setting these great projects up!

    A toast to the entire ToS crew! Now we wait =)


  4. I'd also like to see a BGE in the future. Gaming is the current big thing in entertainment and it would be nice to see the BGE becoming just as strong as commercial game engines.

  5. Gertjan van den Broek on

    I actually got to know blender when Sintel hit the internet. I was quiete impressed with what could be done with open source software and it might have eventually have led me to using it after I finished Game Development school.
    I wonder if Tears of Steel is going to aspire others to do the same. However I'm actually a bit scared of the result. I can't say I've been all that inspired by what I've seen so far. Maybe it's because the art style is one I don't enjoy. It all seems a bit vague. Anyway I hope I'm wrong and I wish for the best.
    I do know that the mango team has worked hard on it and I'll appreciate their work regardless.

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