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Pixar on Blender and the importance of Open Source



Pixar's Senior Scientist Tony DeRose talks about the importance of math for their movies. He makes two awesome comments on Blender!

DeRose says:

Now, says DeRose, open-source software like Blender can do almost everything Pixar's software can do. Last summer, Pixar even open-sourced its subdivision surface code library. "We had a competitive advantage for ten years," DeRose says, "but now we get more value by letting everyone contribute."


Somewhere out there, a brilliant kid and their friends are working in their garage" using and improving on tools like Blender, DeRose tells the assembled children and adults at MoMath. "They will be the next Pixar."


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.


    • Chrome Monkey on

      With half the people arguing BlenderNation's items aren't "newsworthy enough" and the other half worried about too much fanboy-catering, it's a wonder anything gets published at all. :)

    • Bishop Knight on

      I don't think it's external validation that motivated Blender Nation to post this. We use it and see what it's capable of. But, it's nice to see a business as influential as Pixar acknowledge Blender's strength. It makes skeptics in the industry take a second look and be open to Blender and it's users as a worthwhile investment. And it's just nice to also see the industry seeing what we see in Blender and in open source.

    • I would make that a :( instead of :)

      It's very unfortunate because it seems OpenSubDiv is very powerful and a great loss that we can't use it in Blender. Luxology is using it in Modo, though, probably through some commercial arrangement since the license states that you can't use the code for commercial products.

    • Then I would suggest Blender evolve their licensing to be more in-line with BSD and/or LLVM/Clang's options.

      • I totally disagree with your statement, blender is free software, not open source software, and there's a huge difference. I don't think blender should change its license, the OpenSubDiv its licensed under the Microsoft Public License, wich is not at all free software, the open source software is an attempt of killing the ideas of free software. that's what i think, anyways, it's a very controversial thing, everything about licenses always is.

        • NabilStendardo on

          Sorry to disagree, but the Microsoft Public License IS a free software license (even the FSF says so: ). It just is incompatible with the GPL (but so are GPL3 and GPL2 incompatible, as well as GPL2 vs Apache v2). MS-PL seems to be an interesting license: it is close to a permissive license with respect to sharing of binaries, and a copyleft license with respect to source code. I wonder how that works in practice.

          Besides, Open Source is just a rebranding of the concept of Free Software. There are very few licenses which are one but not the other.

      • How about we just leave it as it is and start discussions with Pixar asking them to chance their licensing.

        If Blender changes to BSD licensing it will more or less destroy the Blender Community, since most developers hate being taken advantage of. Case in point: BSD Unix. It lags miles behind Linux since very few developers want to work on its code since other people will just run with it and use it in their commercial products (i.e. Apple) alter it and give nothing back to the community (or only sparingly and as long as it doesn't affect their bottom line or strategic planning). No, the GPL license is by far the best for global software communities.

  1. This is so cool! I think that those quotes were indeed worth mentioning. Congratulations to all the blender devs. You are changing the industry and making the history. This is incredible. I am gratefull every day. Not only big studios can create every film they imagine. Also the small ones and ordinary people. Giving artist the tools for free is literally changing the world for better. Thanks.

  2. This merely confirms what I have thought for a long time: eventually Blender will kill off all 3D packages except for some very specialized ones.

    • No, this is not an option... At least for a near future (10-30 years). Even if something will bring more power to computers or some new amazing interactive technologies using new other technologies... Then priorities will be changed... So it will be completely other Earth :)
      IMHO: At this time we know at least one thing that is hard to recreate in Blender (for it's current structure) - a water simulation using Naiad-like principles.
      Guys from Exotic Matter have joined A-desk... Unfortunately (at least for me). I can't blame them but this A-desk's globalization isn't good at all. Or maybe it's a nature of things.. who knows? :)

      • Mark my words: in a couple of years no one will be willing to put down $4000 plus $2000 a year for a 3D pacakge anymore They'll all have switched to Blender.

        • Brian Lockett on

          No, they wouldn't all switch to Blender. For the same reason they don't all switch to the cheaper modo instead of higher-priced Maya. Blender is wonderful, but not everyone wants to use Blender, and that's fine. Blender may be a free option, but it is still an option.

          There are only a few key developers who work with Blender Foundation, developing as best they can. They have to choose their development goals more wisely, and this is why we sometimes see Blender take a step ahead with an idea before other packages, and why at other times, we see them adding features long available with other packages.

          Overall, even as fast as Blender is growing--compared to Blender's past versions even just one year ago--Blender's growth has been slower to introduce features already long found in other packages. It's taken 10 years to include n-gons. It's taking years to implement Freestyle. It's going to take us this whole year to complete the set of Cycles features planned. Similar features have all been long available elsewhere, and they're still many more waiting for Blender to catch up.. But that's natural--Blender has a much smaller team of core full-time developers..

          Something else you didn't account for is the simple fact that professionals in the computer graphics industry do not complain about the price of professional tools--professionals make the kind of money that affords them their tools. Most professionals gained access to their tools as students. Students can get most commercial software as free for educational use and drastically-discounted in price. MOST professionals go through this route.

          The ones who complain about the pricing the most are students, hobbyists and amateur artists, and for the most part, Adobe isn't catering to an individual hobbyist--they're pricing their software knowing professionals can and will pay it. And love it or hate it, Photoshop is worth every penny. A professional will make back several times more money from Photoshop than what they spent on it in their first year.

          This is definitely one area where open-source software can help. The beauty of open-source software is that anyone can use these tools and, with skills, have a change to become a professional.

          A more realistic outlook is that more professionals are likely to simply adopt Blender into their workflow, rather than have it replace their entire workflow.

          Professionals don't choose tools because they're free--they choose what best helps them do their job comfortably and efficiently. All of them will stick with the software that makes their workflow the easiest and with the most options available for their pipeline.

          But don't expect a 3D animator working for Disney simply to give up Maya just because Blender's free--they're already professionals who can afford the tools for their career.

          If Blender proves useful to their workflow, they'll adapt accordingly. But as long as Maya has a list of things like an advanced muscle animation system, advanced material editor, native support for practically any major game engine and video editor, seamless intergration with RealFlow, and some of the best plugins in the industry (like Shave and a Haircut), except people to keep what benefits their workflow.

          In any case, it's all a matter of personal preference of what works best for you. Simply applying your personal problem of cost with yourself as being the problem with all those in the industry is a very crude and errant assumption.

          • Brian Lockett on


            "...The ones who complain about the pricing the most are self-taught students..."

            "...with skills, have a chance to become a professional. ..."

  3. Hi all, can we PLEASE PLEASE use this opportunity to get more funding for the blender foundation? Getting this much exposure and validation is amazing, however I feel like everyone is busy drooling over this and miss this chance. Taking advantage of this opportunity to get more monthly supporters would be amazing!
    Imagine if someone from Pixar encouraged people to donate to the blender foundation. Also, this is how much Pixar movies have grossed so far $7,822,381,695 (not counting DVD/bluray sales, toys/action figures, partnerships etc etc) They deserve every penny, getting 1/100,000 of that for the foundation would be amazing, it would speed up things like documentation, website overhaul, subsurface scattering, etc etc.

  4. this acknowledgment is very important for all open source projects, not only for blender; but blender has achieved that! :-)

  5. So... This is great for us! :)
    Tony De Rose have mentioned Blender as a new opportunity for future generation of artists. It's very nice when someone of his authority tells things which brings the truth for many people!
    Thank you, Tony De Rose!
    And thank you Bart that posted it here!

  6. Does this mean we can get pixar subdivision for free in blender in the near future like in modo? I am talking about the ones where you don't need control loops anymore...

    • No we can't, it seems, because of the licensing. I dislike Pixar for releasing their SubSurfDiv code under a non-permissive, non-commercial use license. It means people can contribute but usage is very restricted. They got this license model from Microsoft and it feels very much like a one-way street.

  7. Chrome Monkey on

    Blender already has edge weighting in its implementation of Catmull-Clark Subdivision Surfaces. There's many valid reasons for upgrading and incorporating the new Pixar algorithms, but there's no need to wait if the only requirement is using fewer control loops. I typically weight the necessary edges to between 8 and 9.5 in Blender if I want to avoid additional edgeloop geometry.

    • If we can't have this Open SubDiv in Blender now... Then maybe it can be reinvented?
      For ex.: right this moment I eat my own berry pie. It's not like in shops... but it's not worse (it's better for my taste because I controlled all the process and know all ingredients).
      So can it be done in the same way in Blender? (as a pie)
      Some... procedural control loops :) it will be there as an option in SubSurf. modifier. But it will not be editable directly before applying the modifier. And some option to automatically remove unwanted edge loops between them. As an option of this new option :)

  8. TOP chardfwannabeartist on

    QUOTE: Now, says DeRose, open-source software like Blender can do almost everything Pixar’s software can do. Last summer, Pixar even open-sourced its subdivision surface code library.

    Open-source software like Blender? Is there another open-source software that compares anywhere near to the Blender standard? If there is one , I can't use it on Linux.

    • Blender is a great beacon for open-source software because the way it's organized: a non-profit foundation with developers working on Blender full-time funded by donations and sales of books, T-shirts and DVD's a good informative website and a large user community.

      I personally believe more FOSS software projects should be organized like Blender. LibreOffice is also doing a stellar job by trying to lure developers with 'easy hacks', great developer documentation and even coaching for developers. Blender could learn something from them in that regard.

  9. Seems a lot of people here have failed to read what is there, and inserted what they would like it to say.

    Somewhere out there, a brilliant kid and their friends are working in their garage” using and improving on tools like Blender, DeRose tells the assembled children and adults at MoMath. “They will be the next Pixar.”

    DeRose is talking about the kids, not blender. Software is simply a tool, it can't produce artwork for you. That takes the eye, skill, and dedication of an artist.
    (key words, kid and their friends is the subject, and "they" will be the next pixar, not "it")

  10. Ah, come on now. I was wondering how many more people would take out of context what Tony said and now you had to go ruin the fun! :)

    This really is a tribute to the developers of blender. Something that many old-timers have known for a while about Blender, its robust feature set and capabilities, but it's always nice to be recognized for hard work by top industry professionals. Kudos to the devs and artists that help push Blender as a viable top-tier production tool, and perhaps one day in the not so distant future we will see a documentary on how a ragtag team used Blender as there primary 3d app to get to the top! Great little news coverage BN!

  11. As a NeXT/Apple Alumni, the validation was an homage to Steven P. Jobs, Steve Wosniak and how reasonably licensed Open Source Software can one day [with the likes of Blender Tools and others] could become the next insanely great thing.

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