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InspectorB Tries to Understand How You Use Blender


Inspector B L

Inspector B is a Blender-based research project that tracks the creative process of Blender users. It is run by Vincent Akkermans from the Computational Creativity Lab of the Queen Mary University of London.

Vincent Akkermans writes:

Human creativity is a wonderfully complex thing and 3D animation is one of the fields where it really drives the development of new technologies to take artistic visions and turn them into reality.

Of course in doing so we don't make it easier for ourselves. Lots of study and practice is required to learn the complex, but necessary, techniques and workflows. Getting what we want out of our software can take lots of experimentation and innovation, and more often than not some frustration as well.

And so, given the complexity involved in the creative process, it isn't just the renders that come out at the end of it that are worthwhile. Equally fascinating is that creative process itself.


What techniques did a modeller employ? What kind of shader configuration was used for that material? How much effort went into setting up that particle system? How much time did I spend on sculpting today?

These are all questions that you might want to ask when you see a render or look back on a day of work. Inspector B should be able to answer those questions. It should be able to understand and tell the behind-the-scenes story.

This is how it works. People download a modified version of Blender and the Inspector B server records lots of usage data: mouse movements, keys pressed, buttons clicked, and commands executed. From this data it can then determine the structure of the creative process, such as what the different activities were. And if it can recognise the important moments in that structure we can create a visual narrative that explains what went on. In short, it aims to turn the intangible creative process into something tangible.

It’s important to make clear that the purpose of the data collection is scientific research. We do not aim to make money or claim any rights to your work. We won’t publish any data unless of course you have given us permission.

Inspector B is still in the early stages of development. It has to start small, so for now it focuses on relatively simple processes. But, hopefully at some point this technology will be ready to help document and publish the blood, sweat, tears, and mastery behind bigger projects like the open movies.

If you want to help out with this research have a look on the Inspector B website. Please give it a go; even if you only send us data for a couple of hours that would help this research a lot!

All the results are available publicly on their website, with a fascinating animated click-through graph. At the time of writing, only Linux and OS X builds are available.



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. As a point of interest, there is a plan (assuming we can get ethics committee approval!) to use this on all of the machines at the next 3Dami London (, with the hope of eventually releasing the results as an open data set - so the creation of 3 shorts by 24 students at a variety of skill levels. Could be a very interesting data set to analyse:-)

  2. Interesting idea! Back when the "big UI discussion" started, I thought that a modified version of Blender would be very helpful: It would record which areas of the UI are used more, and the frequency of presses for different buttons and send an aggregated log to a server. This could help to rearrange the buttons, with the frequently used ones larger and grouped at the top, and the less frequent ones hidden under an "advanced" tab for example.
    By the way: your interactive graph does not work on IE8! (work policy here)

    • Vincent Akkermans on

      Quite right! I'd be very happy to help UI development with this project.

      Sorry about the graphs not working. IE8 doesn't support SVG and sadly we can't support browsers that don't. I've added a notification on the website for people using IE.

  3. When this data can be used to improve the UI because you could deduce using patterns (like the common "do you want to help improve this Software by gathering anonimous data..), i think this should be in every blender opt-out.

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