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Check out the five key features in Blender 3.0

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This is it, the end of an era, the beginning of a new one. Blender 2.0 was announced at Siggraph 2000, which means that Blender's giant leap into the 3.x realm was 21 years in the making. Blender dons this new digit as a token of achievement, more powerful mature and adopted than ever, carried on the shoulders of the Blender Foundation, thousands of contributors, thousands of Development Fund supporters, and millions of users worldwide.

This momentous release was released a couple of weeks after Blender's most ambitious Open Movie to date, Sprite Fright, during the production of which this release cut its teeth. Blender 3.0 was afforded 3 more months of development time to mitigate covid-induced restrictions and to "stick the landing" of the 3.0 milestone, and boy did the Blender Developers make use of this extra time.

Here is a look at the five key features (and then some) that stood out to us in this newest release, but it's highly recommended to check out the release notes and the release overview for a full picture of all the awesome new features available now at our fingertips!

1. Cycles X

The Cycles X project is one of the crowning achievements of Blender 3.0: The major re-write of the 11-year-old path tracing production renderer has made its way to its release, and the results are breathtaking.

Massive Performance Increase

Thanks to the re-write, rendering in cycles is 2 to 8 times faster in real-world scenes out of the box on GPU! Kernel compilation times have been massively reduced for Optix, which now also supports hardware ray-tracing for baking. Open CL support was dropped due to driver bugs and the stalled OpenCL standard, but other hardware vendors have immediately pitched in development time to bring back GPU rendering support with their APIs, including AMDs HIP which just made it for the 3.0 release, with Apple following suit with their Metal framework, expected to be ready for the next release

Benchmarks of render performance on Optix

Benchmarks of Render Performance on HIP

These performance improvements are not exclusive to render speeds, with the viewport becoming leaps and bounds more responsive thanks to various Improvements.

New Sampling Tools

This performance increase is accompanied by a re-design of the sampling user interface and defaults settings, to reflect the improved adaptive sampling and it taking center stage as the preferred way to use cycles. There are now separate presets for viewport and render sampling, and a new time-based rendering limit option has been added.

Blender 3.0's new sampling panel, with revamped adaptive sampling and the inclusion of Distance Scrambling among other things

A new Scrambling Distance setting was added and can be found in the Advanced panel, with this feature controlling the amount of correlation between pixels and potentially increasing performance in some scenes.

The example above shows the potential performance gain, but also highlights one of Scrambling Distance's caveats: When cranked up (or down in this case) to extreme values, such as 0 in this test, banding artifacts can start to appear such as on the character's shoulders. An automatic scrambling distance feature helps mitigate that.

Denoising

Denoising has been greatly improved on OpenImageDenoise, with the AI denosising library being upgraded to version 1.4 which includes prefiltering, greatly improving detail preservation. Volume denoising has also been improved thanks to the tweaking of auxiliary albedo and normal passes.

The example above shows the effectiveness of the new denoiser at preserving fine detail, such as the couche's pattern.

Shadow Catcher

The shadow catcher system was fully rewritten, and now can fully handle colored indirect light and emission via the new Shadow Catcher pass.

The shadow catcher pass now has to be multiplied with the background plate, making use of it's new found colour and light accuracy

William Leeson recently released a post on the Blender Developers blog outlining the status of the Cycles X project seven months in to read more about all of these new features and more.

2. Geometry Nodes Fields

Geometry Nodes has been the talk of the procedurally built town since it was first shipped with Blender 2.92. This release holds an extended and re-imagined Geometry Nodesm with the concept of "Fields" being at the forefront of this redesign. The new system promises to be at the same time more approachable and more flexible than the previous attribute system (which tended to yield very linear node trees), and has allowed for the porting of texture nodes from the shader editor among other things.

The 3.0 release coming hot on the heels of nodevember means that we managed to get a glimpse of the power of the new system before the release, with fields being leveraged to create incredible procedural artworks. The Geometry Nodes team did an impressive job on the re-design: More than a hundred nodes have been added to the new system already!

All the curve nodes added in Blender 3.0

Check out the release notes for an extensive list of all the added nodes and functionalities, or Erindale's tutorial series primer on the new Geometry Nodes fields system below:

3. Asset Browser

The long-awaited Asset Browser makes its official debut with Blender 3.0! Previously hidden under an experimental tag in Blender 2.93, the new editor makes its way into the limelight with this latest release, offering the ability to create, manage, and use locally stored assets including materials, environments, objects, and more.

The asset browser offers the ability to drag stored assets into the scene

The new asset browser was also extended into a new pose library system, making it accessible and usible from the N panel, and making poses always readily acessible for use. Sybren Stüvel made an extensive post on the Blender Blog overviewing the new Pose Library 2.0 system,

The Asset Browser is still in heavy development, with many new experimental features already making their way into the Blender 3.1 alpha. The new editor's trajectory seems firmly pointed upwards.

4. Animation: Pose Sliding/In-Between Tools

The animation department got a lot of love for this release of Blender, with the upgrade of the aforementioned pose-library, the addition of new constraints and constraint functionality, new keying sets, and more. Two new features deserve a special mention:

In-Betweens Tools

The In Betweens tool have been improved, and now all use the same sliding tool showcasing a visual indication of the blending/pushing percentage applied, on top of various other usability improvements.

Pose Sliding Operator

The new Pose Sliding operator can be found under Pose>In-Betweens>Blend to Neighbour, and allows to Nudge the current pose to the left or the right of the pose, allowing to drag poses into in-betweens without losing the current pose.

5. UI Refresh

Blender's default theme got a refresh to celebrate this milestone release. Blender's theming capabilities have also been enhanced, with many new theme parameters being exposed and customizable.

Blender 3.0's refreshed theme includes the usuage of more round shapes, clearer panel demarcations, and more

The node editors received some of the most notable changes, with the addition of colored noodles, a dot grid, dashed lines for Field connections, the removal of the green background when entering a node group, and the re-theming of nodes for better contrast and readability.

But wait: there’s more...

On top of re-writing and leveling up an industry proven production renderer, redesigning Blender's procedural and nodal future, adding a new Asset Manager editor, upgrading the animation tools and refreshing the UI, the Blender development team managed to squeeze in even more goodies in this release:

Grease Pencil New Modifiers

Among a slew of other updates and new features, the Grease Pencil team added two new modifiers:

The Layer Length modifier:

GPencil Length.png

The Dot Dash modifier:

GPencil Dash.png

USD Import

USD import makes its way into this release, following the USD exporter which made it in since Blender 2.82.

Blend file read and write performance increase

Blender 3.0's performance upgrades are not limited to rendering: Reading and Writing compressed .blends has become much faster, at the cost of breaking backwards compatibility for compressed files. Opening a .blend file with thousands of data-blocks from the same library has also been greatly improved.

Saving time Uncompressed gzip Zstd Change gzip to Zstd
2.81 splash 0.12s 9.30s 0.46s -95%
2.92 splash 0.12s 11.03s 0.82s -94%
Ember Forest 0.05s 2.57s 0.19s -92%
Mr. Elephant 0.06s 2.19s 0.23s -89%
Loading time Uncompressed gzip Zstd Change gzip to Zstd
2.81 splash 0.23s 1.36s 0.33s -75%
2.92 splash 0.22s 2.23s 0.82s -63%
Ember Forest 0.09s 0.58s 0.19s -66%
Mr. Elephant 0.09s 0.59s 0.19s -66%
File size Uncompressed gzip Zstd Change gzip to Zstd
2.81 splash 386M 334M 334M 0%
2.92 splash 380M 291M 284M -2%
Ember Forest 105M 71M 65M -8%
Mr. Elephant 112M 66M 63M -5%

VR navigation improved

Blender's VR Scene Inspection add-on has been updated to include the ability to visualize controller inputs, as well use the controller inputs to navigate (teleport/fly/grab) through the scene.

Every new feature video by Southern Shotty:

About Author

Mario Hawat

Mario Hawat is a Lebanese 3D artist, writer, and musician currently based in Paris. He is a generalist with a special focus on environments, procedural and generative artworks. Open to freelance work.

11 Comments

  1. Why is Blender 3.0 taking so much longer to download than any of the other releases? I have gig speed internet, but the download is showing at least 45 mins to finish. Is there really so much more content that it's necessary to take so long?

  2. blender 3.0 is a great release, no doubt! But I am a little bit confused to see, that there's no way to pack mutiple objects into one single asset, not by parenting them nor by grouping them into a collection. I wonder if I am the only one who needs technical assets and figures with armatures assigned as assets.
    Or did I oversee something?

      • That's interesting. Doesn't work here for me. When I try this, "Mark as Asset" in the Outliner pop-up is grayed out and the info says: "Data block does not support asset operations - must be a material, object, pose action or world".
        What works is, to put all objects into a collection and create an instance of the collection. The instance can than be marked as asset. But when importing the asset later, you get both, the instance object and the original collection. That's not exactly what I would expect from an asset system. As I found in older threats, it has been possible to mark collections as assets in the 3.0 Alpha, but seems to be removed later on.

  3. Jonathan Hudson on

    This is a major milestone. Blender is an incredible piece of software that is FREE, but does anyone else find it disturbing that out of the approximately 5,500,000 users, only 2659 individuals support the development fund. Remind me how much a licence is for Maya, Max, Houdini, Cinema 4D, Modo, Zbrush, Rhinoceros. Show some love people!

  4. Thanx for the replies, peeps! It finally finished and it's way beyond awesome! I think we're officially in the Age of Blender.

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