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As of the writing of this review Blender is no longer free, in the sense that you could go to www.blender.nl and download it from the developers. They are currenty in a war over the source code and are trying to get monies to free it for the masses. So I suppose my title for this review is incorrect. But, remember that it's still available if you look around a bit on the net. So technically it's still free. The only way to get 3DMAX is to buy it...the other way, through a P2P is risking dangerous consequencies, fines, and or jail time. Good for the Anarachirst, bad for the rest of us. Blender is a 3D animation studio / game making system. The most recent version I have loaded on this machine is 2.23 and it includes many features you'll see on of it's rival software: Shaders (including light shaders), Texture maps, environmental mapping, depth maps (using 16 bit grayscaling to create depth), animation, vector based objects, intersection of objects, etc, etc. You name the high end feature of 3DMAX, and Blender 2.23 has it. Knowing that, you must be thinking, why would I spend hundreds of my hard earned dollars on 3DMAX? There are a couple of reason to think twice about having Blender on your system: 1. It is hard to navigate with out buying the user guide. And when I bought the user guide for version 1.8 it set me back 48 US dollars, plus shipping and handling. A quick look on the website and I see that the manual is much, much cheaper now, and might actually be worth the over all cost. That said: You need the manual to figure out the interface. It's just not simple by any means and represents a more computer nerd style of programming...not something like 3DMAX that looks like Microsoft made it. The other reviewer here at dooyoo said that it was keyboard orinated and he seemed to have disliked that idea. I don't, frankly I can type much faster than I could click a simulated keyboard with th
e mouse. I like the idea of having one hand on the keyboard and one on the mouse. At least in this fashion the carpel tunnel isn't going to be limited to one hand. If you like the keyboard, Blender will be a good strong ally in that regard. NOTE: 3DMAX is also very keyboard neccessary. Sure you could click through every menu with the mouse and do all of our rendering that way, but it's much slower that way. In fact all programs in windows have hot keys that allow for quick access to features in the program. 2. It's slow, sometimes. As this program developed it sometimes worked well with my current configuration and sometimes did not. In fact as of 2.20 it was nearly not possible to use, something had changed in my configuration (video drivers) that altered the way blender interacted with the computer. But when I downloaded 2.23...no more problem. Note, that I'm talking about the overall performance of the program and that Rendering detailed, reflective objects is a little slow all the time. Since though it is free (or should be again soon) and if you plan on spending time becoming a 3D modeler / animator, you might want to train yourself to use different methods and thus, different programs to do so. One of the big differences I've found between 3DMAX and Blender is the way you navigate the scene. I like both, but for different reasons. 3DMAX is a little more 'brainy' while Blender actually is a little more intuitive. In fact with a three button mouse (I have a wheel mouse), the wheel allows me to rotate around the scene with simple click and hold and if I know the in out keys it's even easier to pin point an exact location on the scene. Also, controlling individual nodes on an object is easier in Blender. I can click on the node move it, delete it, delete just it's face, etc. That's much more difficult in 3DMAX. Once you understand how it works Blender is actaully easi
er to use than 3DMAX...or so I've found. But for that comes a trade off: learning a new unfriendly piece of software that may or may not like your machine set up. It's hard to say recommend yes or no on this one. But I like it. It's part of my work environment now, as is 3DMAX, but I use them in different ways. Also note, that when this source code was free developers had many plugins for this program includings Python, which I guess is a big deal, but I don't use it so I can't say for sure. The bottom line is it's free and it's good, both rare qualities to find in our day.
When I first heard news about Blender I thought "YES! A free 3D program! No more needs for licenses etc!!" So I downloaded it. And I loaded it up. Then the pin dropped. The interface was crammed into my screen - buttons and tabs overflowing from all sides. There was also a putrid stench of "grey" across the whole screen. Don't get me wrong, lots of programs have grey in em, but this Blender, it was greyer than John Major(sorry John!)!! Even with a downloaded manual and FAQ, I had troubles even creating a sphere on this program.. It took me a while to figure out where the main toolbar (move, scale, rotate) was located and another 2 days before the manual said "You need to use the keyboard a lot" That was when I deleted the program off my hard disk. I've seen many examples of Blender-work on the net - they look VERY impressive, for a program of its small siza - less than 10Mb. There seems to be many features to use - a pity! However, the people that did the works, must have een very patient, learning the interface of Blender. To any newcomer, it would be daunting as well as offputting. I would not recommend Blender to anyone, unless they REALLY had to try this program (life or death situation!). Unless it can adopt a better interface and general way of doing tasks, I will not be using this program again. Real 3D entusiasts should head toward something like 3DSMAX or Lightwave and co.