6 Things You Didn’t Know You Could Do with Blender

Truth be told, I’m a big fan of open source software, solutions, & tools, especially when they are free…and even more especially when they do cool things.

Enter: Blender. The open source 3D authoring tool. Not only does it allow you to create, edit, & manipulate 3D from start-to-finish, it’s a powerhouse of Swiss-Army-knife-like utilities.

If you’ve heard of this software, you likely know some of its core capabilities such as, 3D model authoring, texture mapping, digital Zbrush-like sculpting, or even 3D animation & physics. If you haven’t heard of Blender, check out its origin story, at https://www.blender.org/foundation/history/, where you can read about how Blender evolved from a need for better 3D tools into the open source powerhouse we see today.

With that, here are 6 cool things you can do with Blender you may have not known.

1. Composite Audio & Video

Similar to AfterEffects and other popular software, you can use Blender to composite audio and video together, then render it to various video formats – .AVI, .MPEG., .MOV, etc.

Compositing in Blender. Source: blender.org

2. Make Video Games

Blender’s Game Engine (“BGE”) is a great way to quickly wire-up and test game mechanics. Though it has various limitations for publishing, it’s a fantastic way to establish proof-of-concept for games and simulations.

Blender’s logic “bricks”. Source: Wikipedia

3. Create 360° Videos

Combining the use of HDRI maps or other realistic spherical images, Blender’s equirectangular camera, and its compositor, you can create 360° videos for use in YouTube360° and other similar video players.

Here’s a 360° video I created in Blender to promote my presentation at Learning Solutions 2017 conference:

While these rudimentary videos are static – meaning, the camera is fixed in one point, in the 3D space of the HDRI maps – there’s a lot of potential for experimentation, limited only by the imagination. One possibility would be creating a realistic 3D environment, then animating the equirectangular camera within that space, allowing the 360° view in all directions, while the camera moves through the space.

4. Craft 2.5D Hand-drawn Illustrations & Animations

Using Blender’s grease pencil, you can show-off your artistic side by creating hand-drawn illustrations. You can take these illustrations a step further and add animation as well as 2.5D-style effects, using keyframes.

Animations made with Blender grease pencil. Source: blender.org

5. Draw Illustrations in 360°

While not as robust as TiltBrush, Blender does allow you to draw in all directions using the grease pencil. Combining this 360° illustration with Blender’s animation and compositor, one could create very interesting visuals…ones that could even be viewed in a 360° video, using the equirectangular camera. One idea: think of how much existing whiteboard-explainer videos could be enhanced by using this type of 360° illustration.

See how others are using the grease pencil with this video:

6. You Can Code with It

Blender allows access to the Python console where you can execute commands and access to the entire Python API.

Script mode in Blender.

Like this? Use the comments & discuss how you can or would like to use these cool elements from Blender.

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