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16 October 2008, 13:43

Blender 2.48: It isn't all about play

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Blender 2.48 is the latest version of the the open source Blender 3D suite to be released by the Blender Foundation. The suite is designed to allow users to model, render and animate 3D scenes. Blender also offers a game design mode and fuelled by the development of the Yo Frankie game, most of the changes in the present revision affect the game engine. Blender updates are often driven by particular projects; most of Blender 2.46's new features were also driven by the needs of the 3D short animation Big Buck Bunny.

Blender 2.48's game engine offers improved level design and better games logic editing. Logic components can now be grouped in "logic states" between which the game can switch seamlessly during operation. The physics simulation now uses the Bullet Physics library for modeling soft bodies. The fluid simulation controls and the functionality of the "wind" force field were also enhanced.

Rendering has also been improved with Colour Shadows now producing effects that are similar to those of Global Illumination in a fraction of the rendering time. The "Sun/sky" lamp simulates sunlight and atmospheric haze. If a computer has a reasonably modern graphics card with good OpenGL support, Blender can display GLSL materials in real-time in both the 3D and game engine view, making use of the cards hardware shaders. The developers recommend using an ATI/AMD card from model Radeon 9*00 or an Nvidia card from model GeForce 6*00.

Grease Pencil is a new tool for enhancing and animating 3D models. Grease Pencil is a virtual pen that allows users to draw directly in the program interface. It can be used for sketching out suggestions for improvements or for planning animation phases. The sketches can be converted into rigging armatures, Bezier curves and paths for later use in the model.

A new "Shrinkwrap" modifier matches an object's shape to that of another object while the new "Simple Deform Modifier" deforms curve and polygon-based objects. These modifiers complement New tools and options in the Sculpt Mode, for shaping and refining polygon meshes with various brushes. Brush curves can now adjust the tool's impact while a "Rake" can scratch patterns into surfaces.

Blender's developers have also simplified the management of added keyframes, improved the rigging of animation skeletons and added new options to the integrated Python editor. Blender 2.48 is available to download and runs on Windows, Linux, Mac OS X and Solaris. There are also 64-bit versions for Linux and, for the first time, with 2.48 Windows. Blender is licensed under the GPL.


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