Blender 2.5 alpha 0
It has been four years since the previous milestone in the development of Blender3D, the free, open source, cross platform, content creation suite. Although interim releases mainly saw fine tuning and some bug fixing, they have also added a couple of useful tools to the software.
The new release, version 2.5 of Blender has been called an "alpha 0" by the developers to mark the very first preview of the next major edition. The roadmap stipulates that it's to be followed by an "alpha 1", which is to be a "completed implementation of the currently existing UI features" – the current alpha apparently lacks a few features available in its predecessor, version 2.49, because the Blender developers plan to re-implement them in a different way. Further down the line, the roadmap suggests various beta versions that are each to focus on one particular aspect, such as modelling, animation, or rendering. The final release will be Blender 2.6 rather than 2.5, and is scheduled for mid 2010. As with previous Blender development, a new film project is to serve as inspiration for the Blender developers; this time, the project has been code-named Durian. Previous open movie projects resulted in films such as "Elephants Dream" and "Big Buck Bunny".
The free 3D package is capable of modelling and animation as well as rendering, and also offers a game design mode. The program's user interface has been given a thorough makeover in version 2.5 alpha 0. Users can now define custom keyboard shortcuts. The developers also thoroughly cleaned up behind the scenes, introducing uniform data structures and an "operator" abstraction concept for all the tools – both measures are designed to facilitate, for instance, scripting and automation. Products created with the 3D package are to benefit from a new smoke simulation engine, an upgraded particle system and a special volume material particularly suitable for rendering smoke, clouds and fire.
The Spline IK tool provides organic movement constraints when rigging flexible body parts such as tails and tentacles, as well as inorganic items such as ropes. Another goal on the developers' to-do list is that literally everything is to be suitable for animation. Tools for defining, instantiating and mixing animations and actions, as well as an overhauled animation editor, are to assist in achieving this goal. Reportedly the developers have also improved performance: apparently certain scenes are now rendered up to ten times faster than before.
Since 2002, Blender has been released under the GPL open source licence and is available for Windows, Mac OS X (Intel and PowerPC) and Linux, including the respective 64-bit versions – although Windows users currently still need to self-compile because the installers have yet to be completed.