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21 February 2013, 16:46

Bullet Physics animates Blender 2.66

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Dynamic Topology Sculpting
Zoom Dynamic Topology Sculpting allows users to create detailed faces from a simple shape, just like a traditional sculptor would do
Source: Michalis

To simulate the movement of rigid bodies, the Blender open source 3D package has, for many years, included the Bullet Physics engine. This engine is used extensively in the 3D industry; for example, it made buildings collapse in Roland Emmerich's 2012 movie. In Blender, however, it could previously only be accessed via the integrated game engine. With version 2.66 of Blender, the Physics engine has become available for normal animation workflows similar to MoDynamics in Cinema 4D or Modo Recoil, which is also based on Bullet Physics.

Blender's virtual sculpting tools now automatically refine surface meshes: the Dynamic Topology Sculpting feature allows users to sculpt highly complex objects such as faces from a simple cube – before, a sufficiently detailed basic mesh had to be created using the standard tools, and then finer details were added using the sculpting tools. Compared to this approach, the new method saves resources because additional surface subdivisions will only be created when required.

Matcap UI
Zoom The material previews (matcaps) only appear in the 3D view and will not be rendered
Source: Blender project

Matcaps are a new addition in the 3D view of version 2.66. They are modelled after the Zbrush MatCaps and allow material previews to be rendered in realtime. This provides a more plastic geometric impression and an idea of how the model will look in different lighting conditions.

When simulating fluids, an alternative, particle-based solver produces more realistic results. For example, the previously used SPH (Smoothed Particle Hydrodynamics) solver created exaggerated surface tension and was more directed at artists who don't want to meddle with details such as SI units. The new solver, on the other hand, allows users to determine fluid properties such as rest density, viscosity and rigidity in a physically realistic way via SI units, when simulating fluids like water or honey. As the new solver is based on previous SPH developments, it can be found under Classical in the particle physics options. Since a particle mesher has not been implemented yet, Blender currently doesn't calculate fluid surfaces from simulations.

A demonstration of the Classical solver

Blender's integrated Cycles path tracing render engine now supports the rendering of hair, bristles and other strands. However, the component is still classified as experimental – which means that its use and range of features are still subject to change. The Laplacian Smooth Modifier
Zoom Blender 2.66's Laplacian Smooth Modifier highlights shapes and can be used to create caricatures
Source: Blender project
In version 2.65, the Laplacian Smooth Modifier was added to Blender to eliminate noise from scanned 3D meshes. It can now also be used to highlight shapes and offers a simple way of transforming realistic 3D models into caricatures.

Version 2.66 of Blender also offers an improved user interface: objects can now be copied and pasted with the familiar Ctrl+C and Ctrl+V desktop shortcuts. Selected menus and palettes can be turned transparent to enlarge the visible work surface. The Mac OS X version automatically takes into account the high resolution Retina displays of current MacBooks and adapts the UI accordingly.

Transparent panels
Zoom Parts of Blender's user interface can now be switched to transparent to enlarge the visible work surface
Source: Blender project

The developers also revised another feature that had caused annoyance for many Blender users in the past: the software previously saved the current scene as its default scene when a configuration change was made. As a consequence, newly created files were no longer empty, instead containing the objects and window configuration that were open when the scene was saved. With Blender 2.66, the developers have finally separated the configuration options from the default scene, allowing users to change their software settings without first having to load an empty scene.

Blender runs under Windows, Mac OS X and Linux as well as FreeBSD, and version 2.66 is now available to download for all of these platforms. The source code for Blender is licensed under the GPLv2 and its development is sponsored by the non-profit Blender Foundation.

See also:

  • Blender 2.66 is available from The H Downloads.

(Gottfried Hofmann / fab)

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