Blender is a FREE and Open-source, 3D Animation Package. Being free and open-source will not make it a weak software, in fact it’s tools are very modern, easy to use and competitive.
Some may not agree and will add the fact that Blender has the worst interface of all the 3D Packages but that changed dramatically with version 2.5.
Blender can do out of the box:
- Modelling – very modern tools, including Proportional Modelling and Sculpting;
- Texturing (including UV mapping, Nodes)
- Realistic lighting and rendering
- Animation (NLA with Graph Editor (IPO Editor) and Dope sheet; in 2.5 almost everything can be animated via Right-click on the interface)
- Compositing (Nodal based system)
- Soft body and Rigid body dynamics
- Fluid simulation
- Smoke (including volumetric)
- Scripting (with the ever growing in popularity Python)
- Games, yes, Blender has an internal Game Engine.
As for plugins, i really recommend Yafaray and Luxrender two great rendering engines. I think that the native Blender rendering engine is not very good and i think a great replacing alternative to be Yafaray. Luxrender is a physically and unbiased rendering engine, and the rendering times can grow very fast, so you may use it for final photorealistic renders. Try both and see what is it you’ll like.
Blender is a great piece of software, and with the latest 2.5 version, the interface barriers are now gone. Please check out www.blender.org as well as the Open Movie Projects: Durian, Big Buck Bunny and the Open Game Project Yo Frankie! to see how far can you go in Blender.
- it’s FREE, very good for low budget free-lancers and 3D companies.
- it’s open-source meaning that you can modify or extend the code to suit your neads. Also the comunity is very active and people develop plugins and scripts.
- great tools and very competitive.
- Integrated Compositor.
- Import/Export from/to many file formats.
- Workarounds to make some things done.
- Prior to 2.5, the interface was horror for the average 3D package user, not impossible to learn but slow learning curve.