Blender Conference 2017

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I attended my third Blender Conference this year. Third! That’s crazy! I remember before I had ever gone to one, wondering what it was like, how fun it must be to be around that many Blender users, what Amsterdam is like, what the Blender Institute is like. And now it’s the place I’ve been to the most outside of my own country!

As always, it’s such a wonderful trip. The best part is seeing old friends and meeting new ones. People come from all over the world, and more often than not we end up talking about things other than Blender. This conference is educational is more ways than just 3D!

Last time I  attended the conference, in 2015, I had thought that my talk was going to be a workshop in the salon, the smaller of the presentation areas in DeBalie. Workshops are a bit more hands-on, you can actually open Blender and show projects and even have a discussion with the audience. It turned out that I was in the large theater after all, so my presentation, in my own opinion, fell a little flat and wasn’t paced in an exciting way. I wanted to fix that for this year. I was able to get lots of clips cleared by my workplace, CoSA VFX, and I tried to pick clips that showed the wide variety of things I use Blender for at work. Check out my presentation (if you haven’t already) and let me know what you think!

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Yep, Blender was used on all of these (except “Pirates of the Caribbean”)!

NOTE – During my talk, I mention the ClothFX plugin and that I don’t know where to purchase it anymore. I’ve since learned it’s available on gumroad!

As usual, the range of topics covered by the presentations was astounding. It’s hard to pick favorites. And it was great to meet all these people using Blender in new and different ways. It was also great to meet some of the people doing really cutting edge stuff, like Sebastián Barschkis, who is working on the mantaflow integration (better liquid and smoke sims!), or Jacques Lucke, who created Animation Nodes.

RIGHT HERE is a link to the entire conference playlist, so you can check them out yourself and find the ones that interest you. But don’t be afraid to watch ones that you think may not be for you, you could be surprised. I sure was! I really enjoyed zuggamasta’s (Alexander Mitzkus) metaballs presentation. I was thinking “What in the world can anyone show us that makes metaballs interesting again?”, and wow, what fun! And not only that, but it got Sybren Stuvel working on the Alembic code so that metaballs were supported in Alembic by the end of the day!

If you know me at all, you know I like to have some feature requests or improvement ideas ready to go, since there’s so many computers and programmers around. I even chimed in a little bit during the “Blender Developers As Us Anything” presentation. (What did I ask about? Well, I mentioned that when emitting smoke from texture on an object, that texture is not visible on the object, and it would be very helpful if it was, and then I may have asked for a way to visualize force fields in the viewport.)

While I didn’t directly ask Sergey or the rest of the team for any big changes, I did try to continue pushing for some of the motion tracking improvements Sergey, Keir, and I discussed a few months ago at Siggraph. And that’s when Sebastian Koenig stepped in and just quickly coded one of the improvements himself!

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Sebastian improving set reconstruction through the magic of coding!

This year at the conference, there was a special room set aside called the Hacker Space. It was basically just for coders to have somewhere quieter and calmer to work on stuff. Sebastian busted open his laptop, dug into his Python toolbag, and scripted a new tool to significantly speed up set reconstruction after the camera has been solved. Check out the short demo video below, and send Sebastian a heartfelt THANK YOU!

CORRECTION – The new set reconstruction tool requires a new build of Blender and the small python script. To get it, just grab a daily build HERE, and Sebastian’s python script HERE. Install the python script as an add-on, and you are ready to use it!

The Suzanne Awards screenings were fun. Any film festival is always going to be hit or miss, since we all have different tastes. That said, there were some really beautiful works presented. And to my surprise, Ton asked me to present the award for Short Film, so that was quite the honor. RIGHT HERE are the videos that were submitted for Suzanne Awards this year, along with which film won in each category.

Of course the best part of the conference is the people, and we had a spectacular time hanging out! Every night it seems like there was a dinner group going somewhere, including the big official Conference dinner that was on Saturday night. I got to meet so many new people! I’ve posted a few pictures below, but Greg Zaal was wandering around all weekend taking amazing pictures, so HERE is a link to his photos. Lino Thomas was asking everyone to draw a cat in a sketchbook without looking, and that was really fun! Do you know of any other links to picture sets from people who attended? Post links in the comments if you do!

The Monday after the conference is the day at the Institute, where everyone is welcome to come and hang out, see the studio, and continue chatting about all things Blender. Jonathan and I managed to swing by a nearby chocolate shop on way there, and then entered the chaos. It’s crazy how many people they can pack into that place! It’s just wall to wall people, grouped in little clusters or huddled around computer screens. It’s fun to see the artwork taped to the walls and get sneak peeks at all the research material for upcoming projects.

Among the many people I chatted with was Manuel Albert, who figured out the hard part when moving Blender’s Vector Passes into Nuke. It was great to meet Manuel in person!

Unfortunately a few folks were feeling a bit sick that Monday. Some didn’t show up, but others couldn’t bear to miss it and ended up crashing on the couches. At one point, Hjalti and Julien cornered me into a board game called Concordia, where I was thoroughly destroyed by the two of them. It was really fun, but there’s just no way to figure out the strategy until the end, when you see how points are tallied. Next time, I’ll be much better prepared!

It was a spectacular time. If you’re a Blender user, you really should try to make it one of these years. It’s not like Siggraph or other computer conventions, it’s more like going on vacation with 250 people who have the same passions as yourself. It’s 4 days of geeking out with some of the best people working in computer graphics today.

And I got my picture taken with a bunch of great people! Thanks to Christoph Pöhler (and many other people!) for taking some of these pictures. I sure I hope I can make it next year!

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