4 New Blender Features That Will Blow You Away

In case you missed the news, Blender recently underwent a “merge hurricane”. Meaning that a bunch of new features that were in alpha development phase, have now been merged into the trunk version Blender.

These features are massive and are going to change the way we use Blender in the future.

Here’s a brief explanation of each feature and how to start using them:

1. Cycles

In a nutshell: New improved rendering engine, more realistic renders

Arguably the biggest thing to happen to blender in the last few years is the Cycles rendering engine. Cycles is a completely new way of rendering in Blender that produces far superior results to the outdated internal renderer. Bounce lighting, caustics and glass are now available as standard without any messing around.

Cycles will eventually replace the internal rendering engine, becoming the standard that every Blender user will soon use. The sooner you can jump aboard, the better.

To get started, check my Introduction to Cycles tutorial.

2. Camera Tracking

In a nutshell: Allows you to add 3d elements to moving video footage.

Anyone who’s tried adding 3d elements to video footage knows that if the camera is moving, you need to use a camera tracker to match the motion to your 3d scene. However dedicated camera trackers aren’t cheap, some costing cost upwards of $3,000. But thanks to Sergey Sharybin, we now have this feature in blender.

You can now track camera motion, add 3d elements, composite it, render it and edit the video, all without leaving Blender. Expect lots of budding film makers to suddenly show an interest in Blender as this is developed further.

To get started, check out this early Camera Tracking Tutorial by Sebastian Koenig.

3. Dynamic Paint

In a nutshell: Makes the environment react to interaction

When a character walks through snow, or a car skids it’s tires, it helps to have the environment react accordingly. Previously this wasn’t possible without doing some fiddly workaround, but thanks to Dynamic Paint it’s a piece of a cake.

The way it works is by baking animated textures onto the objects surface. These textures can these be used for reflections, displacements or anything else you wish.

To get started, check out this Dynamic Paint Guide by the developer Miika Hämäläinen.

4. Ocean Simulator

In a nutshell: Allows you to simulate a realistic ocean.

A much desired feature for the nature buffs out there is the ability to create realistic oceans. Whilst this may seem like a rather specialized feature, oceans are an incredibly necessary part of 3d work as they make up 2/3 of the earth, and without a dedicated feature they are almost impossible to create realistically.

To get started, check out the Ocean Wiki or wait for The Nature Academy to reopen.

How to Get These Features

The features are now included in the official blender version!

Just download the newest release here. Anything from v2.61 will have it.

A massive thank you to Brecht Van Lommel, Sergey Sharybin, Miika Hämäläinen and Matt Ebb for developing these four incredible features!

Which feature are you most excited about? Leave your comment below.

About Andrew Price

User of Blender for 9+ years. I've written tutorials for 3d World Magazine and spoken at three Blender conferences. My goal is to help artists get employed in the industry by making training accessible and easy to understand. I'm an Aussie and I live in South Korea ;)
  • http://informationsuperhighway.eu Ron AF Greve

    Great, played around with cycles. This is so cool, even if you create crap. With cycles it will be good looking crap :-).

    • GREG P

      Too true! Lol.

  • Leto85

    I’ve just posted here, but saw my commend didn’t came through, for some reason, so here is what I’ve posted in a nutshell:

    http://cgcookie.com/blender/2011/11/15/creating-an-ocean-scene-with-oceansim-and-cycles/

    A link to the Ocean scene modifier. Have fun everyone!

  • BlenderRender

    I’m somewhat concerned that if cycles completely replaces blender internal, how will we create NPR and use freestyle? :(

  • amcam

    Can the camera tracking also alternatively track moving objects with a static camera ? For example to paint a logo on a moving car ?

    • BlenderRender

      Camera tracking is just that – camera tracking. If you want to put a logo on something moving, or add a cybernetic implant to a critter, etc, you have to do it manually. Camera tracking only comes in if the camera is moving with the character you wish to modify. You still have to create the mock model of the target and add your embellishment.

  • http://sweber.de Stefan

    I like them all!!! But also I want to favorite “freestyle”! I am following blender-development since years and meet this great guys once on blenderrconference some years ago. BING THANK YOU!!!

  • rock

    This is my list. How can you separate 4 supermodels:

    1st: Cycles, Camera Tracking, Dynamic Paint, Ocean
    2nd: None
    3rd: None
    4th: None

  • http://intellectualgiants.com Nola

    I’m am having trouble downloading any builds. I successfully downloaded one a few days ago, but when I opened blender.exe, it gave me an error message. Now when I try to download a build, it won’t even download past a few hundred kilobytes. The most common error message it gave me was a “size mis-match.” Is there anywhere else I can try and download a build?

  • Laurie

    LOVE Cycles, but find myself wanting more material options. I hope they’re coming in time :).

  • balle

    nice features … I hope someone puts more work into the liquid simulation of blender .. last time i checked about a year ago it sucked ass compared to houdini and realflow at least for making liquids like water.. i dont drink milk

  • http://yearofthecicada.blogspot.com jay

    Hey Andrew, nice work on the content here. One resource that gets overlooked is http://builder.blender.org/ for daily builds once the features are in trunk- in particular it’s nice for Linux builds because all the libs are there. Cheers!

  • http://www.ollipikkarainen.com Olli

    1. Dynamic topology sculpt (unlimited clay)

    http://code.blender.org/index.php/2011/10/dynamic-topology-sculpting/

    *fingers crossed*

  • http://stevenpowerssmp.com Steven Powers (SMP)

    Andrew.

    Thanks for all your help and work over the years. You are a great resource in staying current with Blender and all the features they keep adding. Keep up the good work.

    Steve

  • Pingback: 4 New Blender Features That Will Blow You Away | BlenderNation

  • Leto85

    Oh, and thank you very much for the ‘How to Get These Features’ tutorial. That was exactly what I was asking for (litterly, in the Cycles commends if I’m right). Now hopefully I can do that amazing tutorial as well.

  • Leto85

    This is amazing news Andrew! A lot have changed in Blender now, and a lot have changed in a good way. I can’t believe such a huge program that can replace so much other programs you otherwise have to pay big money for, still is free.

    You’ve asked which feature we/I would like the most? Well, I’m about to learn them all, so I can’t say for sure, but I think I love the ocean most. Just because creating realistic water always was a pain, so hopefully this has changed now.

  • Daniel

    Thank you, for your noob-proof explanation here: How to Get These Features!! This really hepled me to get up to date with recent blender version. Beforehand i couldn´t get these new builds working properly… Now i can start on your recent tutorials on cycles. Thank you!

  • narayan

    As usual, I am already looking forward to your tutorials; especially on the dynamic paint. Looking at Mikka’s diverse example, this is going to be exciting. We will indeed want to see a lot of use cases and the workflow to achieve each effect.

    @camera tracker:
    Recently I came across Voodoo (a free camera tracker).
    (http://www.digilab.uni-hannover.de/docs/manual.html)

    There is a tutorial on how to use it with Blender, but the going is heavy.
    Now that the camera tracking is in Blender, I wonder if it is still useful…

  • ASwellGuy

    Really don’t like vignette added with the ocean sim
    but great stuff, looking forward to watching great tutorials coming up
    -Verchial

  • Jordan

    The Blender 2.6 series is going to awesome. My favorites are:

    1 – Dynamic Paint

    2 – Camera Tracking

    3 – Cycles

    4 – Ocean Sim

    Really the awesome thing is that there are all these people committed to bringing these great things to Blender. It’s also going to be awesome to see more BlenderGuru tutorials covering these topics.

  • David

    I think that this is the best Blender release ever. It has very great and useful stuff. These are my favorites:

    1-)Cycles

    2-)Camera tracking

    3-)Dynamic paint

    4-)Ocean simulator

  • Sheldon

    Cycles 1st
    Camera Tracking 2nd
    3rd Ocean Simulator
    4th Dynamic Paint
    Kudos!
    P.S. Thank you and everyone involved in improving blender, no…. improving is an understatement… “making Blender a mind blowing phenomenon!” is more like it :)

  • Kevin

    Yep, it’s all great stuff for sure. I’m personally pretty excited about the cycles direction most. Thanks Andrew for all of your hard work, excellent tutorials and encouragement in the Blender community. I am eagerly awaiting that official trunk version.

  • jimmywu

    Thank you for how good tutorial

  • John A.M.

    The feature I’m most excited about is “Dynamic Paint”, Secondly is the Camera Tracking. I’m not so much about Cycles because while it’s great that it renders so realistically i hope the old internal render will be an option you can switch to. And yeah, the ocean sim is cool.

  • David Haymond

    I am very excited for 2.61! My favorite features are:

    1st: Cycles
    2nd: Motion Tracking
    3rd: Dynamic Paint
    4th: Ocean Simulator

  • candy

    The video is far too blurry for me to see the web address (even in the page’s header!) and I’m also having hell understanding the thick Aussie accent..
    what website do we download this all from?

    • candy

      nevermind.. found it.. carry on =(^///^)=

  • Khalid

    I love Cycles and the Camera Tracking Feature.
    Awesome.

  • blazer003

    Man, camera tracking is right there with cycles. Probably more useful for me in the every day. I do a ton of video work every week and while I loved to composite 3d into footage, I was always fighting with my old version of Icarus. I was actually just convincing my employer to fork out the $600 for Syntheyes after seeing the results people were getting, and then low and behold the Tomato branch comes along.

    This type of full integration into the program will be absolutely invaluable.

  • Johnny

    I found it interesting how you didn’t mention Graphicall.org in your cycles tutorial.

    Also, can you have different layers in cycles, what about the compositor?

  • http://www.planettron.com PixelFractor

    Andrew,
    quick question: you’ve used a bunch of render engines. Which do you prefer: Cycles or LuxRender??

    Andrew? Anybody?

  • http://mfoxdogg.googlepages.com mfoxdogg

    i wouls like to just plug this as a real world use of dynamic paint

    http://vimeo.com/30408572

    hope you enjoy it

  • Samuel

    EPIC!! I think I vote for Cycles and Camera Tracking as my favorite :D

  • Moolah

    Congratulations to our dear Developers for that Blender is growing like a harmonic and powerful tree full of features!

  • http://leifthor.wordpress.com Leif

    A distinction regarding “progress”, a term fondly given to what technology provides-

    In the 70s robots stood to change the automotive industry by replacing people with robots. The only problem was the robots were owned by the company instead of the workers, and so the factory benefited but not the workers.

    Today, Blender is an 10+ EXCELLENT example of technology used in the best of ways by promoting creation by offering it for free, and most importantly giving the power to the people, to the individual, not a company.

    Blender is a product that elevates the abilities of the individual to a level of what a company would have required to create an animation a few years ago.

  • Aled

    Definitely Cycles first, Cam.Tracking second. The other two I’m not bothered about now, but will probably enjoy in the future.

    Cycles is already making a massive difference to my blender-ing! And of course I got into it following your tutorial, Andrew. :)

    I’ve been playing with Camera Tracking this week (after the joy at finding Cycles in trunk, so I can have both of these functions in the same build!) But it’s not going so well for me. I’ve been following tutorials on BlenderCookie, but it’s just not working out for me – the end camera movement is just a jittery mess. I’ll keep plugging away at it. Cycles definitely seems the more mature feature at the moment.

  • http://leifthor.wordpress.com Leif

    Wanted to jump in to Blender a few months ago, and had to focus on work at the time. Now, I’m glad I waited woo woo!

    Having been a graphic designer for many years, I’ve spent a lot of time with really hard to work with 3D programs, and Blender is simply awesome. It’s awesome in it’s abilities, and it’s awesome in that it’s Open Source, ie made with love and offered for free to the world for no better reason than to give artists an elegant and powerful tool to then amaze and dazzle the rest of us.

  • preecher

    those are awesome features. i’m amazed at blender being free and so professional and thanks to folks like you for spreading the word. i can’t wait for cycles to come out on an official build. all the features are excellent. i’m really excited about all of it. thanks Andrew. have an awesome rest of the week and a happy thanksgiving.

    chills and thrills

  • The Salamanda

    I have been following all your emails with great excitement, now I am going to down load this new Blender and try to get to grips with it building my own characters from scratch, your rigging tutorial is one I shall base most work on, plus bits I learned using Blender 2.4.

    I am one of those (now retired soles) who love animation and has dabbled, but wants to do more with some knowledge, so I am interested in The Nature Accadamy and would like to join in this next opening.

    You are one guy who pulls it together for me the oldie (75) and willing to learn, which I do by writing notes on what I did. all the very best

    Alex G Taylor – alias – The Salamanda (to the screen world)

    • http://www.blenderguru.com Andrew Price

      Thanks Alex!

      I love hearing how people use the tutorials.
      I also like that their are some “oldies” like yourself in the community. This community could do with a few more mature folks like yourself I think ;)

      All the best in your quest for learning Blender.

  • Laurie

    That is TOO cool. Thanks for the overview. I’m nearly a brand-new Blender and it’s rather exciting to see all these wonderful developments. And thank you Andrew for all these wonderful tutorials.

  • http://www.bernier5d-art.blogspot.com jorge

    I think that all of them are freaking awesome. I love the work these guys do and as same as Andrew I truly thanks the people who in one way or another are involved into making Blender grows faster. I’d like to learn programming and start adding new features to Blender. but first, I need to start mastering these new features :). ohh! and thanks to the people who dedicate their time to make videotutorials and let us learn Blender easily. some people say that Blender is too intricate, but when I run Blender I feel like getting home.

  • http://www.kennychronicles.com Garrett Williams (Blender newbie)

    Blender is slowly replacing my $200 2D animation/motion tracking software, and as soon as I master Blender’s video tracking and video editing capabilities, I’ll have nothing tying me to Windows and out-of-date programs(bugs don’t get patched in 5-version-old software). I might actually go back to Linux!
    I’m actually surprised Blender didn’t have something like live paint, because I’ve seen effects like that since at least Surf’s Up(when he was painting on the surf board). It’s possible it was tricky at that time, though. I look forward to trying that out.
    The ocean sim will be particularly useful to me, considering my comic is set on the ocean. I’ve tried the ocean sim before, but it crashed, probably because my ocean is 20x20km. I suspect I don’t actually need it that large to have a good horizon.

  • Jesse

    Cycles looks totally cool! But I am having trouble getting it to work. Cycles works just fine with my CPU, no problems there. But when I change over to my GPU it doesn’t work at all. I have an NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M graphics card which is a new and up to date. Every time I try to do any type of render (with the GPU), real time or still, I get the following error, “Failed loading render kernel. see console for errors. Being fairly new to blender, I haven’t a clue what to do. Any ideas guys?

    Also, every build I download has “OpenCL GPU”. Is that different that just plain ol GPU?

    • http://renatogsousa.blogspot.com/ Renato Sousa

      Jesse, have you tried the recent builds from Graphicall.org?
      I have a NVIDIA GeForce GT 330M and have the same problem with OpenCL GPU (I think it is not finished yet, but I’m not an expert…) but with CUDA GPU it works fine.

      • Jesse

        I downloaded several different versions (most recent included) …. all of them that I’ve downloaded only have cpu and OpenCL GPU. Which download just has plain ol GPU???

        • Janez

          There is no plain ol GPU. There is CUDA (for nVIDIA) and OpenCL (for nVIDA and ATI). OpenCL can currently render only clay renders. For your graphics card you need build that includes CUDA.

          • Jesse

            Forgive my ignorance. Every download that I’ve tied (that has CUDA) only gives me the options to utilize the “CPU” or the “OpenCL GPU”. Is there something that I am missing like installing an add-on or enabling a setting? Could you send a link to the build that you think would work for me?

          • Jesse

            I was reading the wiki and I don’t think my graphics card is supported. (below quote from wiki)

            “NVidia CUDA is supported for GPU rendering. Graphics card starting from GeForce 8xxx, 9xxx and GTX 2xx support CUDA, however it is recommended to use a GTX 4xx or GTX 5xx card, since only those are likely to give good speedup, earlier cards are often slower than just using the CPU.”

            My graphics card is a “NVIDIA GeForce GT 540M” :(

            Very disappointing… hope my card becomes supported soon.

          • Damian

            Jesse
            The GT 500M is a CUDA capable card (with 96 CUDA cores). Download a CUDA build and it should function on GPU. OpenCL is currently barely functioning if it functions at all due to limitations in the programming language (according to the Cycles wiki). The CUDA capability of your card is an NVidia thing and not really a Blender issue (not to say bugs in Blender couldn’t cause it to not work). I would suggest that you download the latest GT 550M drivers from NVidia as well.
            OpenCL is in development for Cycles because of its cross-platform ability (not limited to NVidia). But if you have a CUDA card you can have GPU rendering now.

          • Jesse

            Thanks Damain! I’ve gotten farther than I have in the past. I updated my NVIDIA card, and bios. Now when I download a Blenderb build (CUDA enabled) i can change from CPU to GPU (a option that didn’t appear in the past). But… It still gives me the error “Failed loading render kernel. see console for errors” . I have no idea what this means or how to go about fixing it. I would appreciate any advice you or anyone else can give.

        • Blutarsky

          you need to download and install the cuda-tool-kit as well from the nvidia site i think. http://developer.nvidia.com/cuda-toolkit-40

          • Jesse

            Thank you guys! I got it working… although I kind of a weird fashion. I can render a still with the GPU with the gpu type set to CUDA. But come time to use the live rendering portion (rendered) I have to set it to openCL. It works…. not sure it that’s the way its supposed to work but oh-well. Thank you again, you guys rock!

  • Muaaz

    You have already done very cool cycles tutorials.Why dont you do the camera traking,dynamic paint and ocean simulator tutorials. It would be very much appreciated.

  • Muaaz

    My preferences are same as yours.

    I am seeing that you are using blendercookie’s ocean simulator picture but why have you not given the blenderccokie’s link. Provide so that others could benefit from it. Thanks

    • http://www.nightwingstudios.com Leighton

      That is the picture not from Blendercookie, but from the Nature Academy. As a rule, it’s a good idea to do your homework before trying to correct someone.

      • http://infinitesearchspace.dyndns.org Neil

        Thanks for that Leighton, I was about to correct him as well.

      • Ovidiu

        I know Andrew don’t care too muck but I may add that is not nice to advertise other similar blogs here.

    • http://www.blenderguru.com Andrew Price

      Hi Muaaz,

      The picture you are referring to is actually mine. It’s from the ocean sim tutorial that was released in The Nature Academy 4 months ago.

      Cheers

      • Muaaz

        Sorry for my bad. I did not happened to have the chance of buying that training. But maybe in the upcoming future I will be your new student as many of the others.

  • http://www.maidenart.co.uk Beowyn

    As I also like integrating my workflow with Photoshop and AfterEffects I’d have to say the most interesting development has to be Camera Tracking which is continually improving I’ll look forward to the time they can do 3D Camera Tracking or Planar Tracking but any tool that integrate video with 3D models gets my vote.

    Cycles is also look awesome although a tad complicated trying to figure out how to do procedural texturing and how it could be used for animation which at the moment it’s just too time consuming.

    I’m very impressed with Blender and I’m always telling my friends about it, but they have all tried the previous versions where it was extremely complicated to navigate and will not now be persuaded to come back to Blender – if there was some way the Blender Community could appeal to those lost artists to come back and have another go.

  • http://anarchicmind.wordpress.com Titanium Pen

    I’m such a fool! I’ve been looking at this site for months, but never had the time to do any of the tutorials…I thought camera tracking means something like a camera tracking a moving object! And now I realize the potential it brings! OMG!

    Camera tracking will be my favorite feature! :D

    • Andrew

      Same with me, although I think that Cycles will be my favorite feature. BTW, I’m 12 years old!

  • http://renatogsousa@gmail.com Renato Sousa

    Andrew, my preferences go in the same order as yours.
    Cycles I already experimented, I’ll soon try camera tracking.

    Are you going to adapt the Nature Academy tutorials for cycles already in this next course?

    • http://www.blenderguru.com Andrew Price

      Unfortunately, until hair and render layer support is added to Cycles most of The Nature Academy tutorials can’t be replicated. It’s just too “beta” at this stage.

      However, as development progresses I plan to update the tutorials with relevant information to create it in Cycles.

      We’ll just have to wait ;)

  • Guikingone

    Cycles is for me, the best new features of Blender.

  • blazraidr

    I’ve tested out the new camera tracker, and I love it! It’s very easy to use, and has a great capability. I really hope many film makers understand the capability of Blender, and not just pass it on as “free” and “newbie”.

    Here’s my test: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y9SpvWQdANA

  • uttam

    hey andrew .. I’m totally excited about cycles and camera tracking .. Don’t know much about dynamic paint .. but it sounds good too.. i’ve heard you mention it on a couple of occasions in your webcasts..

    • Cesar

      Cycles is on the first place,
      Tomato and the Ocean simulator share second,

      and Dynamic Paint is also a nice feature ;-)

      Btw. Do you think about making a tutorial of how to integrate CG stuff with real footage maybe as soon as Cycles supports passes and renderlayers?

      • http://www.blenderguru.com Andrew Price

        Mine:

        1st: Cycles
        2nd: Camera Tracking
        3rd: Dynamic Paint
        4th: Ocean

        ;)

        • http://therealnoz.blogspot.com therealnoz

          I agree.