BlenderPeople Development

Tracking the development of the BlenderPeople script suite.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Some thoughts on the road ahead... 

A commenter on the BlenderPeople page brought up some issues that have been addressed before, and some that haven't, and I thought I'd respond on the main page, so that anyone interested will most likely see it.

I would like to remind everyone that while I have tried to make BlenderPeople as easy to use as is possible at this, and also to provide comprehensive documentation, it is still a 0.8 release, and, for that matter, a personal project. Yes, it's one that a lot of people are interested in, as evinced by the fact that the BP page and XML feed gets more traffic monthly than the rest of my websites combined by an order of magnitude. But I decided a long time ago that "public interest" was not going to rule the development process, and, in turn, my personal life.

I think that anyone who has read and worked through the Quick Start in the (IMHO) really great documentation would have a hard time saying that I've simply said "Here it is and good luck."

As for making money from it... well, the software isn't ready. And neither is Blender. My footstep generation solution is interesting but hacky, and Blender itself doesn't have one yet that creates real footsteps. It's still just cycled motion. As I have source commit "powers" and have done some work as one of the minor developers with Blender, I see it as up to me to put such things (baking tools and a good footstep system) into Blender as would be generally useful for all character animators, as well as for BlenderPeople. There are no "Blender Gods" that I need to bring an offering to for this: it'll hinge on me bringing a great proposal and solid working code implementation to Ton and Josh.

And now, a reminder about where I see BlenderPeople going by the time it hits 1.0:

- The controls and UI integrated into main Blender panels, via the current tools API and event refactor, or, if that doesn't become possible, using one the other Python scripter's interface layers for a much better control system.

- Significant increases in speed. Right now, speed is prohibitive for anything over 1,000 actors due mostly to search times during the first phase and a lack of dupligroup pose caching in the second phase. I have a couple of ideas for drastically cutting search times (near linear scaling, instead of n^2!) that I've worked on paper, but have yet to put into code. Ton and Josh tell me that pose caching for duplis is not that big of a deal to implement, so I'm sure I can expect some help on that when it becomes the big bottleneck.

- Automating the use of Level of Detail -- it's in there right now, but hidden. You can do it "by hand", but I want it to be automagic.

- Better animation blending and a real footstep system. If I go "100% pose space", it will avoid the crazy "swoops" you see in the demo animation., which is what's going to happen.

- A couple of different demo setups, including a hand-to-hand combat one, a "city streets" one and a stadium/crowd rally.

- Making the behavior tree nodal. Right now, it's hard coded, and works pretty well for a default, but if Python coders can get access to Blender's node interface, this could easily and usefully converted to a nodal system. Such a change would give BP an enormous boost.

- Support for multiple materials and variable character types for assisted/automated generation of diverse crowd meshes.

On the prospect of eventually making money, it could certainly happen. The software will remain Open Source (it's GPLv2 right now), but people who have a commercial need to implement it will always be free to obtain real support directly from me for a fee. Likewise, libraries of commercial quality characters and actions, including motion capture, could be sold.

Personally, I think that's the biggest barrier to using the software in a production environment, both now and in the future: creating the actors and animation. The motion engine itself actually works well enough and could produce usable results right now if the modeling and animation library were good enough.

So, that's where BlenderPeople stands, and where it's probably headed, in case you were wondering.

(Cross-posted at harkyman.com)

posted by Roland  # 8:06 AM (0) comments

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