Check out the new features in Blender 2.78
Originally posted on 1 September 2016. Scroll down for news of the full release.
The Blender Foundation has released the first test builds of Blender 2.78, showcasing new functionality in the open-source 3D software, including a neat new tool for sketching curves in 3D space.
Other features include a new ‘Bendy Bones’ rigging system, a new workflow for cartoon effects in cloth sims, a big update to the Grease Pencil 2D animation toolset, and early support for Alembic and VR rendering.
New freehand curve drawing tool creates curves in 3D space
At the minute, the online documentation for Blender 2.78 is still a work in progress, but one highlight of the new release looks likely to be the new freehand curve drawing tool, shown in the video above.
The tool lets users draw in 3D space, with options to follow the surface of a mesh, or draw perpendicular to it. Once drawn, strokes can be converted into 3D forms, with the option to taper the start and end.
New Bendy Bones toolset extends the B-Bones rigging system
Another interesting new toolset is Bendy Bones, a set of “powerful new option” for Blender’s B-Bones system, which enables users to divide a bone into a chain of segments following a Bezier curve.
New features include the power to control the shape of B-Bones by setting properties for them directly, as shown in the image above, rather than trying to control them indirectly through neighbouring bones.
B-Bones can also be shaped in Edit Mode to create a ‘curved rest pose’ for the bone: useful for eyelids and brows. There are also quite a few other new features, which you can read about in detail in this blog post.
Add cartoon-style effects on top of cloth simulations
Other key changes include a new workflow for creating cartoon-style effects like squash and stretch when working with cloth simulations, by placing shape keys or modifiers above the Cloth modifier itself.
The system enables animated clothing to match the movement of a cartoon character in a way that would be impossible to achive through physically accurate simulations alone.
There is also a new Speed option for retiming cloth simulations.
Grease Pencil: now a full 2D animation toolset?
Also of interest to animators is the new functionality in the Grease Pencil toolset.
The functionality – which we summarised when it was released as a custom build earlier this year – is intended to turn Grease Pencil into a complete production-ready 2D animation toolset.
Support for subdivision and displacement in the Cycles renderer has been “significantly improved” in Blender 2.78. From left to right: bump mapping only, displacement only, and both bump and displacement together.
Cycles: improved subdivision and early support for VR rendering
The way Blender’s Cycles renderer handles subdivision and displacement has also been updated: although still officially an unsupported experimental feature, it is described as a “significant improvement”.
The system now supports both linear and Catmull-Clark subdivision with creases, and subdivision is now adaptive, so a mesh’s subdivision level is automatically matched to its distance from the camera.
There is also early support for spherical stereo rendering of the type required for VR output, although it’s also still an early implementation with a number of known limitations.
Alembic import/export and other new features
Other new features include “basic support” for importing and exporting files in Alembic format, including support for meshes, points, cameras, curves and ’empties’ – that is, objects like Maya locators.
There are also a number of smaller features, which you can read about via the link below.
Updated 30 September: Blender 2.78 is now officially shipping for Windows, Linux and Mac OS X. There is also now a new overview page on the Blender website with a nice summary of the new features.