Wednesday, May 10th, 2017 Posted by Jim Thacker

Blender gets Google funding for next-gen skinning system

The Blender Foundation has received Google Summer of Code (GSoC) funding for work to integrate the next-gen character skinning techique implicit skinning into future releases of Blender.

The project will be mentored by former DreamWorks head of character animation Jason Schleifer and veteran Blender developer Joshua Leung.

Other Blender development projects funded through GSoC 2017 include improvements to the software’s sculpting, vertex painting and normal editing tools, and the proposed Mantaflow fluid simulation system.

Google funding for open-source software development
The Google Summer of Code program provides students worldwide with stipends to work on coding and development projects over the course of a summer, accelerating the development of open-source tools.

While the work doesn’t always make it into live branches of the software, previous Summers of Code have helped to fund Blender’s integration of the Bullet dynamics solver, and development of the Cycles renderer.

So what is implicit skinning, and what could it do for Blender?
A post-process applied over traditional linear blending or dual-quaternion skinning, implicit skinning is designed to produce more realistic results when a character is animated.

In particular, the technique provides more realistic contact surfaces where body parts meet one another – for example, the backs of knees and the insides of elbows – and minimises bulging artefacts.

The technique was pioneered by Namco Bandai research engineer Rodolphe Vaillant, then a PhD student, and set out in a 2013 Siggraph paper.

Although the Blender project is based on that original paper, not the more recent elastic implicit skinning, it would still be a significant improvement on Blender’s existing skinning technology – or indeed, that used in many commercial 3D tools.

The work will be mentored by ex-DreamWorks head of character animation Jason Schleifer, now running cloud animation platform Nimble Collective, and Joshua Leung, developer of Blender’s Grease Pencil tool.

According to a message posted by Blender Foundation president Ton Roosendaal on the Blender mailing list, Mikhail Natalevich, the student scheduled to work on the project, has recently accepted a separate internship, but the two are currently working to see if the scheduling conflict can be resolved.

Improvements to Blender’s sculpting and vertex painting tools
Other Blender development projects funded by this year’s GSoC include improvements to the software’s sculpting toolset, including a new silhouette brush and linear mask brush.

GSoC funding will also support work on improvements to vertex painting, normal editing, and the integration of the Mantaflow fluid simulation system – the subject of previous GSoC work, but not yet integrated into the main branch of Blender.

New Krita watercolour brush engine also funded by GSoC 2017
Other interesting CG projects being funded by this year’s Google Summer of Code include a new watercolour brush engine for Krita, the popular open-source digital painting tool.

Vector design software Inkscape and physically based renderer appleseed also receive project funding.

See a full list of development projects funded through this year’s Google Summer of Code