Tuesday, July 18th, 2023 Posted by Jim Thacker

See the roadmap for Blender’s Animation 2025 project

The Blender Foundation has announced a preliminary roadmap for Blender’s Animation 2025 project, its three-year initiative to overhaul the open-source 3D software’s character rigging and animation tools.

The new functionality is expected to be introduced over the course of the Blender 4.x release cycle, with the old animation system removed from the UI in Blender 5.0.

The release timeline is outlined in a blog post on the Blender Developer blog which also discusses a proposed animation layer system and shows a preview of a 3D onion skinning system.

Early findings of an ambitious three-year program to overhaul Blender’s animation tools
Announced last year, with work beginning in January, the Animation 2025 project is an ambitious three-year plan to overhaul Blender’s character rigging and animation tools.

The latest blog post summarises the findings of a workshop conducted last month as part of the project by Blender’s Animation and Rigging module development team.

It focuses on the big structural changes needed, proposing a new Animation data-block for use as the main container of animation data in Blender, instead of the Action data-block used over the past two decades.

However, the post does also discuss some of the features that the new data structure will make possible.

They include a new animation layer system, superseding current workflow in the NLA Editor, which the post describes as making work with layered animation “technically possible, but not a pleasure”.

New 3D onion skinning system reaches a working prototype
The post also includes an update on one of the first development targets announced for the Animation 2025 project: the development of a 3D onion skinning system.

Above, you can see a video of the current prototype, created by Blender’s Grease Pencil team.

In it, a simple animation is visualised in the 3D viewport as a series of ‘ghosts’ showing the position and state of an object being animated at successive frames of the animation.

The system is intended to support any object type, to make the ghosts editable and moveable, and to make it possible to jump to a frame of the animation by clicking on the corresponding ghost.

So what is the roadmap for the Blender Animation 2025 project?
Although the blog post notes that it is “a bit too early to come up with a detailed timeline”, it does propose a preliminary roadmap for releases.

The functionality “might” roll out as an experimental feature in Blender 4.0, scheduled for November 2023, but will certainly be introduced and expanded throughout the Blender 4.x release cycle.

Blender 5.0, currently due in 2025, will see the removal of the old animation system from Blender’s user interface, and automatic conversion of old animation data to the new system.

Read more about early work from the Animation 2025 project on the Blender Developer blog