Wednesday, October 18th, 2023 Posted by Jim Thacker

Blender’s new Vulkan rendering backend has gone live

Blender’s much-anticipated new Vulkan rendering backend has just gone live in daily builds of the open-source 3D software.

The new backend, which is still “highly experimental”, will eventually replace Blender’s old OpenGL backend for viewport and real-time rendering on Windows and Linux.

Both the Vulkan backend and Eevee Next, the planned overhaul of Blender’s real-time render engine, are currently scheduled for Blender 4.1, due for release next year.

For Mac users, the OpenGL backend will be deprecated in favour of Metal in Blender 4.0, due out next month.

One of the key Blender development goals for 2023
One of the key development projects on the 2023 Blender development roadmap, the new backend transitions Blender from the ageing OpenGL graphics API to Vulkan, its successor.

Vulkan is intended to become the default backend for both viewport rendering, and Eevee, Blender’s real-time renderer, on Windows and Linux, on both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs.

As well as future-proofing the software now that OpenGL is no longer being actively developed, the switch to Vulkan will make it possible to introduce new features in future.

Examples cited on the Blender Developer blog include GPU-accelerated texture painting, support for HDR displays, and a switch from screen space to ray traced effects in Eevee.

Still a lot of stability issues, and limited performance
At the minute, however, the reality is rather less glamorous: the Vulkan backend is described as “highly experimental”, and has a long list of known limitations.

According to the original release notes, performance is “around 20% of what we want to achieve”, but the developers aim to focus on stability and platform support first.

Both the new backend and Eevee Next, a broader overhaul of Eevee, were originally scheduled for Blender 4.0, due out next month, but have now been pushed back, and are currently available in alpha builds of Blender 4.1.

For Mac users, the transition from OpenGL is further along: the new Metal backend introduced in March will become the only one supported on Apple devices in Blender 4.0.

How other DCC tools have handled the migration away from OpenGL
The migration makes Blender one of a relatively small number of CG applications to have adopted Vulkan, along with game engines Godot and Open 3D Engine.

Among other DCC tools developers, Maxon ported Cinema 4D’s viewport from OpenGL to the closed-source DirectX in 2021, having previously adopted Metal on macOS.

Other applications, like Maya, already had DirectX viewport display modes.

System requirements and release dates
Blender is compatible with Windows 8.1+, glibc 2.28+ Linux and macOS 1.15+. Blender 4.0 is due for a stable release in November 2023; Blender 4.1 is due in March 2024.

Read more about the new Vulkan backend on the Blender Developer blog

Track the current status of the new Vulkan backend in the official devtalk thread

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