Friday, February 16th, 2024 Posted by Jim Thacker

Blender Foundation unveils Project Baklava

An early mock-up of the UI for Project Baklava. Blender’s new layered animation system will become an experimental feature in the main branch of the open-source 3D app later this year.

The Blender Foundation has announced Project Baklava, a new work-in-progress layered animation system for Blender.

Its development forms part of the Animation 2025 project, the ongoing three-year initiative to overhaul the open-source 3D software’s character rigging and animation tools.

The functionality is expected to become available in the main branch of Blender in “Q2 2024”, which suggests that it could be available in Blender 4.2, if only in a very limited form.

Part of a three-year program to overhaul Blender’s animation tools
Announced in 2022, with work beginning last January, the Animation 2025 project is an ambitious three-year plan to overhaul Blender’s character rigging and animation tools.

Some of the early results featured in Blender 4.0, released last November, but so far, they have been mainly performance and workflow improvements.

The first major new feature from the Animation 2025 project
In contrast, Project Baklava is a major new feature: a proper non-destructive layered animation system similar to those in applications like Maya.

It is underpinned a structural change: the replacement of the old Action data-block as the main container of animation data in Blender by a new Animation data-block.

That should make it possible to have multiple characters animated from the same Animation data-block, rather than each requiring its own Action.

According to the blog post announcing Project Baklava, that means that “trying out alternative takes for the same animation no longer requires swapping out multiple Actions; instead it can just be done by (un)muting different layers in the animation”.

Project Baklava: animation layers, underpinned by ‘multi-ID’ animation
The video above shows this ‘multi-ID’ animation in action, with a single Animation data-block animating two objects: the cube and the monkey head.

The interface is “very much a developer-only GUI”, but you can find details of the proposed UX design, including rough sketches of possible interfaces, on the Blender Projects portal.

Before Project Baklava is made publicly available, the developers – the Animation and Rigging module team – intend to update Blender’s existing Graph Editor and Dope Sheet.

Longer-term goals include introducing a complete new Animation Editor for visualizing and editing animation layers, and tools for splitting, merging and baking layers.

When will Blender’s new layered animation system be released?
The Animation and Rigging module team aims to include Project Baklava as an experimental feature in the main branch of Blender in “Q2 2024”.

That means it could be available in Blender 4.2, currently due for release on 16 July 2024.

At that stage, it’s unlikely to be an actual layered animation system: the initial release will focus on multi-ID animation, which the blog post describes as the “biggest unknown” in the work.

After the initial release of a single-layer, multi-ID animation, the next step will be to add support for multiple animation layers, but there’s currently no estimated timescale for that.

According to the blog post: “After that we might add layers, but maybe we’ll switch to [other key objectives of the Animation 2025 project like] bone pickers or rigging nodes.”

The Animation 2025 project is currently expected to culminate with the removal of the old animation system from the Blender UI in Blender 5.0, due in 2025.

Read more about Project Baklava on the Blender Developer blog

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