In May, I’m starting to work for the Blender Institute again. Besides maintenance, bug fixing, release work, etc, my big target will be modernizing the shading and render system. We haven’t worked out the exact plans, but this is roughly what I have in mind:

First, there is the need for an improved shading system. Such a system should be node based, to give full flexibility to artists, and to make it possible for external render engines to extend it by adding their own nodes. On the other hand, we should make it physically based, to simplify materials and support global illumination. There are also issues like UV mapping and texturing workflow that need to be addressed. To get the design right, we intend to work out a design over the coming months, with help from blender users and developers working on external engines.

There is also the problem that the internal render engine is showing its age. Before and during the Sintel project, I have worked on refactoring and improving it, but found it simply too hard to get it where I think a modern render engine should be.

I do think there’s still a place for a “small studio” production render engine, that sits between a render engine with a focus on complete realism, and a totally programmable and customizable Renderman style engine. Over the past months, I’ve been working on a new engine called (codename Cycles), that I hope will fit that space. Here’s a sneak peek:

Cycles source code will be released in a week or two. Much work remains to be done, it’s going to take time before this will be integrated and full featured. Cycles is currently working as an external engine addon, but needs a heavily modified Blender.

There are many active open source render engines like LuxRender, Aqsis, Yafaray, Mitshuba, and we can do a lot still on the Blender side to make it possible to integrate these better. These other render engines will benefit
from the work that will be done on the shading system and the render API.

There may of course be developers that want to continue developing Blender Internal, and the intention is not to drop it immediately.

Anyway, I’m happy to be back, exciting times ahead :)