Collections and Groups

In Blender 2.8 the layer system was revamped, so that objects are organized into a hierarchy of collections. No longer is there a limit of 20 fixed layers.

To make this system more powerful for animation pipelines, we are making a further design change: collections will be data-blocks that can linked and instanced across scenes and files.

Up to now groups have been used for this purpose, but this was somewhat error prone as users had to keep the scene and groups in sync manually. As a result it wasn’t always clear which objects would get linked across or would be visible. In Blender 2.8 we are now fully replacing groups with collections. Existing groups will be converted to collections that are not linked to a scene.

Let’s look at some example workflows.

Instancing

When creating a forest, we might create assets like trees and bushes in an Assets scene and then instance them many times in another Forest scene. The two scenes might then be organized like this:

Alternatively we can work within a single scene. If we don’t want the original trees and bushes to be visible alongside their instances, we can put them inside a hidden “Assets” collection:

It is also possible to unlink collections from the scene so that only the instances remain.

Character Linking

For linking, let’s consider a character that we want to animate in multiple shots. In the original file we create a few collections. “Hero” for the character mesh and rig , “Rig Helpers” for custom bone shapes that are used in the rig, and a few other collections and objects for doing render tests.

In the shot file, we can now instance the “Hero” collection. This will give us just the character mesh and rig, without the lights and helper objects that are only need for working in the original character file. Note that the helper objects will still be linked indirectly and used to draw the rig , but they will not be individually visible.

From here we can create a proxy as before and start animating the rig. In a following blog post we’ll look at how this will work with the new override system, which is still under development.

View Layers and Visibility

Besides the group related changes, we also made changes to collection visibility. Previously there was only a visibility toggle per view layer, now there is explicit viewport and render visibility again. These are properties of the collection itself, which means they get linked along to other scenes and files.

It’s still possible to exclude specific collections from a view layer:

This can be used for the same purpose as render layers were before, decomposing the render into multiple layers for extra control in compositing, or for rendering the same scene with different light setups. It is also possible to create a view layer for workflow reasons, working on a subset of the scene.

Current State

The initial implementation of unified collections and groups is now in the Blender 2.8 branch for testing. We are still working on the user interface and code, task T55099 lists the remaining work to be done.

Another important topic we plan to tackle is bringing back local view and making it easier to quickly show/hide collections in the 3D viewport.

 

29 comments 1,236 Views
  1. good..
    please video tutorial for this 🙂

  2. So this is great. And is similar to how groups works in other animation software and then some. However I am getting somewhat confused on the naming . Correct me if I have this wrong.

    2.79 “Groups” -> Converted to “collections”
    “Collections” – new functionality and can be easily instanced (assuming this will be easier than the current workflow of using empties to instance them.

    Unless I’m missing something why not just call the new collections “groups” as that is what 99% of the rest of the industry uses and current groups are going away? Great work all the same!

    • At least in Maya and 3ds Max, groups are different than collections in Blender. Those groups come with a parenting relation, you select them as one object in the viewport, modifiers can be applied to the group object, etc.

      Collections in Blender don’t work like that (and neither did the existing layers and groups). There is no parenting relation and objects are still individually selected and edited. Instancing still works with empties, and I agree that’s not ideal.

      Having support for more standard groups as well would be good I think, it’s convenient to edit and instance grouped objects like that. By eliminating the old groups that name is free again at least. But it’s not the problem we’re trying to solve now.

  3. does it mean that groups dropdown will be removed from properties editor? (I’d rather see it as a positive change to be honest, properties editor is really bloated IMHO)

    • Are you referring to the Groups panel in the Object tab? That’s still there at the moment (renamed to Collections), but we might find a better solution in the outliner.

      • that is exactly what I was referring to, thank you for your reply. I see you’ve done a lot of work in terms of removing duplicated stuff from the ui, I personally see it as a positive change and hope properties will lose “some weight” here and there too and become more usable. Thank you all for the work done so far, it really looks awesome!

  4. To be honest, I don’t care about this at all. I just feel very disappointed not to have a layer icon. I’m more concerned about eevee, not the interface and other features. Blender 2.8 is very disappointing. If Eevee doesn’t have any major breakthrough, maybe I should Consider giving up Blender, Blender is no longer the previous Blender, is simply the next Autodesk, since there is no difference with Autodesk, I would rather directly return to 3DS Max or C4D, why continue to use blender. Don’t ask me why, because I hate Autodesk, and now Blender 2.8 is exactly the same as it is, so I hate Blender 2.8 too, except Eevee 🙁

    • That’s unfortunate you feel this way. If you feel you’d be in better position shelling out a lot of money for those other programs, you should.

      But I think you should at least give the coming Blender version a chance once it matures to beta. The changes the developers are making for Blender 2.8 are welcome changes for a slew of people.
      They’re adding so many exciting/useful features and tackling so many UX/UI issues, it’s hard to imagine 2.8 will be anything less than a welcome landmark version for Blender.

      • I agree. Judging blender 2.8 now is like judging an unborn baby saying they will fail at playing the flute.

  5. How to add objekt to layer?
    How to replace object from layer?
    How to replace object frome one layer to another?
    Panels with buttons “New layer” “Add to layer” “Remove from layer” and etc. it will coming later?

    • Object can be moved to a collection with drag & drop in the outliner, and right clicking on a collection or object brings up a menu with various operations. Right clicking on a collection or in empty space lets you create a new collection.

      In the 3D viewport, you can press the M key to move objects to an existing or new collection. New objects are added in the active collection.

  6. Years ago, when I commented that the old layer system needs to be improved, the friendly users from the friendly Blender community told me that I was an idiot and the layer system was perfect.

  7. Really good idea the new collection system and the new selection system is usefull, it was a lack in the older version of blender

  8. I read alot about Blender 101 but I don’t see anything delivered by it. Will there be a blog post about what’s going on and when are we going to see these new features by the Blender 101 project?

    • The toolbar, tools and widgets started in the 101 project, and those are a big focus in the code quest along with other usability improvements.

      The other part of 101 is providing a stripped down Blender for specific tasks, and there is infrastructure for it (application templates and workspaces). Creating a set of default workspaces or templates to ship with Blender will happen later.

      • have blender team considered adding tool options to the right hand side (right region) of the 3D editor instead of putting them on the top bar? I feel like the top bar has not enough space for all tool options, and right region of the 3D editor has duplicated stuff, which could be removed (like transformation, which is already available through object properties inside of the properties editor) and some stuff, which could be put elsewhere (like 3D cursor position which could actually be considered as 3D cursor tool options and stay where they always have been when 3D cursor tool is selected). IMHO top bar could be used for staff which cannot be considered as a tool, like for example adding objects (I personally like keyboard shortcut for that matter, but many users unfamiliar with blender could see a familiar ui pattern and if I’m not mistaken, at least Autodesk Maya and Cinema 4D use it for the same purpose). Another advantage of right region for tool options is that vertical layout could harbor a lot more options and could have been tabbed to make it more clearer.

  9. I believe this is good move but we still needed another object groups concept across the tree branches for lighting and others.

    How about adding Katana’s CEL-like pattern matching-based object groups in addition to current Collections?

    • oops, I was confused.
      objects are overlappable in current sub-collections so we just need auto-classifying system with pattern matching like e-mail software.

  10. What happens if I just want to turn off the visibility of an object of a few objects temporarily for say either making a test render or to see another clearly while I work on it? Say I have an architectural scene and I have some props of people as a collection but I notice in this particular render view I would rather not have the dog showing because it blocks the view of the hallway but everything else is fine – it seems I can’t do that without making a new sub collection… which is pretty inefficient.
    Cant we have a ‘disable’ checkbox next to each object in a collection (and inversely an ‘isolate’ checkbox – like the keypad ‘/’ ) or some similar arrangement – why are we avoiding fine control in the outliner – too many check boxes ?
    As to making collections unique why not identify a collection with a consecutive number and a name so – 1.buildings 2. people. In the 3d view you could have a grid of boxes as a shortcut as before but showing the name as a tooltip.

    • Per object visibility controls are reasonable in my personal opinion, but I didn’t make any changes to that part of the 2.8 design since there was no clear agreement on it. We’ll have to see what the spring artists and other users feedback is once more of the collection UI is in place.

      However for temporarily hiding objects our idea is to make a more powerful local view instead. Basically you’d be able to hide objects with H, shift+H, alt+H in the viewport without affecting the visibility controls in the outliner. The replacement for the layer buttons in the 3D viewport would also put collections in and out of this local view.

      In 2.7 using the H key or changing layer visibility can break carefully set up visibility for instancing, rigging or rendering. Pressing alt+H in a complex production file is something you almost never want to do. We want to make it so you can safely isolate a collection or set of objects in the viewport without having to unbreak visibility for your final renders.

      As for keeping the compact layer visibility buttons in the viewport header, it was great to pack it in such a small amount of space, but we don’t think it’s practical with nested / named collections. There’s no way to show the nesting, the numbers would either change or become scrambled as you add and remove collections, the relation between what’s in the viewport and outliner would be unclear. Someone could create an add-on for this though.

      • Please don’t think animated film makers are the only users of Blender – and I don’t want to hear that ‘Blender is for artists’ self serving claptrap rolled out in defence of alienating/stiffing others 🙂 What suits ‘Spring’ activities is probably not suited to everyone. I would like you to consider the needs of technical users too…its still rendering and animation – and that leads on to discussions of coloured wireframes but not in this post… In my opinion what you have come up with may be fine for ‘artistes’ but it has deficiencies/hassle where the undertaking is slightly different.

        • Named and nested layers, Eevee / PBR viewport, user interface improvements, asset manager and multi object editing are top requested improvements from the user community. And the design for these things starts with what the wider community needs.

          If the code quest and 2.8 was focused on improving Blender mainly for open movie artists, the priorities would be quite different. Of course the artists benefit from what’s happening too and we make sure it’s compatible with what they do. But they know all the workarounds and tricks so the features to make them more productive are different.

  11. Will there be material overrides and mask layers for view layers?

  12. I have been using Blender since 2.5, I always love to see exciting updates and Blender has greatly improved over the years especially with the introduction of Cycles. I have opened 2.8 last week and I was impressed with the EVEE viewport , it was the outliner that seemed to give me a headache. Groups, Collections ect, seemed so foreign to me. Like a previous comment I too hated Autodesk and just gave up on it. You guys are doing such great work I would like to see plenty of tutorials on the new interface . I’m hoping that 2.8 won’t make my hair even grayer!

  13. The position of the Icon for the modes should be placed where people easily can see them and that’s in the bottom third. If you put it on the top you always have to look up. The bar as it is in 2.79 doesn’t need to be changed.

  14. Really looking forward to how this new collections system will ultimately shape up. This upgrade to the layers system is a much welcome change.

    Few questions:
    1. Will the new collections system allow individual objects to belong to multiple collections?
    2. Has the issue of jarring disappearance of objects when added to new collections been resolved? (As exemplified in Pablo’s live stream: https://youtu.be/gMLAw6dr3nM?t=1557)
    3. What exactly is View Layers and needing to link collections? A huge part of the usefulness of layers in any software in general is the immediacy and easy manipulability of created layers, but what we see in the live stream I mentioned doesn’t seem to be the case.
    4. And maybe kind of a side issue, but is the Outliner getting usability improvements as well? For instance, selecting highlighted objects by default, toggling options applying to all selected, etc. would make the Outliner a joy to use.

    • 1. Yes
      2. Probably, a lot of bugs have been fixed since then, though I’m not sure what this specific one was.
      3. View layers are basically different “views” of the same scene, where you render only a subset of collections or apply some overrides. For compositing you can think of them as image layers, but when you’re working in the 3D viewport not so much. The word “layer” means many different things in different 2D and 3D software..
      4. We have and will make some improvements, but probably not so much to the selection system. Viewport and outliner selection are different things, and making them the same thing would have deep consequences for how you select things in Blender in all editors, so we’re not tackling that now.

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