Yes, agreed of course, and this feature of SketchUp is a significant contribution to the 3D industry as a whole. As example, I’ve been wrestling with less accessible 3D products for about 3 years, and until SketchUp experienced 3D mostly as a massive annoyance. I’ve been to known to start threads with titles like “Is 3D A Total Waste Of Time?” which basically made the point, there’s no way I’m paying for any of this stuff. That is…
Until SketchUp. This is the first joyful experience I’ve had in 3D land, and it’s opening my mind up to exploring this realm more deeply.
Why should you care? About me personally, you shouldn’t. But I represent many thousands of people who would spend money in 3D land if they could find an accessible way to get started. And all that incoming money would feed software development that experts will benefit from too.
It seems indisputable that Blender is an incredible resource for power users. My guess is that the vast majority of people who entered the 3D experience via Blender threw in the towel pretty quickly and walked away assuming 3D is a giant pain in the butt they can do without. The thing is though, these folks are invisible, because they’re gone, and have taken any money they might have spent with them.
Given the hefty pricing of 3D products it seems likely I’ll make the trip to Blender in time too. And thanks for the videos which will make that easier. But without the experience I’ve had with SketchUp, I would have most likely continued to refer to Blender as the work of Satan.
It seems the Blender project could benefit from contributors who have a teaching background. Power nerds typically don’t care much about interface design as they don’t need accessible interfaces.
Yes good point. That’s why the Blender 2.8 crowd hired UI folks who bucked the power and legacy users and changed most of not the whole interface. It’s much more usable now. Still, it’s massively more powerful than SketchUp, which does require a more complex UI.
That said, it’s WAY more usable than it used to be.
That’s good to know. And BTW, thanks for the videos above, which seem quite well done to me. I’ve downloaded all of them and will be using them to give Blender a more open minded try. And like I said, a good deal of credit must go to SketchUp for opening my mind.
Given how knowledgable you are, I wonder if you could comment upon a comparison between Blender and Cinema 4D? Reviews I’ve read suggest that both softwares are powerful professional level tools, but Cinema 4D is dramatically more accessible, at a dramatically higher price.
If the above it true, and again I’m not qualified to know, it makes me wonder what the Cinema 4D team is doing that the Blender team might learn from. Your thoughts?
@Nuke Yeah, I did look into C4D a bit before switching to Blender. In fact at the time I was more interested in “commercial” software as I believed it to always be better supported. I hadn’t yet discovered how well supported Blender is in the community and esp Googling anything about Blender 2.8.
I was lucky. I had a good friend who had been using Blender for years. I believed I could model at least as fast as he, if not faster in SU. Then one night we did some speed modeling and he continually beat me no matter what subject I chose. So, it was then I decided to try Blender for sure.
C4D has a reputation for really strong motion graphics. There’s a free copy that comes with AE and I tried it before-- but just like any new software-- it wasn’t that easy to pick up (neither was SU the first time either). That said, I haven’t really seen anything I can’t do in Blender that can be done in those other packages. In fact, the industry is quite shaken up by the new Blender.
After spending a bit of time with Blender, I committed completely and haven’t regretted. It’s a lot like Lightwave, Modo, C4D, Max and Maya in terms of poly modeling–very different from SU.
Explicit booleans, vertex, edge and face editing, etc. EEVEE is a huge benefit for designers as you can actually see your creations come to life in realtime photoreal interactive modeling. Truly a blast.
Just like learning anything new, it takes time. There are some excellent courses out there now. I recommend anything by CGBoost and if you value your time you’ll spend a bit of money on training. Esp b/c the software is free! And…if you decide to stay with Blender, and derive value from it, you might consider joining the Blender Foundation. I give them over $100 each month, but they have sponsorships as low as $5.
Thanks for sharing your story Chipp. You’ve certainly helped me take a new look at Blender. The other thing helping is the realization that I’m not willing to spend enough to obtain most of the alternatives. Clarity on that point really does narrow the field.
You’ve not really addressed the point that interests me most, but that’s ok, most people aren’t that interested, and there’s nothing wrong with that. My background is in special education, and I launched and sold a net tech startup whose success was heavily dependent on interface design. So for me, the most interesting question often is, how accessible is a software? How well does it reach the goal of becoming invisible? How many people (ie. dollars) can the software include?
It’s this interest that drives my enthusiasm for SketchUp. Watch one video tutorial and then start doing fun stuff. That’s smart software in my book, as it is successfully managing motivation levels, a key concept one obtains from a teaching degree.
I’m sold on the idea that Blender is an excellent value technically speaking, given it’s power and price. The weak point of Blender seems to be the interface, and so I was wondering what the Blender team might be able to learn from software which, according to some at least, has a more accessible interface.
My guess is that for every technically savvy 3D user such as yourself there are a thousand 3D novices such as myself, people who would become part of the 3D realm if they could find an accessible entry point. If that’s true, to the degree that it is, accessibility would seem to be put in a bigger picture context.
What I see happening now is that Blender is very famous because it’s powerful and free, and so lots of new comers arrive at Blender, have a very frustrating experience, and then conclude 3D is not for them. So while Blender is clearly providing a very useful service, there’s a downside to it’s impact upon the 3D realm too.
The solution Blender heads typically offer here is to lecture the new comers. Well, ok, to each their own, but I see such lecturing as really being an excuse for poor design. When software is designed with motivation management clearly in mind you don’t need to lecture people because they are sucked head long in to a satisfying experience right from the start, ie. like we see in SketchUp.
Anyway, this is my rant. It’s rather unpopular, but then any challenge to a status quo typically will be. I’m glad to hear that the Blender team is addressing this concern, and hope to benefit more from their work in the future.
If you’re talking about UX and UI, then I’ve some thoughts on that as well. I’ve spent a lot of my career designing software user experiences and user interfaces. You can learn more about it on my website if you like: https://www.altuit.com. I just a month ago finished designing a new way of presenting data for visualizing individual skills for a new application for a top 5 worldwide consulting firm. And I know this:
The more complex and powerful software is, the harder it is to design an interface that works well for beginners.
For instance take an ATM machine. It’s modal interface focuses on ease-of-use, and takes a customer one step at a time through a transaction process. While this is much easier for first time and occasional users, imagine how slow and frustrating it would be if a bank teller had to use such an interface? They use a non-modal interface. It’s harder to learn, but easier and faster once mastered.
SketchUp has significantly fewer features than Blender-- my guess the number fewer would be by at least an order of magnitude. With SketchUp you never need to learn how to place lights, or adjust material roughness, or even bevel a simple object. You can’t extrude a point or an edge and you can’t create a photoreal render. So, it makes sense it can be made simpler.
I think that again depends on whether you’re the person using an ATM or the bank teller. My friend uses Blender only showing the 3D workspace – with no buttons or menus at all (you can do this with any Blender workspace by pressing Ctrl + spacebar). He does this by memorizing key combinations and using his own special workflows. Is that invisible?
I think one of the ways SketchUp is easy to use is they show only the basic buttons you need to get started. This way there is not much visible noise. Had they started with 6 rows of buttons (like many power SU users have), I’m sure many first time users would be overwhelmed.
Still, the new Blender does have a better focus on buttons and menus, instead of forcing the user to rely on keyboard shortcuts. Still, not as simple, but way more powerful. Also, Blender has an industry standard non-modal gizmo. So, unlike Blender you don’t need to go into a special mode to move, rotate or scale an object. It’s all done with one simple device, much like SU’s own vertex tools.
I don’t really understand this question. If you’re asking how large is the user base? Blender has the largest installed user base in the world. Evidence suggests Blender has overtaken SketchUp since Google divested itself of SU. There are millions of downloads a month of Blender, the same cannot be said of SU. Blender has almost twice the number of subscribers on Youtube than SU. Blender has an active development fund and is the recipient of millions of dollars in grant money from some very big names in 3D. Not sure if any of this answers your question.
And this may be of interest. Blender uses the exact same navigation as SketchUp-- so if you know how to get around with orbit, pan and zoom then you’re right at home with Blender. It also has a very similar model of grouping, only it’s non-recursive. So, every object in Blender can be in either Edit mode (like edting a group) or Object mode (non-editing like Groups)-- just like groups in Blender. Blender has an outliner, like SketchUp and it has instances like SketchUp.
I’ll finish with a story you may have heard me tell, but bears repeating. a few years ago, I was asked to “teach the teachers” in a 3 day summer workshop about VR at a top design college. They had lots of VR rigs and associated workstations. I asked they put a copy of SU Make on every computer, thinking it would be the simplest way to get the professors up and running with 3D-- which they would eventually export/import into Unity.
The first day was spent “learning” SU, which I thought would be a no-brainer. Turns out that for people used to traditional surface modelers (like Modo, Maya, Max), it was a disaster. Their understanding of 3D modeling was turned upside down trying SU. Finally I acquiesced and let them use their own modeler of choice.
So, what is “easy” for one group, may not be “easy” for another. Learning paradigms shift especially when a previous one is already in place.
Hi again Chipp. This is a great conversation, thanks for engaging. You’re an interesting fellow and I respect the even handedness with which you compare SketchUp and Blender.
Generally speaking, I understand your point to be that Blender offers more features per dollar than any other 3D software, including SketchUp.
It’s not my intent to dispute such a reasonable claim, but instead to shift focus to the arena where Blender is not yet the clear winner. Every review of Blender I’ve read always makes the point that Blender is very powerful and free, a great value, at the cost of a steep learning curve.
So why not focus on this limitation and be the winner in the accessibility competition too? Instead of being Blender apologists we could model ourselves after Steve Jobs and embrace a state of chronic dissatisfaction with everything that is not already perfect. That is after all how Jobs built the richest company in the world.
Making Blender user friendly isn’t really a technical topic but a psychological one. The challenge is to present the power of Blender in manner which delivers new users a steady stream of success experiences. That is, motivation management. So, some imperfect ideas, off the top of my head…
Let’s imagine Blender in it’s current state remains the same so as to serve the power nerds.
To serve the new comers we might imagine a series of mini-Blenders where Blender’s operations are broken out in to separate programs. The goal here is to offer the user direct access to whatever they wish to do with the fewest possible distractions. Get rid of as many buttons, sliders, menus and obscure terms as possible. Get rid of the advanced features too. Less is more, less is more, less is more.
The goal of the mini-Blenders is not to prioritize features and power, but to instead prioritize success experiences, to manage motivation levels.
Example: Why am I motivated to learn more about SketchUp? Because SketchUp is smart enough to provide almost immediate psychological satisfaction. They are feeding the real reason that I’m here.
Why after three years have I not yet learned much of anything about Blender? Blender isn’t that smart.
Here’s why the above will likely never happen.
Blender culture is dominated by power nerds who generally aren’t interested in such topics. And that’s because in it’s current form, Blender can’t serve any other market.
Yes, millions of downloads, and I’m betting the vast majority of them are people like me who really have no idea what they’re doing in Blender and thus never access 95% of the power Blender offers.
Anyway, my life experience has aimed my interest in this direction. I know that most folks won’t share this level of interest in accessibility and there’s nothing wrong with that. To each, their own.
I’ll be checking out your website, and looking forward to any further comments you may wish to share. On to your tutorial vids too!
It will be a first test to develop python add-on. It is very easy, it is two line of development. It is just a proportion rule. I need to learn how to create interface element, etc…
I learn slowly Blender since a few weeks…
I made a code in Rhino Grasshopper with tests, before I will try in Blender, on 26th of June :
@chippwalters - If you’re still making Blender tutorials for novices, here’s a topic which might merit attention.
The single biggest obstacle I’ve faced as a 3D newbie is trying to move 3D models from one place to another. Blender is often suggested as a solution, so I’ve been working on learning how to “wash” a model through Blender.
I’m having this very issue now as I try to move a MakeHuman character in to SketchUp Make, which is being discussed here:
Lots of confused posts from me in the thread, so to save time zoom to end of thread if you wish to see the current state of that ongoing model transfer project.
Given how many different places I’ve encountered file transfer issue, I’m guessing lots of newbies are wrestling with it, and from what I’ve been told at least, Blender is the best solution. In any case, file transfer FUBAR is what has brought this newbie in to Blender.
My point was that more complex and powerful applications require more complex user interfaces. And that there is always a trade off between the learning curve for beginners vs ease of use for experienced users.
This is a good idea. You should do it. Because Blender is open source, you can change it to however you like.
I have no answer. It took me only a week or two to get comfortable with Blender. Everyone has their own learning paradigm. As I mentioned before, some people have a hard time understanding SketchUp.
I can point to several features in SketchUp which are significantly “less smart” than in Blender. When you update Blender to a new version, all your preferences, startup scene and plugins are automatically migrated for you. This is a most difficult task in ShetchUp.
My point is that it’s all part of your perspective and what you are used to.
@chippwalters - I’m attempting to support your Blender evangelism project by focusing on the aspect of Blender which most limits it’s further spread in the market. I’m trying to assist by addressing one objection a great many people seem to have. You know, the steep Blender learning curve is mentioned in pretty much every review of Blender ever written.
My point was that more complex and powerful applications require more complex user interfaces.
If the power and complexity is stripped out of some versions of a software then the need for more complex interfaces is removed. We see this in the free versions of SketchUp. The Blender team is under no obligation to learn from that example, or provide a similar entry level option, but they could if they wished to, no law of nature prevents it.
Yes, I don’t doubt you became comfortable with Blender in just a few weeks. That’s great. But you and other power nerds are a minority of the potential market for 3D products. There are way more people like me than you.
If expanding the reach of Blender beyond power nerds is not interesting to anyone, then ok, no problem, the status quo can remain and serve those who enjoy Blender in it’s current form. I don’t have a problem with that.
Your suggestion of minimizing the features of Blender to make it easier to use is not interesting to me. For those who want extreme simplicity, there’s always SketchUp Make.
As I stated previously, if you think there’s a big market there, then consider creating a group to fork Blender to create whatever version you think the non “power nerds” (perhaps we can use a less derogatory term?) would like to see.
There are already a number of different forks of Blender currently. Plus there are online courses for beginners which have special sets of tools to make learning and using Blender easily. Check out HeavyPoly for instance.
Or even go to the Blender devtalk forum and discuss your ideas there. Plenty of people will listen. It’s open and not as full of “power nerds” as you might think.
Ok Chipp, no problem. It makes sense that power nerds in general wouldn’t be interested because such a project doesn’t serve them. I don’t have a problem with that. FYI, in my usage “power nerd” is not a derogatory term. I’m proudly a power nerd myself, just not on this set of issues. No offense was intended.
Ok, let’s leave it there then. Thanks for engaging, and again, for the tutorials.
Ok, I understand this better now that I’ve watched some of your tutorial vids.
Although I’m not really qualified to say, my guess is that the videos do a good job of accomplishing your intended purpose of this thread, converting experienced SketchUp users to Blender users. They won’t work for Blender and/or 3D newbies, but as you’ve clearly said, that’s not really your interest. You have however inspired me to seek such videos, and I thank you for that.
Ha, ha! Did you get that everyone? See how easy it is?? So stop complaining!! I mean, quacking.
Seriously, here’s an example of how to things right, imho. I’m currently watching the following Poser tutorials. I’ve never used Poser. Know pretty much nothing about it. And after watching a video tutorial just one time I feel right at home, perfectly comfortable and confident, ready to dive in to using Poser with enthusiasm.
Here’s the entire tutorial series.
And here’s the Poser animation tutorial video:
The point here is that 3D animation doesn’t have to be inscrutably arcane and nerdy. 3D animation can be made readily accessible to large numbers of average folks with minimal knowledge. And so, to all the “experts” who say that 3D animation is incurably complex, and we just have to buckle down, stop being lazy, and learn it the hard way like they did, well, never mind about all that.