Blender is a free, full-featured 3-D modelling and rendering environment. In the words of the Blender web site:
Being the in-house software of a high quality animation studio, Blender has proven to be an extremely fast and versatile design instrument. The software has a personal touch, offering a unique approach to the world of three dimensions. Use Blender to create TV commercials, to make technical visualizations, business graphics, to do some morphing or to design user interfaces. You can easily build and manage complex environments. The renderer is versatile and extremely fast. All basic animation principles (curves and keys) are well-implemented.
Way back in 1989, Ton Roosendaal started up an animation studio called NeoGeo with a handful of friends. They wrote their own in-house 3-D software, “Traces”, but Ton was not satisfied with it. He evaluated it (as well as SoftImage and Alias), analyzed its shortcomings, and in 1995 started work on Blender. In January 1998, NeoGeo released the SGI version of Blender. Due to the immense popularity of the program, Linux and FreeBSD versions were soon released in April. In mid-1998, NeoGeo was partly taken over by another company (Alatis), so Ton created a new independent company, “Not a Number”, to take over Blender development.
The main Blender web site is at http://www.blender.nl/blender.html. The software is available at NeoGeo's FTP site, but it is best to find an FTP site geographically closer to you. Linux and FreeBSD x86 versions are available, but if you have an Alpha, SPARC or Power PC, you are out of luck. Hopefully, ports will soon be released for other platforms. However, there is a broader availability for SGI's—from R3000-based Indigos all the way to the R10000-based Octanes.
Download the archive file you want, either blenderLinux-dynamic_x.xx.tar.gz or blenderLinux-static_x.xx.tar.gz, where x.xx is the version number. (The current version at the time of this writing is 1.37.) The dynamic version is linked to the Mesa 3.0 libraries as well as a few others, so if you don't have Mesa, get the static version.
If you want, you can also grab the Blender tutorial files (tutor_1.01.tar.gz and tutor_2.0.tar.gz). The version 1.01 tutorials aren't actually tutorials—they are example files, but they don't show you how to create the files. Regardless, try them out, since they are pretty cool. Examples include a bat animation, a short sequence from “The Lost Ride”, a 3-D game by NeoGeo and a cool walking spider animation, in addition to a bunch of others. The version 2.0 tutorial shows how to morph a cube into a sphere and includes a tutorial on how to do the morphing. In addition to the two tutorial files, you can get the Blacksmith demo which includes examples of particle animation (i.e., fire and smoke).
I would suggest getting the manual—manual_1.02.html.tar.gz. While it is a little out of date, some of the information still holds true. It especially helps in understanding how Blender is object-oriented.
Even though the Blender web site says the minimum system is a Pentium 90 with 32MB of RAM, I've found that a fast 486 (DX2 66 or better) with 16MB of RAM is adequate for simple modelling and even for some more complex stuff. Still, if you want to do serious modelling, you definitely need at least a P90. As noted above, however, at this time you must have an x86 machine. You will need at least an 800x600 resolution screen (the buttons are a bit squashed though, so if you can get 1024x768 or better, go for it) and you definitely need at least 15bpp. You might be able to get away with 8bpp, but I would heavily advise against it. For one thing, everything is green, and in some rare cases, Blender might even crash.
Once you've downloaded the Blender archive file, move it to the installation directory and unpack it:
gunzip -c blenderLinux-xxx.tar.gz | tar -xv
Change directories to the blenderLinux_xxx directory (cd blenderLinux_xxx).
Copy all of the .B files to your home directory (cp .B*h ~).
For bash users: edit your /etc/profile file (or if you're installing locally, $HOME/.bash_profile) by adding a line that reads:
For tcsh and csh users: create an environment variable BLENDERDIR in your $HOME/.cshrc file:
setenv BLENDERDIR /
Restart your shell.
Run Blender (blender).
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