Our primary tool is Blender, an open source 3D modelling package that also includes compositing, video editing and match moving. From talking to people in the industry they typically assume that all skills are transferable, but do request some experience with a studio’s tool of choice, so learning with Blender and then demonstrating you can use Maya etc. for one project is seen to be sufficient. We choose Blender because:

  • it is free to use and has a great community behind it,
  • it runs on a range of hardware, including some very low specification machines so students can use it at home and at school on older computers,
  • it can run off a USB key, meaning you can use it without having to install,
  • it runs on a range of operating systems including OSX, Windows and Linux,
  • students can create commercial projects and make money whilst they are still studying,
  • it offers the full range of tools needed to make visual effects in one package, meaning students don’t keep having to switch between programs,
  • students who have used both Blender and Maya have indicated a preference for the former, particularly in relation to how quickly it can be learned.

We also use a variety of other software packages to prepare content for Blender, specifically Audacity (Sound editing.), Inkscape (Vector graphics.) and GIMP / Krita (Texture creation/editing.).

We prefer to run on Linux (ideally Xubuntu) , as it’s faster and better reflects a real studio, but have run events on Windows as well.


We have our own render farm/asset manager software, which we developed because we needed something easy for the students to use with the features we required. It is called rfam and is available on github.


We also have some (now quite old) software for recording the output of a depth camera (e.g. Kinect, Asus Xtion) as a Blender water simulation. This allows someone to perform actions in front of the depth camera and then load the frames from the depth camera into Blender, such that they update automatically as you scroll through the time line. It is effectively poor mans mo-cap, as you still have to animate manually – it just gives you a rough pose and accurate timing information. It proves to be quite helpful for a beginner to get an animation right however, and can be downloaded from here: scan_to_blender.zip

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