[Bf-education] Blender's great weakness.. and the solution!

John R. Nyquist john at nyquist.net
Sun Nov 4 16:38:09 CET 2012

I would respectfully disagree with the idea of implementing -- and teaching
to -- a simplified version of Blender's UI. I've tried that with other
software that's had simple/advanced versions and if you start on simple,
the switch to advanced is jarring.

I prefer the approach of showing what you need to look for (initially). I
find people, and especially kids, very good at zeroing on those things once
they're shown (just as Nigel has done). The other elements that they are
not currently using -- while they may be visual noise/texture at the
beginning -- are there in their usual spot for when the learner starts
expanding their knowledge.

I've been approached more than once by new users who say something like
"I'm pretty good at Photoshop how long would it take to learn Blender?".
Blender might be one software program, but it has the complexity of a dozen
Photoshops! Modeling, texturing, rigging, animating, lighting, compositing,
rendering, video editing, game programming, and more. Each one of those is
very deep on its own. 3d in general is a very broad topic, each topic a
discipline of its own. Who knows what will peak the student's interests? I
look at young masters like Jonathan Williamson and Andrew Price, both are
great Blender artists (and instructors) but each excels in different areas
(Jonathan in modeling and Andrew in compositing). I'd be hesitant at hiding
functionality and encourage guiding.

The youngest person I ever taught blender to was my 8-year-old using the
Blender 2.4x series (supposedly a more difficult UI than today). In a short
time, he was able to model a pretty good Garfield (the cat) using
mostly primitives, with some simple materials and textures. I was surprised
at how productive one can be with just the basics.

On a funny personal note, just Friday I was handed a very large manual for
a real-world system. But the owner showed me the 10% that was relavant 90%
of the time. That little bit of guidance made all the world in the
difference. I may need the rest of the manual someday, but to do what I
need to do I know where to look. I feel like that is our job as


PS: My opinion does not let UI designers off the hook. Continued refinement
is important (and time-consuming to design!). I think Blender has an
amazing UI in its ability to be reconfigured (even without getting into

John R. Nyquist
Nyquist Art + Logic
http://AstraItinera.com/ <http://astraitinera.com/>

On Sun, Nov 4, 2012 at 2:56 AM, Ton Roosendaal <ton at blender.org> wrote:

> Hi Nigel,
> Thanks for the suggestion. You actually confirm what we know already for
> long, and it's a feature on our roadmap. At the last Blender Conference I
> mentioned it in my keynote as one of the targets for the coming year.
> Now there are two ways forward:
> 1) Join the educators list:
> http://lists.blender.org/mailman/listinfo/bf-education
> I will CC this message to get feedback or help from other Blender
> educators. (You have to subscribe to mail to the list).
> Since all buttons in Blender are defined via Python scripts - an average
> scripter can reduce 80% of the UI quite easily. The trick is to define what
> should go... but it's a quick solution worth investigating.
> 2) The developer/final solution
> The main problem with the previous approach is that changes in the code
> are hard to keep in sync. You basically just take an existing version, and
> hack it for a training purpose. Obviously - for beginner classes you don't
> need the latest of the latest always. Last year's Blender was also awesome!
> A better solution would be if we can find a way to manage "Blender
> Configurations" more easily or automatic even. A bit like how custom
> keymaps now work - these get synced with new releases quite well. Such
> configurations could not only be needed for an "Educational Blender" but
> will also be useful in studios for special optimized UIs for game level
> makers, or character animators, name it.
> Related to that: on our old 2.5 todo is to enable horizontal toolbars,
> also to be used as custom 'shelves' where you can drag tools into. We
> should also allow bigger icons (32 pix or more) for tools, ways to use own
> pictures for it, and good drag & drop support for such tools. (Like:
> picture of monkey, drag in 3d window, adds a monkey).
> With all that, a trainer (or author of training material) can make a
> config for UI tailored for special workshops or classes.
> -Ton-
> ------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Ton Roosendaal  Blender Foundation   ton at blender.org    www.blender.org
> Blender Institute   Entrepotdok 57A  1018AD Amsterdam   The Netherlands
> On 3 Nov, 2012, at 22:50, Nigel Ward wrote:
> > Hello
> >
> > You’re a busy man, I imagine, so I’ll keep this short..
> >
> > I’m a teacher of ICT at European School 3, Brussels. I teach Blender to
> pupils aged 13-16 and tell them this is simply the very best, most
> sophisticated and most fun free software on the planet. The most fun? Well,
> with sophistication comes the challenge of achieving a level of competence
> beyond which the rewards overcome the frustration of being lost in the
> thousands of options that Blender offers. In my opinion this complexity is
> by far Blender’s greatest weakness (you would call it Blender’s greatest
> strength, of course). I know that in reality my pupils will only be able to
> work with Blender for a few hours in my school – enough for them to glimpse
> the potential of the program and for one or two to want to take it up as a
> hobby, while the rest experience more frustration than anything else.
> >
> > I’M WRITING TO PROPOSE THE SOLUTION! If there was ever a program that
> should offer the option of switching into a ‘beginner’s mode’ in which most
> of the options would be simply hidden then Blender is that program. I
> propose that Blender should have a ‘beginner’s mode’ button or menu item
> which, when clicked, would hide say 75% of the controls in Blender. For
> example, no scene, particles or physics panels, no weight paint mode or
> vertex paint mode etc etc. I’ve been using Blender for more than a hundred
> hours and 80% of Blender’s controls have so far just been ‘noise’ for me –
> I would far prefer the option of having a simplified interface where the
> basic controls are ‘in my face’ and where I’m less likely to make
> accidental changes by changing some setting that I don’t yet understand.
> Since all I am proposing is the hiding of certain options the programming
> effort to make the change would be limited. Choosing which options should
> be hidden would not be too difficult – I’d be happy to make detailed
> suggestions.
> >
> > Thanks for taking the time to read this message and for leading such an
> amazing project as Blender.
> >
> > Nigel Ward
> >
> _______________________________________________
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