In 1988, Ton Roosendaal co-founded the Dutch animation studio NeoGeo. This studio quickly became the largest 3D animation house in the Netherlands. Within NeoGeo, Ton was responsible for both art direction and internal software development. After a careful deliberation, it was decided that the current in-house 3D toolset needed to be rewritten from scratch. In 1995 this rewrite began and was destined to become the 3D software tool we all now know as Blender.
In 1998, Ton founded a new company called Not a Number (NaN), to further market and develop Blender. NaN’s business model involved providing commercial products and services around Blender. In 2000 the company secured growth financing by several investment companies. The target was to create a free creation tool for interactive 3D (on-line) content and commercial versions of the software for distribution and publishing.Sadly, due to disappointing sales and the ongoing difficult economic climate, the NaN investors decided to shut down all operations early 2002. The shutdown also included discontinuing the development of Blender.
Enthusiastic support from the user community and customers couldn’t justify leaving Blender to disappear into oblivion. Since restarting a company with a sufficiently large team of developers wasn’t feasible, in May 2002 Ton Roosendaal started the non-profit Blender Foundation.The Blender Foundation’s first goal was to find a way to continue developing and promoting Blender as a community-based open source project. In July 2002, Ton managed to get the NaN investors to agree on a unique Blender Foundation plan to attempt to open source Blender. The “Free Blender” campaign sought to raise 100,000 EUR, as a one-time fee so that the NaN investors would agree on open sourcing Blender. To everyone’s shock and surprise the campaign reached the 100,000 EUR goal in only seven short weeks. On Sunday, Oct 13, 2002, Blender was released to the world under the terms of the GNU General Public License. Blender development continued since that day driven by a team of far-flung dedicated volunteers from around the world led by Blender’s original creator, Ton Roosendaal.
With Blender originating as an in-house creation tool, the day-to-day feedback and interaction of both developing and using the software was one of its most outstanding features. In first 2.5 years of open source development, it was especially this uniqueness of Blender that has proven to be difficult to organize and maintain.Instead of getting funding to bring together software developers, the Blender Foundation decided to start a project to bring together the most outstanding artists in the Blender community and challenge them to make an exciting 3D animation movie short.
This is how “Project Orange” started in 2005, which resulted in the world’s first and widely recognized Open Movie “Elephants Dream”. Not only was the entirely created using Open Source tools, the end-result and all of the assets as used in the studio were published under an open license, the Creative Commons Attribute.
Because of the overwhelming success of the first open movie project, Ton Roosendaal established the “Blender Institute” in summer 2007. This now is the permanent office and studio to more efficiently organize the Blender Foundation goals, but especially to coordinate and facilitate Open Projects related to 3D movies, games or visual effects.
In April 2008 the Peach Project, the open movie “Big Buck Bunny”, was completed in the Blender Institute. In September 2008 the open game “YoFrankie!” was released. In September 2010 the short film “Sintel” premiered at the Netherlands Film Festival with a sold out screening in a 450 seat theater.
Early 2008 was also the start of the Blender 2.5 project, a major overhaul of the UI, tool definitions, data access system, event handling, and animation system. The main target was to re-implement the core of Blender, originally developed mid 90ies, to bring it up to contemporary interface standards and input methods.
A first alpha version of Blender 2.5 was presented on Siggraph 2009. The online team of developers has since then focused on bringing back all 2.4 functionality and finishing the new design according to specifications. With this job nearly completed now, a final release of 2.5 has being published in 2011.
In 2012 the focus was put on further developing and exporing a Visual Effect creation pipeline. Topics that were tackled included motion tracking, camera solving, masking, grading and good color pipeline. Blender Institute’s fifth Open Project – the short film Tears of Steel – contributed a lot to this.
That year also marked the launch of Blender Foundation’s partnership program, the Blender Network. This is meant to further facilitate and support professional users of Blender, especially for consultancy, training and development support.
Thanks to donations and sponsors, Blender Foundation currently employs two half-time developers for support activities. One other developer, and Ton Roosendaal, are being hired full time by Blender Institute for work on Blender.
Amsterdam, July 2013.
(this text is in public domain, and can be freely copied)
Here’s a brief bio people can use freely:
Ton Roosendaal is the creator of Blender, the largest open source tool for 3D creation. Originally developed as an in-house tool, the software now is being developed online by a community of developers led by Ton Roosendaal at blender.org.
Ton studied Industrial Design in Eindhoven, before founding the animation studio NeoGeo, where Blender was being developed as the in-house tool. In 2000 he moved to Amsterdam the Netherlands. In 2007 he founded the Blender Institute, where he’s still working full time on crowd-funded Blender Open Source and Open Movie projects. Ton is single and he lives in Amsterdam, the Netherlands.