Non-profit organization The Blender Foundation has released Blender 2.79, an update to its cross-platform, open-source 3D graphics tool. The new build further improves its Cycles Rendering feature, bringing feature parity with NVIDIA CUDA and improved performance to AMD OpenCL hardware.
Other highlights include additional tools and options being added to the Grease Pencil, Alembic, Mesh Modeling tools, while simplified video encoding and user interface improvements have also been implemented.
First, denoising is now built in, and is joined by a Principled BSDF shader to render a wide range of different materials.
Also added is a shadow catcher tool to make it possible to composite CGI elements into real-world footage. There’s also filmic color management to handle HDR better.
The cycles renderer also works better on AMD OpenCL hardware, which gains feature parity with NVIDIA CUDA-powered devices.
Elsewhere, there are new tools for interpolating between grease pencil frames, including interpolate and sequence operators. The Grease Pencil tool also gains per-layer onion skinning, an add blank frame tool and UI improvements.
Alembic import and export is now more stable and compatible, and widens its export features to include linked dupli-groups, child hairs and empties.
There’s a new surface deform modifier for the Mesh Modeling tool, allowing users to easily transform motion from another mesh. The Animation Pose library allows the selection and reordering of key bones only, and is accompanied by a few new tools and options.
Video encoding settings have been simplified, along with the addition of a CRF mode.
The user interface has been enhanced too, with automatic scaling for high DPI displays on Linux. Reorganized sequencer and UV editor panels and custom shortcuts for keyframing and drivers have also been added.
The release follows on the news that the next big release -- Blender 2.8 -- is expected next year. Major improvements to the Viewport and Grease Pencil are just two promised highlights.
Blender 2.79 is available now as a free, open-source download for Windows, Mac and Linux. Also available for Windows users are Blender 2.79 (64-bit) and Blender Portable 2.78c -- the latter is likely to be updated to version 2.79 in the next few days.