Blendrview is a native After Effects plug-in for Windows that allows to preview Blender scenes inside of After Effects compositions. Many more features are currently in development.
Blender is a free open-source software for 3D content creation (i.a. 3D modeling and animation). Adobe After Effects is a very common proprietary animation and compositing software and available as part of the Adobe Creative Cloud.
I started working on Blendrview as part of my bachelor thesis in 2017. Having been both a Blender and After Effects user for several years, the effort incorporating Blender into professional motion graphics and visual effects pipelines struck me as the most frustrating part about the Blender workflow. Sure, there is node-based compositing, camera tracking and many more great features available right inside of Blender. But many users own other dedicated tools for different tasks and seek to use Blender only as a 3D tool that fits well into their existing pipeline. Instead of tiresome re-rendering and relinking of image sequences and exporting camera data between programs via python scripts, I thought there had to be a better way.
Adobe showed how After Effects users can benefit from a native 3D software integration by their cooperation with Maxon: A "lite" version of Cinema 4D has been shipping with After Effects since CC 2015, and C4D files can be loaded into AE via the plug-in CINEWARE. A similar workflow should be possible to implement for Blender!
So I began diving into the After Effects SDK and Blender's Python API, learning about inter-process communication, measuring execution times, analyzing requirements and developing a process interface. When the basic plug-in had reached a usable state, I invited some of my designer/filmmaker friends to test it out and give some feedback. I finished the thesis with a working alpha version, as well as a basic roadmap for further development and a big bug report list.
If you wish to download and test out Blendrview for evaluation and non-commercial purposes, head to the download section. Please keep in mind the current version is an alpha version, so the plug-in may contain some bugs and errors and might even crash After Effects. While I never experienced any corrupted files or scenes, I do not guarantee this is completely impossible. Use at your own risk!
For more information about the features and benefits, check the features section below, watch the demo video (I'm working on a better one ...), or read about my future plans for the plug-in under Roadmap.
If you have any questions about the plug-in, bug reports or feature requests, feel free to e-mail me at email@example.com.
Preview your 3D scenes with final shading and lighting in After Effects. Cycles is Blender's physically based ray-trace render engine with GPU support, allowing you to utilize the power of your graphics card.
Import the active camera with animation data from a Blender scene into your composition – with just a simple button hit.
Refine your animation in Blender and watch the result almost in realtime in your After Effects comp. After making a change to the 3D scene, hit Save, switch to After Effects and click on the Update button. This saves time and boosts your efficiency.
Proficient Cycles users will instantly recognize the render parameters and can quickly tweak their render quality and performance settings.
Multi-sampled motion blur and switching between the world background and a transparent background without additional vector or alpha passes are essential for efficient compositing.
Whether you are working in a Log color space or just want to maximize your render's dynamic range with the Filmic setting: Select the color profiles from the Color Management add-on tab in Blendrview.
In case you want Blendrview to use a custom Blender version, select it via the Select Blender Application button. If you don't have Blender installed, the plug-in uses a fallback installation that ships with it.
Just unpack the downloaded .zip file and drop the folder into your After Effects plug-in folder (e.g.
C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe After Effects CC 2017\Support Files\Plug-ins\Effects – see Installation Notes).
Blendrview is intended for fast previews of 3D elements while tweaking animation, lighting and basic compositing – iterative workflows taking place before the final compositing. It is not suited for final photorealistic rendering, complex scenes with huge poly-counts or Multipass Compositing. In those cases, rendering to TIFF/EXR sequences is the way to go.
Things I'm planning to implement in the future. No guarantee that everything will work out as I hope, though.
Adding the parameters Shutter, Filter Glossy, Reflective Caustics and Refractive Caustics. Maybe adding motion blur settings. Changing the confusing value range of Clamp Direct and Clamp Indirect into something more consistent.
Hiding the advanced parameters and settings in a drop-down category Advanced in order to simplify the UI.
Currently, the same Blender file is referenced in every instance of the Blendrview effect in one AE project. This is obviously limiting and can probably be solved by implementing effect instances as threads.
Automatically match the Blender scene framerate to the composition framerate.
Import important objects such as cameras, lights and null/empty objects including animation data without a third-party script via Blendrview from a Blender scene into an AE comp.
The other way: Export cameras, lights and null/empty objects including animation data via Blendrview from an AE comp to a Blender scene.
Taking object import/export one step further: A live-link for certain objects that updates an object in the Blender scene when the referenced object in an AE comp is modified and vice versa. Think matchmove fine-tuning, interactive lighting, next-level motion graphics, ...
Using the Cycles engine in After Effects has one big drawback: It's relatively slow. In Blender you mostly work in Solid/Texture/Wireframe mode when using the viewport, but unfortunately this is not as easy to implement as accessing the Cycles render. It can be done via the OpenGL preview, however Blender will have to run as GUI application.
With Blender's new realtime engine Eevee which will come out with Blender 2.8, this feature should enable a very powerful and fast production workflow.
Windows 7 64-bit or later
After Effects CC 2017/2018
Cycles-compatible GPU (?)
Step 1: Find out the After Effects plug-in folder on your machine (usually
C:\Program Files\Adobe\Adobe After Effects CC 2017\Support Files\Plug-ins\Effects, replacing
2017 with the actual version number). Blendrview does only work with After Effects and not with Adobe Premiere Pro, so don’t install it in the common plug-in folder, if you don’t want the effect to show up in Premiere too.
Hint: If you can’t find the plug-in folder, open the registry (Win + R > regedit) and look up the path in
HKEY_LOCAL_MACHINE\SOFTWARE\Adobe\After Effects\14.0\PluginInstallPath (replacing
14.0 with the actual version number).
Step 2: Unzip the archive (e.g. to the desktop).
Step 3: Move the folder blendrview into the After Effects plug-in folder (you will need administrator rights).
Step 4: Start After Effects and make sure it opens up without a plug-in error message. Blendrview now appears in the Effect Menu as well as in the Effects and Presets panel in the category Blender.
Copyright © 2018 Oliver Allweyer
The software is provided "as is", without warranty of any kind, express or implied, including but not limited to the warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose and noninfringement. In no event shall the authors or copyright holders be liable for any claim, damages or other liability, whether in an action of contract, tort or otherwise, arising from, out of or in connection with the software or the use or other dealings in the software.
Permission is hereby granted to any person obtaining a copy of this software to use the software for evaluation and non-commercial purposes. If you seek to use the software for commercial purposes, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
The download incorporates files licensed under GPL 3. Those licenses remain untouched.