Today I’m revealing details on the program I’ve been working on for the past 6+ months: BlendShow. BlendShow is a presentation program that is unlike any other. I’ve been using Powerpoint, Impress, MediaShout and ProPresenter for years, and last year I felt they were missing something. Behind the times. I had the question… “Why don’t they use a video game engine?”

I want 3D text. REAL 3D text. I want the transitions to be as customizable as my 3D projects. I want backgrounds that interact and react to the text they complement. I want the words to have idle animations instead of sitting still on the page(except when that would be distracting). I want it to be easy to create custom animations.

The Blender Game Engine makes all that possible, and is open source.

The possibilities with a game engine are great. The possibilities when you combine it with a full-fledged 3D creation program like Blender are even greater. You can already create presentations in Blender either with video renders or with the game engine, but it’s not optimized for that, and it has a huge learning curve. The possibilities are there. I’ve been testing and exploring the possibilities for a while now.

My goal is to mold it into something people can use as easily as Powerpoint, maybe even more easily. I am optimizing the interface for presentations, as well as creating new tools that make it easy to do things that normally take scripting and complex setups. One of those complex tasks is adding videos. That’s something that needs to be just a few easy clicks. Making objects spin should be one click. Since these tools are also useful for game creation, some plugins for Blender will be a side-effect.

The timeline for development is basically dependent on my church’s Christmas celebration in December. I plan on having a usable program long before then, but the features I expect to have ready for that concert are the following:

  • 3D text that moves during the music
  • 3D environments that incorporate videos
  • On-the-fly lighting effects(flashes of light, spotlights, etc.)
  • On-the-fly text overlays for announcements
  • Effects that react to the sound! I have not tested this yet, but I know people have done this.
  • Extra support for 3 screens run by one computer, 2 mirrored screens by a second, or maybe even all run by one computer(multiple viewers is certainly possible, if the computer can handle it). The 3 center screens will have a way to tile videos across them(a feature that costs $199 to add to ProPresenter, absolutely easy to add to BlendShow).
    If things go well, I might even be able to compensate for the gap between the screens before Christmas, as well, to prevent Mary’s nose from getting extended in one video we decided not to use last year.
  • Main computer will send commands to 2nd computer to synchronize the presentation if I can’t reliably have one computer run all 5 screens, similar to the master control module on ProPresenter(a $299 add-on that we love, but you can be sure I was looking for free or cheap alternatives). I HOPE I can get this ready in time. I know Blender can send network commands to another Blender instance for render farm purposes, so I expect it to be easy.

While I’m comparing the open-source program to ProPresenter, I’ll throw in that it already has green screen ability built in, a $999 Mac-only add-on for ProPresenter. GRANTED, I have not tested either, but I’ve seen it listed as a capability. I should also note that ProPresenter is a great program, and these add-on features are not available in currently-competing lyric/video presentation products as far as I know. I will also note that if BlendShow was NOT open-source and the result of MANY wonderful volunteers, it would surely cost more than ProPresenter($399 for 1 computer, $799 for site license), largely due to having a full-fledged 3D creation program that can create games.

I will have some scenes included with the program, including one of the maps from the Blender Foundation’s own video game, Yo Frankie. I plan on using as many of the Blender Foundation’s free models as possible, because that’s what they’re for. When the software is close to version 1.0, I intend to open a store to expand the library of scenes even further and to fund development.

This is going to be a lot of work for me, but it’s going to be worth it. If you want to know more about the technical details and maybe even contribute some code, check out the More Details link in the sidebar.

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