This year, Grease Pencil, the blender module to make 2D animations, was part of many talks at the 2022 Blender Conference. From shorts to feature films, the Grease Pencil is trending. In this article we’ll share some notes on this topic and on the promising future of Grease Pencil.
Before going through the conference, here is the Grease Pencil demo reel 2022, as edited by Daniel Martinez Lara and now part of the Blender official youtube ChannelRead more
The blender conference was celebrating the 20 years of Blender as a libre and open source software. 700 people from all around the world gathered over three days, following more than 90 talks and meetings. And Grease Pencil was everywhere!
Let’s start with pointing out some of the dedicated talks we recommend you to watch of course 🙂
- Daniel Martinez Lara came back to talk about the future of Grease Pencil
- CG Cookie is even trying to connect Grease Pencil with adobe SWF (Flash/Animate format)
- Autour de minuit were celebrating their 15 years of blender use with the release of Unicorn Wars, a full feature animated completely in Blender. We had a chance to help them in one sequence, and to see the movie in Annecy, and we can say it’s something like you haven’t seen before. In between many things presented, they did a lot of work in going from 3D to Grease Pencil as you can see in their talk.
- In the packed developers attic, Falk and Yann from SPA studio in Madrid (well known for their amazing work on Netflix’s Klaus) where also presenting part of the work they have been doing to ship a Blender and Grease Pencil tailor made for Disney grade 2D animators. More responsive, more practical, with a cool widget that we’ll love working with, you can see that in their talk. Because SPA is officially going to use a lot of Blender and Grease Pencil in their incoming Netflix feature, Ember.
- Dedouze was showing his amazing style and process
- Alberto Pretroni shared it’s tricks to made 2D/3D concept art
- CGCookie was also presenting cool workflows for storyboarding
- And we, Les Fées Spéciales, did a talk on the tools and research we are doing right now, after pushing the Grease Pencil Keyframes in the general dopesheet (finally!).
There were so many amazing talks this year, that we focused the list on Grease Pencil. But you can see them all from the 2022 Blender Conference Schedule page!
Grease Pencil, is a game changer for Blender
Back from last June’s Annecy animation film festival, the Blender team was saying that most of the discussion happening at the Blender booth were about the Grease Pencil. For animators, the quality of the tool, within a great 3D space, mixing assets types, allows amazing new workflows and possibilities.
And as Daniel Martinez Lara mentioned in his keynote about the future of Grease Pencil, we know at least 3 to 5 feature films in production in Europe with Grease Pencil. The numbers are impressive even if they look small. Also many pilots presented at Cartoon Movie and Cartoon Forum pitching conferences have been made with Grease Pencil. And only few graphists are used or trained to use this tool, and yet important studios are embracing it. SPA, Andarta, 3.0 Studio, Autour de Minuit/ADV, Mikros (for storyboard on their features for now), to name a few.
It’s finally clear for most people now: the tool is a game changer in the 2D/2.5D animation world. There is nothing close to that available in the market: It’s either pure 2D, or with a clumsy 3D way of doing things. Not both.
This is why we are pushing to get it more attention for the future.
Organizing a Grease Pencil module group for the future
Ongoing discussions with the Grease Pencil core team, and studios, like SPA and Les Fées Spéciales in the last months lead to a great meeting during the blender conference.
It was decided to start module meetings every two weeks, to work on the future, on Grease Pencil 3.0.
To make a long story short, Grease Pencil module started on its own corner of Blender. And it’s working well, but it’s disconnected from many cool and core features of blender such as Geometry Nodes, animation actions, etc. The idea for the future is to leave its own data structure to put it closer to the core of Blender, so Grease Pencil has access to everything else Blender provides. Removing also tedious needs to create bridges for every news feature, like the ongoing EEVEE Next with Grease Pencil.
We won’t lie, there is a lot of work to achieve that, and some disruption on how things work today.
For now, the grease pencil module is going to work on an official document design and proposal. Probably analyzing practices from studios and artists to see how they organize their scenes for example. It will then ideally be discussed in a workshop, and maybe, if everything is going fine, a code quest later next year.
There are good willing people working on this, the Blender Institute is interested in helping out, so fingers crossed !