Natron and Blender

Hey, everyone.
I’d like to start this topic by stating that this is not a rant, but rather my opinion which I’ve based upon some common sense.

So the thing I want to talk about is the very “hot” topic in the community about merging Natron into Blender or getting support from the Blender Foundation.
I’ll make it clear right now that I’m in opposition to that, and that’s what this post is about. I’m not trying to change anyone’s minds. I’m just trying to convince you to think on both sides of the spectrum.
For those who aren’t aware of what I’m talking about, there have been two specific topics that have been popping up every now and then in the community that have to do with Blender. I’ll briefly talk about them.
The first one is: “Natron should be merged into Blender”
The second one is: “Natron should ask the Blender Foundation for support”

I’ll talk about the second one first since it also covers why Natron can’t currently get financial support. The reason is that Natron doesn’t have any foundation, organization or accounts to enable reception of financial support.
Natron’s code is owned by Inria and the original developers. For setting up a foundation, the source code must be bought from the mentioned entities. (EDIT: I got this part wrong because I forgot that Natron code is already GPL)

Now moving on to the Blender Foundation (referred to as BF hereafter). The sole purpose of the BF is to support the Blender Project and to keep it free and open source. Furthermore, when contacted with the question of supporting third party projects, the BF always states that their purpose is to support the Blender Project only.
The BF also isn’t in a financial state that would enable them to support third party projects. Sure, they’re getting a lot of funding from the community, but all that funding is provided by the Blender Community to be used for development of the Blender Project. As the Blender Project grows, it becomes costlier to maintain and develop, and therefore, their funding goals always keep growing.
That is the reason the BF won’t be supporting not just Natron, but any project other than their own, at least at the time being.

Now I’ll move on to the first topic. This should be easy, both to explain and to understand. Blender is a generalist software. Natron is specialized software. What that means is that Blender is designed as a complete CGI and VFX pipeline software. Natron is designed with only one part of the VFX pipeline in mind, which is compositing. Both Blender and Natron need to be their own separate software. Both of them have their own place in the pipeline.
The reasons why Natron won’t (or rather can’t) be merged into Blender are:

  1. Both software have their individual engines and source code which are completely different. To merge Natron into Blender, the source code of Natron will have to be completely rewritten to match Blender’s source code and standards.
  2. It wouldn’t make any sense to merge a specialized software into a generalist one. The reason Blender has a compositor is to enable the user to be able to do basic effects and tweaks to their renders before exporting them or to create small and light composites. Natron is targeted towards professionals and people who specialize in compositing.
    If Natron was to be merged in Blender, then 90% of Blender or more would be pure bloatware for specialists only looking for a compositing software. Sure it would help a very small amount of generalists, but how much? A few minutes. It won’t be a matter of life or death if generalists have to close one software and open another software to continue work on a project. That is how things are actually done by almost everybody because software like Nuke isn’t merged into Maya or 3DS Max. On the other hand, professionals and specialists who are looking for a pure compositing software will shy away from Natron.
    All I’m trying to say is, if you think it’ll be significantly convenient (emphasis on “significantly”) to have Natron inside Blender, you may be right in your specific scenario, but for a lot (and I mean a lot) of people, it won’t be as much of a convenience, but rather an inconvenience because of the reasons I mentioned above.
    The inconvenience of having to switch between software is something that people can just get over with, the same way I did as a generalist.
    The BF, also won’t approve the merging of Natron into Blender, because Blender already has a compositor built into it, which they plan on updating in the future; and merging both software will create a lot of confusion between both Blender and Natron users, so as to which one to actually use. The learning process gets even harder when it comes to new people who want to use either Blender or Natron or both.

To conclude, Blender and Natron should be their own, separate software for many rational reasons.

Thank you for bearing with me, if you really did. I’d like to hear your thoughts on this topic.


Hello @El_Artista

Both software have their individual engines and source code which are completely different. To merge Natron into Blender, the source code of Natron will have to be completely rewritten to match Blender’s source code and standards.

Amen to that!
You expressed this so well that I think there is no further to add.

If you take a look at the very final part (51.03 minutes) of this recent video [1], on YouTube, Tom Roosendal (the Blender chairman) explains once more that Blender has NO intention to support (financially, by its own developers etc) other open source softwares.
There might be some collaboratrion between Blender and other open source software (e.g. Godot), which is of course good for everyone, but that’s it!

BTW, Natron is written in C++ and Python and it leverages the Qt toolkit for its GUIs. But what about Blender? I suppose it is mostly written in C++ but what about its GUIs (I suppose it is not Qt, GTK and the like)?


1 Like

This is not a requirement for a foundation. The code is released as open source (GPL), anyone can take the code and maintain/support it (private or as a company/org etc). A foundation is just a legal entity that makes/collect money and use them to further it’s goals, in Natron’s case that would be to pay developers for features, maintenance (and other basic things).


Oh I forgot Natron code is GPL. I thought it was the same as Blender. Blender code was owned by a company called NaN. Before setting up the foundation, they had to buy the code from NaN and release it under GPL. My Bad. Edited the post.

Any reason why a foundation hasn’t been set up? There aren’t even any talks about starting a foundation for Natron except for some chatter in the community. Is it being planned?

It take money and effort to properly setup a foundation. With only a few devs spending hobby hours, it might not be the best use of time right now.


And most of all, I don’t see what would be the use of a foundation, when no one ever offered even a bounty for a github issue, and probably no one ever will, except for a few dollars here and there. Nobody pays for free software, this is the sad truth. I can already hear voices saying “I would give a lot of money if…”, but I know 99% of them won’t give anything, and the remaining 1% will just give once. I know a lot of great open source projects who never got more that a few dollars of donation. This would put extra overhead on a project that has zero money.


Hello @devernay

Nobody pays for free software, this is the sad truth.

I tend to agree with your statement.

There might be several reasons in my view:

  • one choose on purpose the open source software precisely because it is not necessary to pay anything, NOT even a small donation;
  • since you suppose the open source developers are working in their free time for FUN you are not inclined to donate money (you suppose they have got already an income from their real day-time job);
  • you inted to work with open source software “for fun” (since it is for fun you are not inclined to pay) whereas you still continue to work with commercial software (genuine or pirated) for your professional work;
  • nowdays there are so many requests for donations (on Patreon, Kickstarter etc) that it is difficult to cope;
  • one does not follow closely the open source software Web-site. For instance you update your software automatically (on Linux) and that’s it! Therefore, you don’t know whether they are requesting some money;
  • the user base might be extremely small. Perhaps it is also mostly composed of joung people often much more adventurous to test new open source softwares but, unfortunately, with little money to donate;
  • You have tried only once, for fun, a particular open software. Unfortuntately its developer doesn’t know about this single trial and suppose you are still working on it on a daily baisis (no telemetry available to confirm this).

Aside from the aforementioned (right or wrong…), IMHO, it is VITAL to add that lately some (graphical) open source softwares have been receiving huge donations.
Therefore there is some real hope for the future :slight_smile:

Here some examples:

$ 100.000 from handshake:

1,2 million ($) from Epic games:

Plus the annual income from the development fund:

around 2000 euros from free donation, every month (10 euros is the average donation)
Plus the income from the selling of their software through the Microsoft store:

$ 100.000 from handshake:

Sorry for this LONG rambling but this topic is really interesting :slight_smile:

1 Like

You guys should have hope for natron because I’m working on it do not forget me :slight_smile: , this last time with my holidays this dev is secret at the moment it was broken me my face it’s good because I learned a lot but I want to finish it and it’s not with the blender foundation that will improve to natron. Certainly I have a lot to learn whose to be out and estimation is still uncertain. For me it’s a question of time and resource … Peace and support me if you want me to work full time because for now it’s a bit hard for me as time :wink:

1 Like

Open Source is on the rising right now. There are a lot of projects and it looks like funding is getting better (for a bit at least). The thing is that if you get funding so you can work full time on Natron you’ll have to deliver.

Creating a Open Source 3D Comp Tool is a lot of work. And Blender currently has no 3D comp, no deep comp but very good tracking tools for example.

Blender is possible to deliver their goals after establising their development fund and their 2.80 release and now you see Epic, Ubisoft, Google etc joining the fund.
The aftermath is that Blender is currently getting more and more professional.

What do you mean by that?
It has 3D and it has a compositor.
Its not a 2.5D compositor, but its even better with real 3D.
Practicly that is deep compositing. Or am I wrong here?

I didn’t use it a lot it looked like 2D cards in 3D space. And unfortunately, Blender has no Open FX support.

Im no expert either. :slight_smile:
For my understanding deep comp is the use of .exr renders in a 2.5 compositor like Nuke, and handle them like objects in Maya. It assumes a representation of the 3D object with a pointcloud.
That is what you can do in Blender just without the hussle of rendering exr’s and import them into another program. So you can correct everything in realtime on the real objects.

And yes, Blender has no OFX support, but it has all the tools you need to make all the FX you want or need.
Clothsim, particles, fluidsim, Animation Nodes, compositing nodes…

And they are working on “everything nodes”
I know its not for the industry plugins, but who knows what comes out of it. Its versatile enough to become even better. :wink:

But maybe I have a knot in my thinking and it all is nonsense :slight_smile:

Ok, after writing the last sentence I think I know where you can perhaps have problems with that workflow. When working with others and you dont have access to the 3d models.
You could use some tracking and photogrametry.
Its possible, but you are right, its not practical at all. (for now :wink: )

sorry for the long writing…

Everything nodes looks really promising! But it’s gonna take a few years until everything has nodes :smiley:
for photogrammetry I can recommend meshroom.

But to come back to the topic: I found the open source tool “Open Toonz” a few months ago. They have the same problem like Natron, that they have some kind of a hidden donation system but they have no foundation. They are bought or supported by Dwango in some way but the team is so split up and it takes so much time for new features.

My wish is that the Open source devs for VFX / CG tools start to communicate and complement each other. So everyone can benefit.

@ Pipeliner

Heya Pipeliner, it seems the years of waiting come to an (near) end :wink:
At least Geo Nodes are there, and they are working hard on more nodes everyday.

1 Like

I have even better news for you:
Blender Institute has two new technical artists for reviews and feedback:

If anyone here is interested in becoming a technical artist it should be possible to join the team! A full time developer dedicated to the compositing module is still missing (such as scuplting or other areas). But some small improvements are still coming one by one for example improved motion tracking and an easier to use anti aliasing node:

I am not a Natron user yet and only did a few tests so I have no idea how its development is progressing. It would be still a dream of mine if there was a way to make both work together (such as Cycles renderer which has a standalone version as well)


Naked truth and raw. It reminds me of the ButtleOFX project. Well presentable and good looking. Promising. Unfortunately discontinued.