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Title(s): Blend - Blender file format

Version ID: 2.48a

Date released: 2008-10-23

Date: 1998-01-01

Creator(s): Stichting Blender Foundation

Contributor(s): Stichting Blender Foundation


  • Previous Version(s): N/A
  • Contains: N/A
  • Syntax Format(s): N/A
  • Family Format(s): N/A

Description: Loading and saving in Blender is very fast and Blender is known to have excellent downward and upward compatibility. Ton Roosendaal demonstrated that in December 2008 by loading a 1.0 blend-file using Blender 2.48a.

Saving complex scenes in Blender is done within seconds. Blender achieves this by saving data in memory to disk without any transformations or translations. Blender only adds file-block-headers to this data. A file-block-header contains clues on how to interpret the data. After the data, all internally Blender structures are stored. These structures will act as blue-prints when Blender loads the file. Blend-files can be different when stored on different hardware platforms or Blender releases. There is no effort taken to make blend-files binary the same. Blender creates the blend-files in this manner since release 1.0. Backward and upwards compatibility is not implemented when saving the file, this is done during loading.

When Blender loads a blend-file, the DNA-structures are read first. Blender creates a catalog of these DNA-structures. Blender uses this catalog together with the data in the file, the internal Blender structures of the Blender release you're using and a lot of transformation and translation logic to implement the backward and upward compatibility. In the source code of blender there is actually logic which can transform and translate every structure used by a Blender release to the one of the release you're using. The more difference between releases the more logic is executed.

History: In 1988, Ton Roosendaal co-founded the Dutch animation studio NeoGeo. This studio quickly became the largest 3D animation house in the Netherlands. Within NeoGeo, Ton was responsible for both art direction and internal software development. After a careful deliberation it was decided that the current in-house 3D toolset needed to be rewritten from scratch. In 1995 this rewrite began and was destined to become the 3D software tool we all now know as Blender.

In 1998, Ton founded a new company called Not a Number (NaN), to further market and develop Blender. NaN's business model involved providing commercial products and services around Blender. In 2000 the company secured growth financing by several investment companies. Target was to create a free creation tool for interactive 3D (on-line) content, and commercial versions of the software for distribution and publishing.

Sadly, due to disappointing sales and the ongoing difficult economic climate, the NaN investors decided to shut down all operations early 2002. The shutdown also included discontinuing the development of Blender. Enthusiastic support from the user community and customers couldn't justify leaving Blender to disappear into oblivion. Since restarting a company with a sufficiently large team of developers wasn't feasible, in May 2002 Ton Roosendaal started the non-profit Blender Foundation.

The Blender Foundation's first goal was to find a way to continue developing and promoting Blender as a community based open source project. In July 2002, Ton managed to get the NaN investors to agree on a unique Blender Foundation plan to attempt to open source Blender. The "Free Blender" campaign sought to raise 100,000 EUR, as a one-time fee so that the NaN investors would agree on open sourcing Blender. To everyone's shock and surprise the campaign reached the 100,000 EUR goal in only seven short weeks. On Sunday Oct 13, 2002, Blender was released to the world under the terms of the GNU General Public License. Blender development continued since that day driven by a team of far flung dedicated volunteers from around the world led by Blender's original creator, Ton Roosendaal.

With Blender originating as an in-house creation tool, the day-to-day feedback and interaction of both developing and using the software was one of its most outstanding features. In first 2.5 years of open source development, it was especially this uniqueness of Blender that has proven to be difficult to organize and maintain. Instead of getting funding to bring together software developers, the Blender Foundation decided to start a project to bring together the most outstanding artists in the Blender community and challenge them to make an exciting 3D animation movie short.

This is how "Project Orange" started in 2005, which resulted in the world's first and widely recognized Open Movie "Elephants Dream". Not only was the entirely created using Open Source tools, the end-result and all of the assets as used in the studio were published under an open license, the Creative Commons Attribute.

Because of the overwhelming success of the first open movie project, Ton Roosendaal, established the "Blender Institute" in summer 2007. This now is the permanent office and studio to more efficiently organize the Blender Foundation goals, but especially to coordinate and facilitate Open Projects related to 3D movies, games or visual effects. In April 2008 the Peach Project, the open movie "Big Buck Bunny", was completed in the Blender Institute. In September 2008 the open game "YoFrankie!" was released.

Example(s): Blender Example


Documentation: Blend has no official documentation.

File Extensions: blend


  • Interoperable applications: None

Magic numbers: None

Format(s): N/A

Rights: GNU GPL v2

Sustainability Factors:

  • Standardization: None
    • Licensing and patent claims: None
  • Self-documentation: None
  • External dependencies: None
  • Technical protection considerations: None

Typical use: 3D Modeling

File classification:


  • J. Bakker, "The Mystery of the Blend: The Blender File-format Explained", March 2009 [1]