Blender 2.57a released, Brecht to return to Blender Institute
Yesterday, Blender team released an update to recent stable v2.57 that fixes over 70 bugs; you can download it here. In the mean time Brecht announced that he is returning to Blender Institute to work on modernization of the shading and render system.
The new (or, rather, improved) shading system is planned to be node based to provide maximum flexibility and scalability. The design will be worked on in the coming months.
The second important project is a new production render engine that, as Brecht states, will take place between a render engine with a focus on complete realism, and a totally programmable and customizable Renderman style engine. Some code is already written, and in few weeks it will be released. The project has a codename Cycles:
Cycles is currently implemented as an external engine addon. The real thing however will require a lot of modifications in Blender’s source code. The outcome then will help other open source render engines like LuxRender, Aqsis, Yafaray and Mitsuba to be better integrated into Blender.