Has anyone been able to instantiate complex collections with variations?

Example: I have an elaborate light fixture with many objects and animations (all animations use Animation Nodes). Now I want to create 100 instances of this light fixture. The instances should be completely independent. For example, it should be possible to replace materials in instance #10 without affecting all the other instances. It would be also nice to be able to override animation node trees, but that's not critical.

For those familiar with Unity, the above is easily accomplished using their prefab system. I realize that Blender doesn't currently have that. I tried isolating the light fixture into a separate file and using Append, but couldn't get that to work as desired. I suspect that's because the file appends to a separate scene and/or the Animation Nodes don't get imported quite right. Even if that did work, appending dozens of files manually would be a nightmare, especially if at some point we need to edit the original.

I hope there is a solution, because otherwise I don't see how it would be practical to create complex scenes with many similar animated objects in them.

  • $\begingroup$ there will be a way to override the linked objects (in a coming version, 2.82?), I don't know if it will work with instances though... but if you use linked duplications (alt D) instead of Collection Instances, you can already change the material of the duplications: in 2.79, select the one you want, go in Properties > Material tab > Dropdown menu on the right of the material name > choose Object $\endgroup$
    – moonboots
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 20:26
  • 1
    $\begingroup$ explanation for the first point here: youtube.com/watch?v=G_E763oPcD4#t=36m45s at 41m12s, you need to select the object, go to header menu > Object > Relations > Make Library Override. Actually I don't know if it's already implemented? $\endgroup$
    – moonboots
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 20:36


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