Lee Salvemini – Ninja Character Creation Volume 1 – Modeling – Tutorial Video Review

Terry Wallwork reviews ‘Ninja Character Creation Volume 1′.

Terry writes:

Lee Salvemini – Ninja Character Creation Volume 1 – Modeling – Tutorial Video Review

I recently reviewed a product from www.cgmasters.net called Environment Modeling and Texturing, and I was very impressed with it. It was just before Christmas so I decided to wait before reviewing the other product they had until after Christmas. Unfortunately Christmas sailed by and it slipped my mind that I had planned to do another review. I put this down to having too many mince pies, all the sugar must have scrambled my memory. Luckily the people at cgmasters have better memories than I, or at the very least a better tolerance of sugar, because they sent me a copy of the product I was going to review: “Ninja Character Creation Volume 1″. So sometimes it pays to forget.

Ninja Character Creation Volume 1 Modeling

Product Specifications:

  • Name: Ninja Character Creation Volume 1 – Modeling
  • Author: Lee Salvemini
  • Price: $60 (23 Jan 2010)
  • Type: Downloadable Tutorial Video
  • Length: 9 Hours 25 Min Roughly

Like the other video tutorial cgmasters did, this Ninja Character Creation tutorial video is available in 2 forms, as a physical DVD and as downloadable content. I downloaded the files of the tutorial and although a very large download that will take a while even on highspeed connections, the download was reliable and highspeed. Your mileage may vary with large downloads such as this, so if you are not sure go with the DVD. Both the downloadable files and the DVD have identical content.

It is important to note that this is Volume 1 of a proposed 4 Volume set of video tutorials. The 1st volume covers all the processes involved in modeling a ninja character from the ground up at least as far as creating and modeling its mesh geometry. The other aspects of making a production ready character, texturing, rigging and animating will be covered in future volumes.

The video tutorials are viewable either through a web browser interface that indexes and describes the videos available or you can view the video files directly using whatever media player you want so long as it supports mp4 video file format (vlc is provided). The visual encoding quality of the videos is very high so you should not have any problems at all viewing the videos and seeing what is being done in the videos. Throughout the tutorials important keyboard shortcuts are displayed on screen so it was always possible to find out what was being pressed on the keyboard. Lee also talks almost constantly throughout the videos describing what he is doing and why, making it very easy to follow. Another helpful thing was that periodically time stamped blender file names would be displayed on screen indicating that the Blender file for that time position in the video tutorial is provided in the files, great time saver if you don’t want to follow along with every step.

The videos are split among 14 Chapters, most of the chapters split into multiple parts, making it easier to take in all the information in more manageable chunks, the longest part of a video is 37 minutes, so finding the time to work your way through the all the videos should be easier.

Chapter Sections:

  • Bonus Chapter 1 – Welcome to Blender 2.5 – (Runtime 14Min 55Sec)
  • Bonus Chapter 2 – Mesh Editing And Edge Loops – (Runtime 21Min 43Sec)
  • Chapter 1 – The Face – (Runtime 30Min 58Sec)
  • Chapter 2 – Part 1 – Blocking The Mask – (Runtime 24Min 15Sec)
  • Chapter 2 – Part 2 – Detailing The Mask – (Runtime 21Min 15Sec)
  • Chapter 2 – Part 3 – Mask Tie – (Runtime 15Min 25Sec)
  • Chapter 2 – Part 4 – Modeling Hair – (Runtime 6Min 11Sec)
  • Chapter 3 – Part 1 – Modeling The Torso – (Runtime 24Min 34Sec)
  • Chapter 3 – Part 2 – Detailing The Torso – (Runtime 15Min 52Sec)
  • Chapter 4 – Modeling The Arms – (Runtime 19Min 4Sec)
  • Chapter 5 – Modeling The Hands – (Runtime 37Min 36Sec)
  • Chapter 6 – Part 1 – Modeling The Lower Body – (Runtime 24Min 31Sec)
  • Chapter 6 – Part 2 – Detailing The Lower Body – (Runtime 17Min 50Sec)
  • Chapter 7 – Modeling The Tabi – (Runtime 21Min 36Sec)
  • Chapter 8 – Modeling The Crest – (Runtime 22Min)
  • Chapter 9 – Part 1 – Upper Body Clips – (Runtime 19Min 48Sec)
  • Chapter 9 – Part 2 – Shoulder Armor – (Runtime 7Min 39Sec)
  • Chapter 9 – Part 3 – Modeling The Goggles – (Runtime 15Min 50Sec)
  • Chapter 9 – Part 4 – Placing Goggles & Strap – (Runtime 15Min 9Sec)
  • Chapter 10 – Part 1 – Belt Buckle & Pockets – (Runtime 16Min 5Sec)
  • Chapter 10 – Part 2 – Modeling The Sai – (Runtime 19Min 15Sec)
  • Chapter 11 – Part 1 – Modeling Of Swords – (Runtime 25Min 23Sec)
  • Chapter 11 – Part 2 – Modeling The Sheath – (Runtime 22Min 52Sec)
  • Chapter 12 – Posing The Character – (Runtime 21Min 56Sec)
  • Chapter 13 – Cloth Simulation – (Runtime 22Min 33Sec)
  • Chapter 14 – Part 1 – Platform/Materials/Lights/Camera – (Runtime 28Min 8Sec)
  • Chapter 14 – Part 2 – Compositing In The Node Editor – (Runtime 23Min 56Sec)

Having watched all the videos, they are extremely well produced and very easy to follow. Obviously the main focus of the video tutorials is that of mesh modeling, but other topics are covered which aides in the usefulness of the tutorials as a whole. Specifically I found it very useful to have cloth simulation techniques covered as well as ways to pose a model without having to use armatures. Another highlight for me were the 2 Bonus chapters which covered using Blender 2.5 and using various techniques to manipulate meshs, edges and edge loops. They were small chapters but useful. The description of “Loop Derailing” was very informative and it’s a new term to me so I will have to add it to my list, it is a very nice technique for faking creases and stretching of mesh geometry. Also the coverage of how to use “Diamond Quads” and Quads shaped like triangles were peppered throughout all the videos and showed just how useful they can be.

The general approach Lee takes to teaching each section is to first start with a less detailed aspect of a model and then in the second part of a tutorial add progressively more and more detail. This technique works very well and at least for me made the tutorials easy to follow.

Personally I think that these tutorials will be of use to almost anyone with an interest in getting skilled at mesh modeling. Beginning Blender users should be able to follow along, while intermediate level Blender users will see some very good examples of how to model a mesh at a professional level and learn some very advanced tricks (weight painting the solidify modifier to alter its effect on the ninja goggles for example).

It is worth remembering that this is only volume 1 of what will be a 4 volume set, if the other volumes are as detailed as this one, I think it will be something to look forward to. At $60 dollars it’s not a cheap tutorial but I think it’s worth the price. I don’t know what the prices of volumes 2 through 4 will be but if they are up to the quality standard of this volume they should be worth it. Now we just have to wait and see how long we have to wait for the next volume in this series.

In summation, great tutorial, well worth the money, cgmasters pulls another one out of the hat, go buy it!

Review Score 85%


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  • ludimus

    Yep

    I purchased this DVD yesterday. It was unclear to me this was a 1 out of 4 series.

    In my opinion $60 is a bargain for over 9 hours of quality tutorial material.
    But it can get expensive to get the entire series. And that is prob what I want after watching the first chapters.
    Clever marketing at cgmasters.

    For less fortunate Blenderheads there are alternative tutorial series that covers more topics (the BC 2010 series or the enironment dvd from cgmasters). Its worth looking around to get the most bang for your buck.

    I just love to watch over the shoulder of an artists. Lee makes, and explaines, decissions to make in the modelling phase to avoid problems you can get detailing your mesh or during animation later on. You know: always thinking 1 or 2 steps ahead of what you are doing;

    A valuable experience for people like me, who have an bunch of unfinished projects.

    The main reason for me to buy these tutorials is to support all these guys in getting Blender to the public.

    keep them coming, I keep buying ;-)

  • K

    I don’t agree with the $60 price tag. That feels like gouging the market. I appreciate that the creator thinks all that time and effort is worth that much, but a more reasonable price of around $20 would probably make it much more worth it and accessible to all including the hobbyists. Especially if this is just 1 part in a 4-part series. That’s going to get far too expensive for people in a niche market.

  • http://www.cgmasters.net Lee Salvemini/LohnS

    Wow, thank you so much Terry for reviewing my training DVD.

    Thanks for the comments and feedback guys.

    ludimus: I’m glad you found the DVD valuable! As you mentioned the designing stage and modeling requires a lot of artistic decision making, especially since I use the example of minimal reference and concept art. So this DVD is very comprehensive. I plan to make this a 4 volume series, and volumes 2 and 3 at least will be cheaper and most likely 4-5 hours rather than 10. With the fourth volume as comprehensive as this one, basically an entire short film process. This was not a marketing decision, just that I simply couldn’t do all four volumes in one go =)

    K: Thanks for your concerns. I understand $60 is a premium price, and I have done my best to make sure the video tutorials are tweaked to allow maximum learning efficiency and justify the price. Editing with a fine tooth comb 5 feature films worth of video does take time even after the recording stage, but I wanted to fill the need for extremely succinct education in Blender and professional modeling. I probably clocked over 2 months full-time work on the DVD. For many the free tutorials we create ( http://cgmasters.net/free-blender-tutorials.html ) are a fantastic resource if you do not feel the time is right to invest in the DVDs.

    It’s been so fantastic to share what I know through free resources and comprehensive training, thanks to the entire Blender community for the support so far.

  • Rob

    I agree that $60 for a 1 out of 4 package, which apparently wasn’t as clear as it could have been, is a kluge to my interest. You should consider a better pricing structure. Blender Cookie has a very beneficial marketing scheme – http://www.blendercookie.com/2010/09/10/2010-blender-training-series-is-complete/

    Good luck on what you are able to do with your stuff. Hope my comments help you do well.

  • MonkeyOnMyShoulder

    Sell more cheaper, or less with a higher price-point, it’s always the big question and a subtle balance hard to get right…

    For my part, I’m really interested in cgmasters videos, but having to go full price when buying the two available tutorials in a downloadable format seems a bit strange to me : I was expecting a bundle and/or download discount… but there’s nothing like this apparently.
    I’ll be waiting to see if things are changing in the next few months.
    I still have to complete J. Williamson’s training anyway… =)

  • richard burns

    i think the price is just perfect im adding this to my list of stuff to get after the gnomon tuts. dont listen to the cheapos here if you put in professional quality you should charge the professional price. people will always haggle cos not many people want to pay for anything :P

  • Inlite

    I bought it, its briliant. As for the price, I wouldnt work 9 hours for $60. And thats not even taking into account the hours of work culled to make the final product or the production of the DVD and packaging. Imo its a bargain.

  • MonkeyOnMyShoulder

    “I wouldn’t work 9 hours for $60″ Sorry but your sentence doesn’t make sense… they are not going to sell only one DVD…

    Concerning the price, I personally think it’s fair on the principle.
    But if we look at BlenderGuru’s survey, where amongst other things, we learn than more than 50% blenderers use Blender because it’s free, a majority are young fellows, and more than 70% never made money from it, then the price might seem not so well thought. But well…
    I personally would have gone for a “name-your-price” scheme, like World of Goo or The Humble Indie Bundle, but it’s a “big-balls” move, and it’s always easy to talk about it when you’re not the one directly concerned =)

  • http://www.3dzentrale.com sebastian_k

    60$ is totally fair. Recording tutorials is not like: press record-button, talk a bit and be done with it. It’s a shitload of work and can be really exhausting, especially if you are not just talking stuff, but present it in a well prepared, thought-out way.
    60$ for 9 hours is a bargain, especially if it is from one of the most talented and experienced blenderartists around.
    Quality has to have an adequate price.
    There are enough sites offering content for free.
    Not everybody is able to or wants to compete with these business models.
    Just my 2 cents (hey, that was cheap!) :)

  • Alex Delderfield (AD-Edge)

    Seems like some people have issues getting off the gravy train!

    The amount of work that would go into a high quality 9-hour tutorial is quite substantial. And just keep in mind that Lee isnt a hobbyist Blender user, he has experience in both the industry working on games, plus a couple of BF projects. So your getting a very valuable perspective with his work, making a ‘production ready’ model, emphasis on production-ready. And as he explained parts 2 & 3 wont be as major anyway, so I think the $60 price-tag is more than justified.

    And Terry you should do more tutorial reviews! Great to get a perspective on these things from a user before buying. :)

  • Anonabus

    You can purchase a book complete with a video tutorial series- Zbrush Digital Sculpting Human Anatomy- for under 40 bucks from amazon that covers similar information to what can found in these videos (judging from the chapter titles) and a lot of the techniques can be applied to blender and sculptris easily(really good book, good reference). Granted its from a larger publisher and it’s probably expensive to produce dvds for a such niche product so you need to recoup those costs somehow (but between getting a dvd and a full color book with a dvd, as a consumer I’m going with the product with more quality content) also charging the same price for the digital copy makes little sense to me, that should be lower since you aren’t sending a physical product with it, maybe 5 or 10 dollars less. It’s great having more training material that relates directly to Blender, but it seems like this dvd covers too little information for the price regardless of the effort that went behind making it.
    It would be nice to see a tutorial series that covers the full creation and rigging of a character(facial, body,etc) for 60-70 dollars in blender.
    Anyways best of luck, I hope it sells well and more tutorial series are made.

  • Gnuren

    Regarding price:
    Quality training from industry pro’s usually cost money. Look at the prices on gnomon workshop for instance.
    Nothing wrong with that IMHO. I for one hope to see the completed series.

    @ Anonabus: You might want to look at the “Johnny Blender” series from David Ward. http://www.blendernation.com/2010/11/16/johnny-blender-2-0-2/
    (although you propably know about this :-) )

  • http://psycho-games.com Pawel

    @Inlite
    Would you work 9 hours for $6000? Or $60.000? Because $60 is the price of ONE item, and I think they will sell a bit more than that :)

  • http://www.youtube.com/onjofilms FloridaJo

    The price seems fair to me. You pay $60 for a nine hour course at the community college and it won’t be nine hours of instruction and if you don’t get it first pass you can’t go back, unlike the DVD.
    I bought the ‘Environment Modeling and Texturing’ and am well satisfied.
    Probably won’t buy this one since I’m not interested in character modeling, but may down the road it there is a dry spell of tutorials.
    I also highly recommend Sebastian’s over at cmiVFX.
    These organized tutorials beat the heck out of a bunch of scattered free ones.

  • blenderking

    I think 60 bucks for a first short is just too much. you may be using a price skimming strategy, in which case i will say all the environmental variables haven’t been considered. You should visit blenderguru and have a look at Andrew Price’s “the big issues survey” It should give you a good start, as far as marketing blender products is concerned. For a niche product like blender, first impressions are very important. Personally, i think the products are of great quality indeed. The guys at cg master surely no the art. but i wouldn’t want to see them giving the impression of an explotative org. You should be looking at developing a long term relationship with the community, hence long term profitability, which is the relatively sustainable alternative.
    This is just the beginning of a brilliant blender peripheral site with a promising future. Trust me, a marketing go like this one would only send the many blender hobbysts looking at other alternatives.
    Great dvds though.

  • pranvir17

    I think the price seems to be fair. Please do not think it as 60$ for just 9 hours. Lee has invested 2 months full time on this project. So a lot of effort has gone into it. Getting training from an industry pro is invaluable.

  • hallowed

    I have both tutorials,I got before the reviews,the thing is more than 40 hours(a regular work week for most)was recorded to make the character,he put more than a full work week into just the modeling and cloth simulation plus more for the production.Who would work 40 hours for a measly 60.00$?I know they will sell more than one but still.However I do think that for a tutorial to cost so much it should not be time lapsed at all,I don’t care how long the actual tutorial takes,time lapsing it to fit 9 hours,and the description makes it seem very easy to follow,it is somewhat easy but is still a challenge to follow because of the time lapse,it is way more time lapsed than what the description says.As somebody that is learning blender and thinking of possibly trying for a career with cg I find the in depth tutorials well worth the price but I feel that for the price more authors should do things the way Johnathan Williamson did with the 2010 training series,I am not a fan of the time lapse in tutorials,if somebody wants to make such a high quality tutorial they should make it as many parts as needed without time lapsing.I would rather have a 40 hour tutorial and be able to follow in real time than having to keep pausing every few seconds Just my opinion.

  • http://www.natecreates.com Nate

    For all those complaining about a $60 – let me guess – you don’t work, make money, or have reached that point in life where food doesn’t arrive miraculously on the table. The scam is those that think they can keep taking without ever giving anything back. There are plenty of free tutorials – and when you’re ready to take the next step up with your modeling skills, you’ll have no problem paying $60×4

  • hallowed

    Well the way I feel is that $60 is well worth supporting the time and effort put into making high quality tutorials,the tutorials are well worth the money,you can’t find free tutorials or not many anyhow that are so in depth and the cgmasters tutorials are the most in depth tutorials I have found for creating an environment or a character,cg artist need to make a living and should be making a good living for that matter.I don’t regret getting either of the tutorials so if any body is worried about the quality and can’t decide if they are worth the investment,they are.Blender is getting to be more accepted and the gained knowledge from the tutorials are invaluable.They are time lapsed but no detail is left out and everything is explained well enough that everybody should get a good result.Plus even with the differences with the newest available beta and the versions that are used with the ninja and environment tutorials are irrelevant,as each tutorial also includes the same beta version of blender that the authors are using so no need to find them if there are changes with blender and you find it difficult to follow,just use the version provided with the tutorial and you should have no problems following,the bonus chapters alone provide enough knowledge to start creating some good models or textures,I hope CG masters and continues to make more.I am not a fan of time lapsed tutorials but everything is explained well enough so no need to worry.The ninja character includes modeling a high quality sword and clothing,and cloth simulation,not just the character,plus some good tips for lighting.