Character Development in Blender 2.5 – Book Review

Hans B Erickson, the owner of http://www.cgboomer.com sent us his book review of Johnathan Williamson’s “Character Development in Blender 2.5″.

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: Course Technology PTR; 1 edition (June 17, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1435456254
  • ISBN-13: 978-1435456259
  • Shipping Weight: 2.2 pounds

Hans wrote:

This is my first post coming back from vacation. I have been gone for a month visiting my mother that I had not seen for over 20 years. It was sad leaving her after an extended visit but I was pleased when I arrived home to find my pre-order of Johnathan’s new book waiting for me. I hugged my family, unpacked, distributed gifts to the grandkids, and then tore open my long awaited packaged from Amazon.

At first glance the book was much larger than I personally expected. It contained a DVD as well and everything arrived in good condition. When getting ready to study a new educational book I usually start by previewing the table of contents and then reading the first 2-3 paragraphs of every chapter before settling down to read the whole book, which in this case is exactly what I did. I was able to preview the book in one setting and then started to read the whole book the next day. It took me two days to speed read the book and I settled down to write this review. To date I have not followed the examples in Blender but I am very confident that over the next month or two I will be able to handle that quite easily.

First Impressions:

The book, cover to cover, is over 470 pages and appeared to be very detailed. It is broken into 5 sections, contains 16 chapters, and includes a very extensive index (of which I was well pleased). The included sections are

  • Making your way around Blender 2.5
  • Getting comfortable with meshes
  • Modeling the character
  • Lighting and rendering the character and adding materials
  • UV mapping and normal mapping
  • Also included was a DVD that contained source files for chapters 8 -16 (which were for the actual character modeling), video tutorials, and Blender software for 2.57b releases for linux, windows, and OSX.

I was struck by two things doing a quick look.

As I predicted in my pre-release review some time ago Johnathan rarely leaves anything to chance and never assumes the reader knows everything necessary to follow along. If I were a first time user of Blender and for that fact new to CGI software of any kind I would be able to follow along. The book starts with basics and ends with a fully developed character ready for rigging if I wanted. The actual modeling of the character starts with chapter 8 at page 99 with the preceding pages devoted to Blender basics and preparing the work-space for modeling.

The meat of the instruction is found in the book and not the DVD. There is included 6 video tutorials ranging from approximately 10 to 30 min each. These include Box modeling, sculpting, retopologizing, normal map baking, GLSL shading, and posing with rigify. I was VERY pleased with this. The instruction is meant to be a book and not through videos. This format lends me to read and do and not watch and think I know how to do. I may be old fashion but I do believe our culture has been influenced by the “You Tube” phenomena and has abandoned study by reading.
Final Impressions

Although half the chapters are spent in reviewing basics and setting up the work flow for the modeling this only takes up about 20% of the book with the rest devoted to modeling. I did not skip over these parts and found by reading these chapters I was able to reinforce my knowledge and was reminded by things I had either forgotten or didn’t know. I found this refreshing since I firmly believe that any beginner as well as intermediate to advanced user will be able to follow easily.

Every step in modeling was tackled in detail and methodically set forth. I could not find any step that was skipped over or brushed off. Every instruction was clear, detailed, and followed by illustrations. I was impressed on how easy it was to follow the progress in developing the character. Every chapter was well laid out with a beginning, body, and even contained a summary paragraph or two. The writing style was very clear and well laid out.

The illustrations did however present a small problem for me. Although they were comprehensive and timely they were printed dark and some were very hard to read. I should add that the pictures were not unreadable but rather they were printed dark and hopefully if the book gets a reprint the publisher would take greater care in cleaning this up.

Recommendations

I am glad that I pre-ordered this book and was not disappointed in the least. I would find that this release would be advised for the novice to intermediate user without hesitation. The problem with the illustrations being printed too dark is small since they are still readable. For those that did not get in the pre-order should buck up in my estimation and shell out for this release.

I recommend this for anyone that is serious about Blender and wanting to improve their skill sets.


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  • AlekB

    Good review. Well written. Just like the book it sound like.

  • http://OperationMoogle.wordpress.com/ Brian L.

    I’m buying that book as soon as I’m able. I love having this topic in book form. I could use some pointers in rigifying.

  • filip

    The big challenge for printed Blender books is to make readable illustrations.

  • Anthony

    I just ordered it there on Amazon.com for just under €25 (incl delivery). Nice.

  • Alln2themusic

    @Brian L.

    Have you tried BlenRig 4.0 (http://jpbouza.com.ar/wp/tutorials/blenrig4/)

    As far as a rigging system goes in Blender, I found BlenRig was actually easier to setup than Rigify, and produced better results with the fully rigged automatically weighted model. Highly Suggest it………Just like I highly recommend this book. Jonathan is an incredible teacher of Blender and very apparent through all the tutorials over at BlenderCookie.com.

  • Scott Petrovic

    Great review!  I am sold!! This sounds like the perfect book for me. After Blender switched to the new interface in 2.5, I am not completely comfortable yet with where they moved everything. Can’t wait to get it in the mail in the next couple of days. So to clarify, there is nothing with rigging, skinning, or animating? Amazing he spends so many pages on modeling. It must be pretty in-depth. Can’t wait!

  • Wolfram

    Except for a few pages in the appendix (which are not directly connected to the textual contents) all illustrations are B/W only.In my copy the screenshots are not only dark but some are unusable as the contrast is just too low. The author should at least offer  the original colored versions on his website !

    There are a lot of Blender books in full color which illustrate the necessary steps much better. Unless this issue is remedied you should consider twice bying this book.

  • Saulobond

    I want to know how apply outfits and hair to the characters.