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Frederik Steinmetz & Gottfried Hofmann - The Cycles Encyclopedia (Ebook)


Terry Wallwork reviews the new ebook 'The Cycles Encyclopedia' by Frederik Steinmetz and Gottfried Hofmann.

Terry Wallwork writes:

Good things have been happening in the Blender world recently, specifically the Blender Cycles rendering engine has been getting all manner of improvements and new features.

It is true that Blender Cycles is becoming the render engine of choice for Blender users when they want to do work which looks reasonably photo realistic. The realistic lighting, shadows, caustics, reflections and global illumination almost for free out of the box, makes Blender Cycles much easier to get impressive looking renders from.

It is certainly true that you can do very impressive work with Blender Internal render though you need a greater depth of knowledge to achieve the same level of results as you would get from Blender Cycles.

So in short Blender Cycles has lowered the barrier to entry for impressive render results.

So Blender Cycles seems like a slam dunk, so everyone is using it right?

Well not quite Blender Cycles has two potential issues that you need to evaluate before taking the Blender Cycles route for rendering:

  1. Blender Cycles needs a very powerful modern GPU based graphics card. Specially a CUDA based system from NVidia (OpenCL support from AMD is so bad at the moment it's not practical yet to use OpenCL even though that would be the better system). And even if you have such a card, render times with Blender Cycles for certain types of scene can be very, very long. If you don't have a compatible GPU based card you are stuck with CPU only rendering and this is a good way to gain lots of patience.
  2. Blender Cycles uses completely different methods for creating material shaders for the objects in your scene. Specifically a Node based system. Which unfortunately is not very well documented at the moment. This means a lot of Blender Cycles Node functionality is a mystery to a lot of Blender users.

Frederik Steinmetz & Gottfried Hofmann's "The Cycles Encyclopedia" ebook aims to fix the second problem in the list above.

Product Specifications:

  • Name : The Cycles Encyclopedia
  • Author : Frederik Steinmetz & Gottfried Hofmann
  • Price : $34 (on 29th November 2014)
  • Pages : 152
  • Updates: 6 Months of updates to ebook
  • Format : EBook
  • Website

Now Blenderheads that have been around for a while will know the names Frederik Steinmetz & Gottfried Hofmann as they are two very talented Blender tutors and both BFCT's.

They run which produces English and German Blender tutorials of high quality regularly.

Frederik & Gottfried's Ebook describes all of the Blender Cycles shading nodes, and gives examples of the effects of each node.

Many pictures and diagrams are used to demonstrate the effects on materials of each node. The pictures are large and in full color and very clear. So you will not have any trouble seeing the effects of each node, as described in the book.

I saw a pre-release version of the Ebook (0.8) and it had some minor grammar issues and the occasional missing sections of text which had not yet been written. By the time you read this I think version 1 will have been released and you can expect those issues to have been fixed.

Even with the small unwritten section and the occasional grammar errors, I think this book is currently the best available as far as documenting the Blender Cycles Shader Nodes is concerned.

The topics covered in this Ebook are somewhat advanced so I would say that if you are completely new to Blender or 3D in general you may struggle a little to understand some of the concepts that are explained in the text. I think this book will be more useful to Intermediate/Advanced Blender users.

The price of this Ebook may seem a little high, but remember you do get 6 months of free updates to the Ebook, so it will only get better with time.

Excellent Ebook, if you use Blender Cycles you probably need this book.

Review Score 85%


    • Gottfried Hofmann on

      Since version 0.8, a lot of new material has been added to the book, explaining Cycles from the ground up. Version 1.1, to be released this week, will go even deeper.
      If you buy the book, you will get free updates for 6 months, so version 1.1 will definitely be included.

    • That's not a rational sentiment, really. And honestly, I'm not sure why you're complaining about the price, considering that's just about the average price for a reference book.

      Truth be told, a single book cannot explain all the possible secrets a tool can achieve. What a good book can do is help you understand all the parts of your tool, to understand the general idea behind using them, and share some commonly-used usages of the tool, while leaving it up to you to uncover any "secrets."

      Really, there are no "secrets" to using Cycles--only really clever usage that comes from a complete understanding of your tools at its basic level. Once you understand the parts, the logic between their relationships become clear.

      I think what you're asking for is a book explaining a bunch of "automagic" presets or various defined material setups--ready-made stuff in which you can copy and use, but without really understanding the logic behind them.

      From what I can see from the excerpt, this book explain to you the logic behind the nodes and the physics they represent, and how they interact with other parts. Any "secret" achieved will be done from having a good understanding of how these parts work. Once you know the parts and how they work, the relationships (setups) are all a matter of personal idea.

      Just as there's no brush in Photoshop that's going to be a "secret" that somehow replaces a sound understanding of art, there can be no "secret" of Cycles that somehow replaces a sound understanding of Cycles. You're the secret, once you master all the basic components.

      • Well said, also he makes it sound like $34 is going to break the bank... that is a reasonable price for what they are offering and is worth way more than that in the time it will save you from having to research or figure it out on your own. Looking at the table of contents and sample chapter it looks quite comprehensive.

      • Terry Wallwork wrote: "This means a lot of Blender Cycles Node functionality is a mystery to a lot of Blender users." And I say it would be cool to have all that mystery resolved for such a price.
        I do not use Cycles because its lack of OpenCl rendering, would buy it if it had OpenCl support. I like that particles effects rendering is good and fast on CPU mode, I might have a render farm of 6x Intel LGA775 CPU cores by 2015. :)
        I would buy it because I know Cycles rendering engine is good for animations.And the best is the update system this book offers.

    • With all respect, but the work to create this kind of book is enormous! If one use Blender only as a hobbyist this book could be only an expense. I make money with Blender (I'm a book cover creator and 3d modeller) and, for me, this price is an investment that will allow me increase my Blender skills and make more money.

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