03 June 2012

Andy Goralczyk - Creature Factory - DVD Training Video Review

Andreas Goralczyk quiet a while back released a DVD showing his techniques and thoughts on how to make a short movie using Blender.

Months and Months before the DVD was ever actually ready for release, everyone in the Blender world was itching for it. This wasn't surprising as Andreas is to my mind and most other Blender users minds, brilliant, and can force Blender to do the most amazing things. It also helped quiet a lot that Andreas also had a teaser website showing what was in the works and had if memory serves demonstrated the stuff he was working on at some graphics conference (siggraph??). I remember going to some website blog or other and looking at what was proposed and being blown away by what was on show. So the second it because available to preorder in the Blender E-Shop, I ordered my copy.

I can't remember what price it was when I pre-ordered but as of the 27th August 2008, Blender E-Shop has it priced as:
  • DVD training: Creature Factory - Price รข‚¬27.50 (euros)
I thought at the time when I got it that it was a little bit overpriced, but to be honest I expect that because it's in the Blender E-Shop and they have to make some money to help Blender, and it's all in a good cause, so what hell. On actually getting the DVD I changed my mind, given the quality of the material on the DVD it is worth the price.

This shouldn't be surprising as Andreas also has worked on Elephants Dream and Big Buck Bunny, both Blender Open Movies.

Before I get onto the contents of the DVD itself, I have to say that the box and cover material that the DVD came in was really impressive, very slick. The physical DVD looked very well made (not some cheep rewritable). Also it looks to have been properly handled as there were no scratch marks or finger marks on the DVD, which is often not the case with other DVD's i have bought over the internet.

A quick glance at the Credits tab on the DVD reveals an impressive array of people involved in overall production of Creature Factory:

So it was clear to even me that this wasn't going to be the normal a guy with a microphone and desktop recording software job only.

So far so good.

On putting the DVD in the drive and opening the main index page, I was presented with a very slick looking web page. So it appears that as well as being a skilled Blender user Andreas also is very good when it comes to crafting webpages that look nice (and the Credit do say he was responsible for it).

This first introductory page which is displayed is useful because it describes the reasoning behind Creature Factory and also gives a brief description of the various video formats available on the DVD, as well as mentioning that the DVD uses an Open Sourced Flash Video Player called Flowplayer.

I'm a big Open Sourced Software fan so I try to use all Open Sourced software and Os (I use Fedora 9 Linux currently). So it strikes me as strange that the DVD with a very good Open Sourced 3D Modeller (Blender) is proclaiming that having an Open Sourced Flash Player is in some way, something to be proud of. The player itself may be Open Sourced but the Adobe Flash Player isn't (that allows Flowerplayer to work in the first place). So it seems kind of pointless to me. Also the DVD has the OGG versions of the same flash video files, so why they didn't just use an embedded ogg player and supply that software on on the DVD is beyond me. This is even worse because the flash video versions of the files are larger and lesser quality. Whereas the OGG versions are smaller in file size and better in both resolution and quality. It's good they have the OGG versions in the first place but I have to wonder why they even bothered with the Flash versions. It means that for none flash based videos we cannot access those in the same way as we can for flash, the equivalent of Flowplayer for OGG would have been nice, so we to could have embedded OGG videos in the webpage. Admittedly Adobe Flash is available for many computer platforms but why should we have to use it, when there is a perfectly good alternative which gives better quality, and just think with all the saved space from not having flash video files you could of had more high quality material on the DVD?

Anyway the Flash issue aside, the DVD webpage interface is very easy to navigate and is split into a series of 12 clickable sections down the lefthand side of the page, split among 4 category types, each section revealing different information and videos on the various aspects of Creature Factory creation.

The sections are:
  • DVD
    • Index
    • Contents
    • Credits
  • Introduction
    • Prologue
  • Timelapse
    • Creature
    • Environment
    • Shots
  • Tutorials
    • Mesh Tools
    • On Curves
    • Textures
    • Glowlines
    • Sunbeams
A brief description of what is covered in each of the sections above is detailed below:
  • Index - See above
  • Contents - This section describes the resources that are available on the DVD as well as their locations on the DVD, i.e. the Creature models, environment files, textures, sketches, shots, Blender software, etc...
  • Credits - Shows who did what (duh).
  • Prologue - Shows a very swish flash video of a monster that is later shown being modelled. Also serves to show just how bad I am using Blender, because I can't do anything even remotely like it!
  • Creature - This is a time lapsed video showing the creation of the mechanical monster, with Andreas describing the key points during its creation. This is really useful to watch as for the most part things are described clearly. Though this is not a beginners DVD so what is being done is described but generally not how. It is amazing to watch the monster take shape.
  • Environment - This time lapse shows the environment stage that the monster comes out of being modelled and it some respects is more interesting to watch, at least to me as I tend to like the more architectural side of Blenders abilities. It also is voiced over at certain points to explain the why and wherefores of what's going on. Very interesting.
  • Shots - This section has 5 videos. Each going through different stages of shot creation and detailing some of the procedures and tricks for achieving animation and special effects shots. Ranging from character animation to camera positioning and animation, as well as using the compositor.
  • Tutorial - The last section on DVD is slightly different from the rest of the DVD as it goes into more detail than the rest of the DVD, into the nitty gritty basics of how to use certain tools provided by the Blender environment. The rest of the DVD assumes you know what your doing, but this part guides the viewer through a lot of the processes used on the monster to give it the look and feel that it has. I found this section very interesting, though I still had to pay attention to understand it. I do feel that here at least it would of been helpful to have a sign for the less experienced Blender user to start looking at this section first to better understand the other sections.

It is clear to me that massive effort went into making this DVD, and it shows. Some may say that at times it operates at too high at level of skill to be of use to most none genius Blender users but to be fair it never really set out to be a newbie guide. Even so it will be a lot of use to a lot of Blender users. It reminds me a lot of the ManCandy DVD, another very good Training/Faq DVD. Although Creature Factory does seem to be more detailed in it's tutorial side of things, it doesn't cover the rigging of meshes like Mancandy does, so if that is what your after you need Mancandy and Tony Mullen's Introducing Character Animation with Blender book.

Awesome product, worth browsing to the friendly Blender E-Shop store and getting this DVD.

Review Score 80%