03 June 2012

Christopher Plush - Environment Modeling and Texturing - Tutorial Video Review

Recently a new Blender 2.5 training website come into existance, www.cgmasters.net. Run by Lee Salvemini and Christopher Plush, both extremely talented, professional Blender users with lots of experience in big budget productions (Sintel, Yo-Frankie to name just a few of the ones Blender users will know about).

They currently have 2 Blender products available on their website. In this review I will be reviewing their Environment Modeling and Texturing Tutorial Video.

Product Specifications:
  • Name: Environment Modeling and Texturing
  • Author: Christopher Plush
  • Price: $60 (18 Dec 2010)
  • Type: Downloadable Tutorial Video
  • Length: 14 Hours Roughly
There are two versions of this tutorial video, one comes on a physical DVD and the other is in downloadable form, both are the same price and have exactly the same content. I purchased the downloadable version, it's a very large download, so if you don't have a very fast internet connection I would recommend getting the DVD version.

Once the files are downloaded you can extract their contents and open the files in your web browser. I was using Firefox and running on a Fedora Linux system and everything worked very well for me.

With the tutorial page open you are presented with 12 video sections:
  • Chapter 01 - Tool Overview
  • Chapter 02 - Modeling the Base Environment
  • Chapter 03 - Unwrapping the Environment
  • Chapter 04 - Environment Destruction
  • Chapter 05 - More Construction
  • Chapter 06 - Environment Texturing and Materials
  • Chapter 07 - More Texturing and Details
  • Chapter 08 - Making the Props
  • Chapter 09 - Lighting and World Settings
  • Chapter 10 - Light Maps
  • Chapter 11 - Final Details
  • Chapter 12 - Post Processing Filters and FX
Each video can be played in the embedded flash player presented on the webpage, and here is the first minor problem I encountered. For some reason the flash video player plays the videos at a lower resolution than they are actually encoded at. As a result if you use the flash player that's embedded in the webpage to play the videos at fullscreen they are very unclear to view. Fortunately it is possible to play the full higher resolution versions of the videos and when you do they are very well encoded and very easy to view.

Each video is a combination of realtime video viewing and time lapse viewing of the texturing and modeling process's involved. Nothing is skipped and everything is recorded in minute detail.

Each tutorial video builds on the previous one, resulting in construction of a very detailed interior barn scene. Which includes creating and texturing all the props contained inside the barn as well as the barn structure itself. The barn is modeled so that it can be used within the Blender Game Engine, but even if you have no interest in the Blender Game Engine at all, the techniques that are demonstrated will allow a modeler to create very detailed looking models, that are very low poly and very memory efficient.

By the time you have finished watching all the videos, you will have seen very good demonstrations of modeling and texturing techniques of a professional level, and you will be able to bake every kind of normal, texture and shadow map known to man and follow along in creating all the items!

The website says that the tutorial videos are aimed at a Intermediate level Blender user, though I feel that everything is explained so well and clearly when needed that even a Blender beginner would be able to get something from these videos. If you are an Intermediate Blender user you will probably also pick up a lot of new tricks and techniques.

Another slight issue I have with the tutorials, is that there is a lot of use of Photoshop and an NVIDIA Normal Map generator. It would have been nice if Gimp and a Gimp Normal Map Generator had been used, as they are open source and obviously available to many more users, and are just as powerful. Fortunately you can pretty much do all the stuff shown in Photoshop in Gimp and the NVIDIA Normal Map generator can be replaced by the Gimp equivalent. So that is why I say it's a very small issue. If you want to use Gimp you can.

I feel their website really undersells the amount of content covered in the videos, their website really would benefit from having a more detailed table of content as to exactly what objects, props and texture are created, the chapter list really doesn't contain enough detail. Still that's the kind of surprise I like, getting more than I was expecting.

These tutorials are very detailed, of a high quality level and are well worth the price in my opinion, if you are interested in game environment creation or just want to use some of the relevant techniques for memory efficient modeling this is a must have Video tutorial.

I will certainly put www.cgmaster.net on my list of sites to keep an eye on! Can't wait to see what they come up with next.

Review Score 89%