03 June 2012

George Maestri - Blender 2.6 Essential Training - Training Video

It recently got very busy here and I have 2 reviews of Blender based training products to review. The product reviewed in this article is:

Product Specifications:
  • Name: Blender 2.6 - Essential Training
  • Author: George Maestri
  • Price: $25 (Monthly Subs)
  • Type: Online Streaming Video
  • Runtime : 7 Hrs 26 Mins
This is an online steaming training video course covering the basics of using Blender 2.6. It was authored by George Maestri, who I haven't heard of before, but he narrates very well and appears to be reasonably good with Blender. The website that hosts this training material is lynda.com, who are a large and popular educational training site. They have a combination of subscription models as well as being able to purchase training DVD directly. Currently this product is not available as a DVD, so it can only be purchased by having a subscription to the lynda.com site.

The videos in this course are aimed squarely at the beginning Blender 2.6 user. Each short training video is designed to explain the basics of one particular specific feature of Blender very quickly to get the watcher up to speed as quickly as possible.

Tutorial Listing:
     Welcome                                             01m 22s
     Using the exercise files                            00m 28s
     Downloading Blender                                 00m 34s
     Using Blender on a Mac                              00m 42s
     Using Blender on a laptop                           00m 36s
 1. The Blender Interface
     Overview of the Blender interface                   06m 06s
     Understanding 3D view windows                       05m 23s
     Navigating in 3D space                              06m 35s
     Configuring user preferences                        06m 24s
     Creating custom layouts                             06m 04s
 2. Selecting and Translating Objects
     Selecting objects                                   06m 12s
     Moving objects                                      04m 35s
     Rotating objects                                    02m 48s
     Scaling objects                                     02m 16s
     Understanding transform orientation                 03m 53s
     Changing an object's origin                         05m 27s
     Selecting pivot points                              03m 22s
     Using Snap to move objects precisely                03m 56s
 3. Modeling
     Creating mesh primitives                            06m 36s
     Selecting vertices, edges, and faces                04m 48s
     Editing mesh objects                                07m 39s
     Proportional editing                                03m 52s
     Sculpt mode                                         04m 45s
     Working with edges and edge loops                   03m 42s
     Extrusions                                          05m 18s
     Smooth shading objects                              02m 23s
     Subdividing meshes                                  05m 12s
 4. Advanced Modeling
     Working with modifiers                              05m 52s
     Working with subdivision surfaces                   03m 48s
     Creating a simple creature                          07m 54s
     Symmetrical modeling with the Mirror modifier       08m 21s
     Joining mesh objects                                03m 37s
     Stitching vertices                                  04m 52s
     Finalizing a simple creature                        04m 48s
     Creating text                                       03m 29s
     Boolean tools                                       02m 59s
     Vertex groups                                       04m 51s
 5. Staying Organized
     Using the Outliner                                  08m 22s
     Using layers                                        04m 30s
     Creating groups                                     02m 48s
     Working with scenes                                 04m 02s
     Creating hierarchies                                02m 54s
 6. Applying Materials
     Assigning materials to objects                      08m 04s
     Diffuse shaders                                     06m 47s
     Working with specularity                            05m 56s
     Using the Ramp Shader options                       09m 45s
     Additional shading options                          02m 37s
     Creating reflections                                08m 29s
     Adding transparency and refractions                 06m 49s
     Subsurface scattering                               05m 59s
 7. Adding Textures
     Adding a simple texture                             06m 11s
     Using bitmaps                                       06m 53s
     Mapping textures in the UV Editor                   08m 28s
     Using UV projections                                05m 56s
     UV mapping a character                              06m 11s
     Fine-tuning UV mapping                              06m 07s
     Creating Bump and Normal maps                       03m 15s
     Displacement mapping                                03m 48s
     Using the Node Editor                               04m 59s
 8. Working with Light
     Adding lamps to a scene                             08m 44s
     Fine-tuning ray-trace shadows                       04m 32s
     Using spot lamps                                    04m 20s
     Fine-tuning buffer shadows                          06m 19s
     Using Hemi lamps                                    02m 32s
     Working with Area lamps                             05m 17s
     Creating sky and ambient light                      04m 49s
     Adding background images                            03m 19s
     Creating sunlight                                   06m 06s
     Ambient occlusion                                   07m 11s
 9. Cameras and Rendering
     Working with cameras                                04m 47s
     Creating camera targets with constraints            03m 43s
     Render properties                                   05m 07s
     Rendering animation                                 05m 13s
     Adding motion blur                                  04m 10s
     Creating depth of field                             07m 08s
 10. Basic Animation
     Understanding the Timeline                          04m 03s
     Animating objects                                   06m 26s
     Animating properties                                04m 00s
     Editing animation in the Graph Editor               08m 36s
     Using the Dope Sheet                                04m 53s
     Path animation                                      04m 32s
 11. Character Rigging
     Facial animation using shape keys                   04m 40s
     Understanding armatures                             06m 02s
     Fitting an armature to a creature                   07m 23s
     Deforming a character with an armature              03m 49s
     Setting up inverse kinematics                       03m 53s
     Controlling the hips and body                       02m 01s
     Animating in Pose mode                              02m 47s
     Creating a test animation                           09m 24s
     Goodbye                                             00m 15s

While you won't become a Blender expert with these video the numerous amount of videos are extremely well produced and for the most part explained very well by the author.

All the exercise files which the course references throughout the videos are available as part of the course and indicated clearly when you need to reference theme. Though I found that I did not need to reference the exercise files as the author explained what he was doing on screen for each different video.

With the short runtimes of each of the videos this has enabled the author to pack in a lot of different bits of information and tips and trick when using Blender various features. So although you won't get in depth information from the videos you will get most of the major salient pieces of information and techniques you will need to get going in Blender.

There are a few small mistakes and omissions in the course as a whole, but they are small not really important (mostly terminology issues and not mentioning certain often used features). The one thing that I would really like to have been included in the tutorials was coverage of Weight Painting for armature attachment. Armature attachment was covered but only by using Parenting and automatic methods. Please also be aware that Cycles is not covered in this course because when it was released Cycles was not available in Blender, but Blender's internal render engines is still plenty powerful enough and flexible for most things regardless of what all the Cycles acolytes say!.

So if you are a beginner and you want to get the basics of Blender down as quickly as possible this is a good well narrated online course that will do well. The biggest major downside for me is that at the moment the product cannot be purchased without subscribing. This may change in time and they may release a DVD product that does not require subscribing (they have done this with other Blender products).

Review Score 70%