03 June 2012

Jeremy Birn's - Digital Lighting and Rendering 2nd Edition - My Overall Impression

I put it off for a longer time than I really should have, but I finally got around to reading one of the most well known rending and lighting books (for digital renderer) there is, that book being:
  • Jeremy Birn's - Digital Lighting and Rendering 2nd. Edition

Now no one can claim that I don't get around to things eventually (if albeit 2 years late).

This book was first published in 2006. So if you're wondering why I am waiting until now to read it, the answer is simply that I had a whole series of other things I was reading or doing at the time. So I Just never got around to it in a timely manner.

That's not to say I didn't know of the book. Even before I got to read this 2nd book, I had heard of the 1st edition, and everyone said that was a very good book. So it was no surprise to me that when the 2nd version of this book came out people were very complimentary about it.

Now that I have read and digested this second edition, I can see why it got all the glowing praise that it did. It is one of the clearest books I have ever read when it comes to explaining the methods, features and processes within the digital world, as regards lighting and rendering.

Within the first couple of chapters of the book I knew what certain features in the Blender interface were for that I had never been able to figure out before (even though this book is not Blender specific). A lot of the harder to understand topics and features of most renderers are explained. Such as the various forms of lighting and Ambient Occlusion and its uses, to various processes and tricks used when using the compositor.

The section on Ambient Occlusion and Image Based Lighting were some of the clearest and easy to understand that I have read, as were the sections on Shadow maps and the various settings used with them. I was surprised by how much attention was given to achieving various affects without having to resort to using raytracing. In fact one of the major points of the books is that raytracing often does not need to be used and in a lot of cases can't be, because of excessive speed penalties.

Another really detailed and useful section of the book covered the various ways in which you can use Layering and compositional techniques to make management of projects easier. I especially liked the coverage of Depth Maps and how they are used (Z Depth Maps).

The range of topics this book covers in the field of Rendering and Lighting are too broad to go to in anyone article unless I wanted to make it 200 pages long, but it is going to be hard to find a book as good as this in covering some of the less well known topics of lighting and rendering.

If there is criticism I could make of the book, it is that it would have been nice to have had more coverage of texturing/shading tasks, but that would make the book a lot bigger and in the end the title of the book isn't Digital Lighting, Rendering and Texturing/Shading. It is just to me if it had the texturing side it would be a one stop shop book. Oh well you can't have everything.

Chapter 12 was an interesting section of the book also in that it went through how things are produced in both animation houses and special effects places and the difference between the 2 places for a Lighting and Rendering person, as well as describing the various job types and entry points into the industry for a student. Handy information to know.

Like I said the various sections of the book are not modeller specific and can be read by anyone using any brand of modeller.

I know that I'm not wiz when it comes to Blender, so some people may not be overly impressed with the topics covered in this book, but for me it was well worth a read, I learned a fair bit from it, it's well written style and clear pictures really helped in explaining things. I think that even advanced Blender users could probably learn the odd thing or 2 from this book, if not at least refresh their memory.

Here is a run down of the table of content pages to give a broader idea of the topics covered:
  • Chapter One. Fundamentals of Lighting Design
    • Motivation
    • Cheating
    • Visual Goals of Lighting Design
    • Lighting Challenges
    • Your Workspace
    • Creative Control
  • Chapter Two. Lighting Basics and Good Practices
    • Starting Points
    • Types of Lights
    • Controls and Options
    • Lighting in Production
    • Exercises
  • Chapter Three. Shadows and Occlusion
    • The Visual Functions of Shadows
    • Which Lights Need Shadows?
    • Shadow Color
    • Shadow Size and Perspective
    • Shadow Algorithms
    • Hard and Soft Shadows
    • Occlusion
    • Faking Shadows
    • Conclusions
    • Exercises
  • Chapter Four. Lighting Environments and Architecture
    • Daylight
    • Night Scenes
    • Practical Lights
    • Lighting Windows
    • Simulating Indirect Light
    • Global Illumination
    • Ambient Occlusion
    • Exercises
  • Chapter Five. Lighting Creatures, Characters, and Animation
    • Modeling with Light
    • Three-Point Lighting
    • Functions of Lights
    • Issues in Lighting Character Animation
    • Exercises
  • Chapter Six. Cameras and Exposure
    • Understanding F-Stops and Depth of Field
    • Frame Rates
    • Realistic Motion Blur
    • Film Speed
    • Photographic Exposure
    • Matching Lens Imperfections
    • Exercises
  • Chapter Seven. Composition and Staging
    • Types of Shots
    • Camera Angles
    • Improving Your Composition
    • Framing for Film and Video
    • Exercises
  • Chapter Eight. The Art and Science of Color
    • Color Mixing
    • Color Schemes
    • Color Balance
    • Understanding RGB Color
    • Digital Color
    • Exercises
  • Chapter Nine. Shaders and Rendering Algorithms
    • Shading Surfaces
    • Anti-Aliasing
    • Raytracing
    • Reyes Algorithms
    • Z-Buffer Rendering
    • Scanline Rendering
    • GPU-Accelerated and Hardware Rendering
    • Exercises
  • Chapter Ten. Designing and Assigning Textures
    • Types of Texture Mapping
    • Photographic Textures
    • Stylized Textures
    • Texture Map Resolution
    • Alignment Strategies
    • Procedural Textures
    • Looks Development
    • Exercises
  • Chapter Eleven. Rendering Passes and Compositing
    • Rendering in Layers
    • Alpha Channel Issues
    • Rendering in Passes
    • Lighting in the Composite
    • Matching Live-Action Background Plates
    • Exercises
  • Chapter Twelve. Production Pipelines and Professional Practices
    • Production Pipelines
    • Getting Work Approved
Excellent book, should probably be on every ones bookshelf (which it may well be given how long it has taken me to get around to reading it), even if it is a little late in arriving at mine. What makes this book even more compelling is the fact that a quick search of amazon doesn't reveal many other books that cover the topics covered in this books. Though I really only did a simple search.