03 June 2012

Jonathan Williamson - Chracter Development In Blender 2.5 - Book Review

I have been a little busy lately and it has been a while since my last Blender book review, and since I didn't want to put of my review of Jonathan Williamson's newest book "Character Development In Blender 2.5", I decided I would put the hammer down and make some time to read through his book, I was glad I made time.

Those of you who have been wandering around in the world of Blender for any length of time will no doubt recognize the name, as Jonathan is one of the people that produces such great video tutorials at www.blendercookie.com.

This is not the first time I have reviewed tutorials from Jonathan, he also previously did excellent video tutorials on character modeling.

This time around instead of tutorial video Jonathan has produced a book covering some of the techniques and tools required to create a character mesh which can then be used in the later stages of a workflow pipeline (texturing, rigging, compositing, etc.

Product Specifications:
  • Name: Character Development In Blender 2.5
  • Author: Jonathan Williamson
  • Price: $26.77 (26 Sept 2011)
  • Type: Book
  • Pages: 496
The book has a broad audience, if you are a complete Blender beginner you will be able to pick it up and follow along with ease, and if your an intermediate level Blender user you will find topics covered that will be of interest to you also.

The start of the book covers the very basics of Blender and it's interface and spends a good deal of time explaining the fundamental features of Blender as well as general concepts of 3D and 3D modeling for those completely new to 3D. After the basics of Blender's interface are covered the books quickly picks up pace and keeps up the fast moving descriptions throughout the book.

The second part of the book is a rundown of some of the most important features of Blender that will be used throughout the rest of the book. Here we get simple and clear explanations of Blender's various mesh features, what modifiers are and how to use them. Also covered in this section of the book are Blender's Sculpting tools. The descriptions and examples used to describe how a user can use sculpting is one of the clearest I have come across especially in a printed book. The sculpting chapter to me is one of the stand out chapters, worth the price of the book alone. So often in printed books it can be difficult to properly describe the effect of the various tools used while sculpting but Jonathan does an excellent job.

One of the ways he manages this is by use of many, many pictures. This greatly helps when trying to interpret instructions given in the book and greatly speeds up how quickly things can be described to the reader. On the whole the quality of the pictures is very good and rarely did I have any problems figuring out what I was supposed to be doing, though there were occasional times when I had to go back and take a longer look at the pictures to see what I was supposed to do, this happened very rarely. The combination of clear textual descriptions and a vast number of pictures made things easy to follow. The only criticism I have as far as the pictures in the book go is that it would have helped a lot if they had all been in color, but for the most part this did not matter.

After the tools that are going to be used have been described the book then moves on to its third part, construction of your character. This third part forms the majority of the rest of the book. Topics such as making a block/rough character to later use to make the more detailed version of the character are covered. Both organic modeling in terms of the female character and her cloths are covered, as is hard body modeling for items such as jewelry and weaponry. So weather you prefer to do hard of sort body modeling both are covered. Sculpting introduced earlier in the book used extensively and Jonathan really shows the power it has in giving extra detail to a model.

The model that is created throughout the book is one that was created in concept art by David Revoy another well known Blender artist. As ever David's concept art is really great and helps make modeling the character described in the book easier. All the support files for both the finally created character and David's concept art are all provided on the DVD and can be downloaded from the books website.

One thing that probably should be made clear is that Jonathan explains something once earlier in the book and then expects you to remember what he said, you will get told how to carryout particular tasks once, then you are expected to use what he explained previously in later parts of the book. This is helped greatly by referring the reader back to various sections of the book, and the multitude of pictures. Because Jonathan doesn't repeat himself you tend to get a lot done in a short amount of time. There is very little in the way of press this button click, that key, unless it hasn't been explained before in which case Jonathan goes over the particular keys and their functionality.

After the majority of the character modeling tasks have been completed Jonathan runs through some extra steps to make the resulting render even more useful, covering both lighting and rendering settings. A section I really liked from this part of the book was the discussion and demonstration of how to use the Retopology feature that Blender provides. Very few people take the time to properly explain its usage, at least in books, as this is often easier to show in video form, Jonathan manages it well.

For the final part of the book Jonathan covers UV Unwrapping and how to apply Normal Map Baking to the finished character. UV Unwrapping was clearly explained as was baking Normal Maps. Just like the rest of the book there are numerous pictures to help keep things clear.

Given that books are a textual medium in can be difficult to describe and demonstrate certain features of Blender, Jonathan has seen this potential problem and has also provided a collection of videos on the DVD and also they are available on the books website. The videos go into more detail about specific topics covered in the book. These videos would be worth the price of the book alone, they are very informative, and if you find the book's text moves to quickly for you these videos should really help.

Excellent book well worth adding to your collection especially if you are a beginner or intermediate level Blender user, or you are a bit rusty with your character modeling skills.

Review Score 80%