03 June 2012

Jonathan Williamson - Vehicle Modeling Series - Gyrocopter - Tutorial Video Review

Now that Blender has sort of stablized, there are a fair few websites whose purpose in life is to produce Blender tutorials and videos. One of the better such sites is www.blendercookie.com, a very slick website with very high quality video tutorials and tips videos. Most of the content on their sites are free to view, so you get a very good idea of the overall quality of the materials they produce. Along with their free materials there is also paid content.

One such example of their paid content is the recently released "Vechicle Modeling Series - Gyrocopter" created by Jonathan Williamson. Jonathan is very experienced Blender user and 3D modeler and is well known in the Blender community, so you can expect a very high level of modeling skill to be presented within this video tutorial.

The basic premise of the video tutorials is to model a futurist vehicle called a Gyrocopter, using concept art drawn by David Revoy, who is also very well known within the Blender community for his spectacular painting and drawing abilities.

Product Specifications:
  • Name: Vehicle Modeling Series - Gyrocopter
  • Author: Jonathan Williamson
  • Price: $48 Download $56 with DVD (16th Apr 2011)
  • Type: Downloadable Video Tutorial
  • Length: 15 Hours Roughly
Since I pre-ordered this series, I downloaded the videos from Blender Cookie website. I didn't have any real problems downloading the content, it downloaded reliably for me. Be warned though that if you have a slow connection it is going to take a while to download the entire contents. If you do have a slow connection and don't want to have to deal with downloadable videos you can also purchase a DVD version. The DVD has identical content to the downloadable videos.

Video Sections:
  • Chapter 1 Part 1 - Introduction (Length 00:02:24)
  • Chapter 1 Part 2 - Setting Up Modeling Sheets (Length 00:05:45)
  • Chapter 1 Part 3 - Creating Basic Shapes (Length 00:24:30)
  • Chapter 1 Part 4 - Refining The Silhouette (Length 00:19:22)
  • Chapter 1 Part 5 - Separating The Pieces (Length 00:08:00)
  • Chapter 2 Part 1 - Blocking The Front Section (Length 00:32:07)
  • Chapter 2 Part 2 - Blocking The Mid-Section (Length 00:48:15)
  • Chapter 2 Part 3 - Blocking The Wings (Length 00:42:36)
  • Chapter 2 Part 4 - Blocking The Rear and Tail Sections (Length 00:55:26)
  • Chapter 3 Part 1 - Detailing The Cockpit Windshield (Length 00:26:17)
  • Chapter 3 Part 2 - Detailing The Nose (Length 00:51:08)
  • Chapter 3 Part 3 - Detailing The Nose (Length 00:18:33)
  • Chapter 3 Part 4 - Detailing The Bottom (Length 01:02:41)
  • Chapter 3 Part 5 - Detailing The Bottom (Length 01:01:40)
  • Chapter 4 Part 1 - Creating The Paneling (Length 00:36:41)
  • Chapter 4 Part 2 - Creating The Paneling (Length 00:43:16)
  • Chapter 4 Part 3 - Modeling The Engine (Length 00:52:12)
  • Chapter 4 Part 4 - Modeling The Engine (Length 00:55:04)
  • Chapter 4 Part 5 - Modeling The Engine (Length 00:56:09)
  • Chapter 5 Part 1 - Detailing The Wing Paneling (Length 00:43:58)
  • Chapter 5 Part 2 - Detailing Between The Wings (Length 00:57:45)
  • Chapter 5 Part 3 - Detailing The Propellers (Length 00:34:10)
  • Chapter 6 Part 1 - Modeling The Front Of The Tail (Length 00:34:45)
  • Chapter 6 Part 2 - Modeling The Middle Of The Tail (Length 00:25:28)
  • Chapter 6 Part 3 - Modeling The Tail Fin (Length 00:28:16)
  • Chapter 7 Part 1 - Blocking The Interior (Length 00:16:37)
  • Chapter 7 Part 2 - Detailing The Interior (Length 00:22:05)
After I had completed downloading the video files, I set about watching them, and with 15 hours of material to watch either make sure to have a very comfy chair or take breaks.

The first thing I noticed was that they were very well encoded (mp4 format) and produced. The videos were very clear to watch and Jonathan spoke very clearly. This really helps with video tutorials, having a good clear narrator really makes following and understanding the videos so much easier. Everything Jonathan did or was about to do is described to the user, as were the reasons he was doing a particular task in the way he was. This is what happens throughout all the videos, everything is narrated and explained, as far as modeling of the Gyrocopters mesh geometry is concerned.

The tutorials start with the basics of using Blender 2.5x by doing the rough modeling of the Gyrocopter using Blenders basic features. As the rough model of the Gyrocopters parts is completed, Jonathan then moves on to detailing the rough models parts in a higher level of detail, slowly building up the level of detail that is evident within the Gyrocopter model.

Even though Jonathan is a very skilled modeler he doesn't tend to use any hard to understand features of Blender, just the basics of vertex manipulations, curves, a few modifiers and basic materials, so even though the end result of the video tutorials is a very advanced model, the techniques used to produce it, should be easily understandable by a beginning Blender user. The intermediate Blender user should be able to learn something from Jonathans use of edge flows and overall use of good geometry techniques and how to deal with large vertex count models such as the Gyrocopter. The Gyrocopter is modeled cleanly with good edge flows and doesn't just look nice visually but is also of a high quality from a geometry point of view (in my opinion).

The videos are split into 27 parts, the longest video hovers around the 1 hour mark, so none of them are too long. This makes watching the video much easier, having them split up into manageable chucks certainly made it easier for me to keep track of what was happening and made taking breaks easier to get the ideas expressed in this tutorial clear in my head.

As well as the tutorial videos, also supplied are the blend files at different stages of the Gyrocopters production throughout the modeling process. As is the David Revoy concept artwork the Gyrocopter is modeled from. These are extremely informative and are a great way for the more experienced Blender user to get quickly up to speed on how a particular thing was modeled, if you do not want to watch all the videos. The David Revoy concept art and model sheets are just gorgeous to look at and also come in very useful if you want to follow along with the video tutorial.

Only basic material properties are covered, such as making different parts of the Gyrocopter model different colors to make them stand out better. Texturing, Lighting, and Compositing is not covered, but if what you want is an excellent tutorial on mesh modeling this is an excellent tutorial. I really do hope they follow up with a Texturing/Lighting and Compositing tutorial in the same level of detail as they did for the modeling side of things.

All in all Excellent Tutorial, well worth the money and really well produced. Well worth adding to your collection of Blender resources.

Review Score 90%