03 June 2012

Lee Salvemini - Ninja Character Creation Volume 1 - Modeling - Tutorial Video Review

I recently reviewed a product from www.cgmasters.net called Environment Modeling and Texturing, and I was very impressed with it. It was just before Christmas so I decided to wait before reviewing the other product they had until after Christmas. Unfortunately Christmas sailed by and it slipped my mind that I had planned to do another review. I put this down to having too many mince pies, all the sugar must have scrambled my memory. Luckily the people at cgmasters have better memories than I, or at the very least a better tolerance of sugar, because they sent me a copy of the product I was going to review: "Ninja Character Creation Volume 1". So sometimes it pays to forget.

Product Specifications:
  • Name: Ninja Character Creation Volume 1 - Modeling
  • Author: Lee Salvemini
  • Price: $60 (23 Jan 2010)
  • Type: Downloadable Tutorial Video
  • Length: 9 Hours 25 Min Roughly
Like the other video tutorial cgmasters did, this Ninja Character Creation tutorial video is available in 2 forms, as a physical DVD and as downloadable content. I downloaded the files of the tutorial and although a very large download that will take a while even on highspeed connections, the download was reliable and highspeed. Your mileage may vary with large downloads such as this, so if you are not sure go with the DVD. Both the downloadable files and the DVD have identical content.

It is important to note that this is Volume 1 of a proposed 4 Volume set of video tutorials. The 1st volume covers all the processes involved in modeling a ninja character from the ground up at least as far as creating and modeling its mesh geometry. The other aspects of making a production ready character, texturing, rigging and animating will be covered in future volumes.

The video tutorials are viewable either through a web browser interface that indexes and describes the videos available or you can view the video files directly using whatever media player you want so long as it supports mp4 video file format (vlc is provided). The visual encoding quality of the videos is very high so you should not have any problems at all viewing the videos and seeing what is being done in the videos. Throughout the tutorials important keyboard shortcuts are displayed on screen so it was always possible to find out what was being pressed on the keyboard. Lee also talks almost constantly throughout the videos describing what he is doing and why, making it very easy to follow. Another helpful thing was that periodically time stamped blender file names would be displayed on screen indicating that the Blender file for that time position in the video tutorial is provided in the files, great time saver if you don't want to follow along with every step.

The videos are split among 14 Chapters, most of the chapters split into multiple parts, making it easier to take in all the information in more manageable chunks, the longest part of a video is 37 minutes, so finding the time to work your way through the all the videos should be easier.

Chapter Sections:
  • Bonus Chapter 1 - Welcome to Blender 2.5 - (Runtime 14Min 55Sec)
  • Bonus Chapter 2 - Mesh Editing And Edge Loops - (Runtime 21Min 43Sec)
  • Chapter 1 - The Face - (Runtime 30Min 58Sec)
  • Chapter 2 - Part 1 - Blocking The Mask - (Runtime 24Min 15Sec)
  • Chapter 2 - Part 2 - Detailing The Mask - (Runtime 21Min 15Sec)
  • Chapter 2 - Part 3 - Mask Tie - (Runtime 15Min 25Sec)
  • Chapter 2 - Part 4 - Modeling Hair - (Runtime 6Min 11Sec)
  • Chapter 3 - Part 1 - Modeling The Torso - (Runtime 24Min 34Sec)
  • Chapter 3 - Part 2 - Detailing The Torso - (Runtime 15Min 52Sec)
  • Chapter 4 - Modeling The Arms - (Runtime 19Min 4Sec)
  • Chapter 5 - Modeling The Hands - (Runtime 37Min 36Sec)
  • Chapter 6 - Part 1 - Modeling The Lower Body - (Runtime 24Min 31Sec)
  • Chapter 6 - Part 2 - Detailing The Lower Body - (Runtime 17Min 50Sec)
  • Chapter 7 - Modeling The Tabi - (Runtime 21Min 36Sec)
  • Chapter 8 - Modeling The Crest - (Runtime 22Min)
  • Chapter 9 - Part 1 - Upper Body Clips - (Runtime 19Min 48Sec)
  • Chapter 9 - Part 2 - Shoulder Armor - (Runtime 7Min 39Sec)
  • Chapter 9 - Part 3 - Modeling The Goggles - (Runtime 15Min 50Sec)
  • Chapter 9 - Part 4 - Placing Goggles & Strap - (Runtime 15Min 9Sec)
  • Chapter 10 - Part 1 - Belt Buckle & Pockets - (Runtime 16Min 5Sec)
  • Chapter 10 - Part 2 - Modeling The Sai - (Runtime 19Min 15Sec)
  • Chapter 11 - Part 1 - Modeling Of Swords - (Runtime 25Min 23Sec)
  • Chapter 11 - Part 2 - Modeling The Sheath - (Runtime 22Min 52Sec)
  • Chapter 12 - Posing The Character - (Runtime 21Min 56Sec)
  • Chapter 13 - Cloth Simulation - (Runtime 22Min 33Sec)
  • Chapter 14 - Part 1 - Platform/Materials/Lights/Camera - (Runtime 28Min 8Sec)
  • Chapter 14 - Part 2 - Compositing In The Node Editor - (Runtime 23Min 56Sec)
Having watched all the videos, they are extremely well produced and very easy to follow. Obviously the main focus of the video tutorials is that of mesh modeling, but other topics are covered which aides in the usefulness of the tutorials as a whole. Specifically I found it very useful to have cloth simulation techniques covered as well as ways to pose a model without having to use armatures. Another highlight for me were the 2 Bonus chapters which covered using Blender 2.5 and using various techniques to manipulate meshs, edges and edge loops. They were small chapters but useful. The description of "Loop Derailing" was very informative and it's a new term to me so I will have to add it to my list, it is a very nice technique for faking creases and stretching of mesh geometry. Also the coverage of how to use "Diamond Quads" and Quads shaped like triangles were peppered throughout all the videos and showed just how useful they can be.

The general approach Lee takes to teaching each section is to first start with a less detailed aspect of a model and then in the second part of a tutorial add progressively more and more detail. This technique works very well and at least for me made the tutorials easy to follow.

Personally I think that these tutorials will be of use to almost anyone with an interest in getting skilled at mesh modeling. Beginning Blender users should be able to follow along, while intermediate level Blender users will see some very good examples of how to model a mesh at a professional level and learn some very advanced tricks (weight painting the solidify modifier to alter its effect on the ninja goggles for example).

It is worth remembering that this is only volume 1 of what will be a 4 volume set, if the other volumes are as detailed as this one, I think it will be something to look forward to. At $60 dollars it's not a cheap tutorial but I think it's worth the price. I don't know what the prices of volumes 2 through 4 will be but if they are up to the quality standard of this volume they should be worth it. Now we just have to wait and see how long we have to wait for the next volume in this series.

In summation, great tutorial, well worth the money, cgmasters pulls another one out of the hat, go buy it!

Review Score 85%