03 June 2012

Nathan Vegdahls Blender Massive Mammoth Masterclass Rigging Videos 1 and 2 - Training Video Review

A while back cmivfx.com released a new Blender video training tutorial on the rigging of a mammoth model previously created by Sebastian K├Ânig. Those that saw the previous tutorials from Sebastian will know that they were of excellent quality and really well produced. Now the mammoth has moved on to the next stage in the production work flow, that of Rigging.

Rigging is the process of taking a model mesh and adding mechanisms which enable it to be animated and deformed more easily by an animator, so that a mesh does not have to be manipulated directly.

Product Specifications:
  • Name: Blender Massive Mammoth Masterclass: Rigging Videos 1 & 2
  • Author: Nathan Vegdahl
  • Price: $59.95 (23 June 2011)
  • Type: Training Videos (Streaming)
  • Length: 3 Hours 29 Mins and 2 Hours 48 Mins
This time however the Rigging stage is carried out by Nathan Vegdahl, an excellent Blender user and rigger. He has worked on many of the Blender open movies, so his qualifications are excellent.

I purchased both of the available training videos in a bundle from the cmivfx site. You can purchase the videos separately if you wish to.

These training videos are for intermediate to advanced Blender users. You will be expected to have a good grasp of Blender and how to navigate your way around it and its features. Nathan does take time to explain all the concepts that he uses in the 2 videos as far as rigging goes, but even so given the level of Blender user these videos are aimed at he does move along at a very fast pace. So if you're rusty with rigging and weighting you may need to go back and re-watch certain parts of the videos to make sense of them.

I found that I had to go through certain parts of the videos multiple times before they started to click for me. Though I think if I could understand it, it should not be difficult for your average Blender user to get to grips with.

The first training video covers setting up Blender's armature system. Covering such things as deform bones, control bones, constraints, drivers and modifiers and various other things. In short the first video covers the setup and design of the mammoth skeleton system.

This first skeleton design techniques were very clever and resulted in an extremely flexible and efficient bone setup. The coverage of how to use control bones, ik/fk drivers was very informative to me. I felt I learned a lot even if it did take some effort to keep up with Nathan.

Once the skeleton of the mammoth has been created, video 2 takes over, this time covering the topics of weighting the mesh of the mammoth to the bones of the skeleton created previously in the 1st video.

Nathan takes a slightly different approach to weight painting the mammoth mesh to the bones by using a technique he terms "Segment Weighting", which I have never seen used in Blender before but it definitely seems very effective to me, so was well worth learning about.

After the weighting of the bones to the mesh has been carried out, Nathan move on to creation of test poses of the mammoth which are used throughout the video to test for problems with deformations. Nathan uses a very good technique to spot deformation problems with a mesh by using something he calls Cross Sectional weighting. Using this technique he directly alters vertex group weighting rather than using Blender Weight Painting tools. While this may seem strange and slightly complicated it turns out to be very useful for the more complex deformations in a model such as the mammoth.

After the major deformations had been weighted Nathan then shows how to do the smaller but just as important deformation tidy-ups using Shape Keys and Corrective Shape Keys. Which take the deformations from good quality to excellent quality and really make the difference. Nathan also shows how to use Shape Keys to control face deformations in a very clear and easy to understand way.

This was a short review given the amount of information and techniques packed into these videos. As far as I can tell everything you could need to know to produce top quality rigged results are in these videos. It is all well narrated and broken up into manageable sections and the videos are very well encoded and very clear.

Excellent videos, using unique techniques which to me at least seemed very effective.

Well worth getting, it will be interesting to see if Nathan does other tutorial videos.

Review Score 93%