03 June 2012

Roland Hess - Tradigital Blender 2.5 - Book Review

In the Blender world of books and training video tutorials, there are very few training aides that are specifically targeted towards teaching the theory and practical sides of animation using Blender as the specific tool to teach with.
This situation has been remedied somewhat with the release of Roland Hess's new book titled "Tradigital Blender" by publishers Focal Press. A book that covers the topics of animation and how to do it using the tools and features that Blender provides.

Blender user's will recognize the name as Mr Hess has produced many different books and video training courses in the past relating to Blender.

Product Specifications:
  • Name: Tradigital Blender
  • Author: Roland Hess
  • Price: $44.96 (1st Aug 2011)
  • Type: Book
  • Pages: 312
It's important to point out that this book is very specialized in what it teaches, it covers animation using Blender. No mesh modeling, rigging, or texturing subjects are covered. This book is for animators and animation.

On opening the book the first thing I noticed was the excellent quality of the pages, they are all glossy and in full color. This is amazing for a book of this price and really shows what can be done when publishers are not being tight fisted and trying to save some money on production costs. It really helps this book, everything is crystal clear and easy to see on the pages.

At the start of the book the approach taken is to first describe the 12 Principles of Animations and the theory behind those principles. Clear and precise examples are given to help in clearing up exactly what each of the 12 principles mean and why they are so important when it comes to giving life to your animations. This is especially important as the 12 principles are used throughout the other parts of the book as the guiding and interweaving principles upon which the rest of the book is based.

After the theory, the practical side of the 12 principles are implemented using Blender. This is achieved by describing the various tools at the disposal of the Blender animator. All the major tools such as Graph Editor, NLA Editor, Dope Sheet and Action Editor are covered in extensive depth, as is how to use these tools to their fullest to achieve the animation results needed.

Along with the detailed descriptions of how to use Blenders tools, other more structural and production workflow oriented topics are covered. Such as story boarding, animatics and how to structure these stages so as to be most efficient with your time while creating your animations. Mr Hess goes into great detail on the advantages and disadvantages of the different methods and approaches available to someone working on producing an animated work.

The two major methods of animating are covered, those being pose to pose and straight ahead. For the most part the book uses pose to pose animation techniques to form keyposes and then nearer the end of the book uses straight ahead to finish off the animation. The discussion as to why and when to use the two different animation methods was clearly explained and gave a good informational base to make a decision on, as to which method you should use when you are animating.

As well as describing the tools and techniques of animation within Blender the book also takes the reader through the steps of actually making a finished animation of a couple of Blender character models which are provided on the companion website that partners this book. I found the instructions to create the animated scene reasonable easy to follow, though even for a short animation like this one it sometimes became hard to follow along. If you do though you end up having all the salient points of animation both described to you in theory and fleshed out in practice with a finished animation. If you decide that you don't want to follow along with the book, that is fine also as it is able to stand with just the theory and explanations of how things would work if you were using Blender.

The only problems I found were with the companion website in that some files were missing or were the wrong files when downloaded, and the IK/FK switch from the demonstration files seems not to work on more recent versions of Blender. These were only minor issues though and turned out to not have too much of an impact, though it would be useful to have the IK/FK switches fixed in the demo files.

Excellent book, really well produced, teaches both theory and practice of animation in Blender. You need some patience to follow the book but if you do I think it will be very rewarding and very educational to the aspiring Blender animator.

Review Score 90%