03 June 2012

Sebastian Koenig - Blender Organic Modeling - Mammoth - Streaming Video Review

cmiVFX.com is a training site for the graphical and visual effects, covering many systems and platforms.

cmiVFX delivers most of its content in the form of streaming video which can be purchased and watched online. The system requires the use of flash player for the videos to be viewable.

I was debating with myself as to weather I should review this site or not for a number of reasons. The first being that the streaming videos are only available for viewing online (as far as I can tell). Which means that you constantly have to be connected to the internet with a good broadband connection to see the videos that you purchased.

Obviously this is fine so long as you are connected and do have a fast connection. Unfortunately I don't have a particularly great connection speed so therefore would have benefited greatly from a downloadable version of the purchased video so I could watch offline. The second reason is partially related to the first in that the streaming technology they use seems not to allow hitting the pause button when I first starting a video stream so as to allow my connection to buffer more of the video before it starts to play to prevent skipping and buffering. This really annoys me as it is completely inconsiderate. After all I paid for the content I should really be able to press pause and have more of the video download to my machine before I start the video again. Third would be the fact that I really think the video formats should always be in open formats such as ogg and not be tied to having to use some sort of flash based system.

From the above it should be clear why I was mostly against reviewing these videos. However, this was all before Sebastian Koenig decided he wanted to put some tutorials of his on the cmiVFX.com site. I mean really this is Sebastian, he does things with Blender that reach the levels of massively awesome (do a search on google for Sebastian Koenig Fly to see what I mean).

Sebastian's tutorial covers the stages involved in creating a realistic model of a mammoth, all starting from a cube.
  • Product Specifications:
  • Price : $49.95 (on 5th of Aug 2009)
  • Video Run Length : Roughly 5 hours
  • Format : Streaming Video

The first thing I noted (just before purchasing it) was the price. At $49.95 it is a fairly expensive video tutorial. Yes it is 5 hours but still it does seem rather expensive to me. Even more so given the other complaints mentioned above.

Issues with price aside, the video tutorials quality is very good in both terms of content and viewing quality (almost no fuzziness or pixellation artifacts). It is not a beginners tutorial though, you are really expected to know your way around Blender and be a reasonably good modeler. This is not surprising as the range of topics covered within the tutorial is quiet broad.

Very helpfully Sebastian clearly describes what he is doing throughout the video and I had no problems understanding what he was saying with his accent (German I think) but then I am English. So if you have a problem with accents this could be something to keep in mind. Unfortunately there are no on screen key press displays in the video, though Sebastian almost always describes what all the keys are that he is using.

The video covers all the stages involved in creating and modelling the mammoth from setting up a background image, using the grease pencil, box modelling, poly to poly modelling, subsurfacing, weight painting, using array modifiers, sculpting and such things. Extensive use of proportional editing is also gone through and even though this is not a beginners tutorial Sebastian does spend some time going through some of the basics for those advanced modellers coming from other modelling environments.

So all in all the videos are excellent and the informational content is extremely good (not surprising given what Sebastian can do). And just on the content of what he teaches I would have to rate the video very highly.

However the system that Sebastian is hosting his videos upon just makes me uncomfortable. If you are ok with a completely locked in system where you can't download the videos you legitimately purchased and can be sure to be connected to the net all the time and have an always quick connection, then you will be ok. The videos that are streamed are very clear and the interface is reasonably clear and doesn't take up too much screen space.

Taking into account the issues I have, I think it only fair to give 2 review scores one on just Sebastians tutorial and another review score of cmiVFX.com video delivery system.

I can only hope that Sebastian finds a better system for delivering his videos as they are excellent, or that cmiVFX comes up with a better more user friendly video delivery system.

Sebastian Review 90% (tutorial awesome information packed)
cmiVFX Review 50% (delivery system stinks)