03 June 2012

Tony Mullen's - Bounce, Tumble and Splash - Book Review

Tony Mullen's been at it again releasing another Blender book this time on using Particles, Physics, Softbodies, Blender Game Engine and Fluid simulation features in Blender 2.46.

I just finished reading Tony Mullen's most recent book:

A few basic stats about the book:

It is published by Sybex and is part of their Serious Skills range, which also includes another very good book by Mullen on character animation also using Blender.
  • It has roughly 362 pages of useful information.
  • It's pages are slightly larger than A5 size.
  • It costs £20.56 from www.amazon.co.uk (using their pre-order service, it arrived on the 3rd of July 2008) - Price wise this is not too bad given that it is printed in colour.
  • It's pages are in COLOUR!
That last piece of information puts this book into a league of its own as far as printed Blender books go. I have been desperate for the publishers of Blender books to get the message and make all their books in colour. The colour really helps the book get its message across, indeed without it a lot of the pictures within the book would be useless. So Sybex scores points with me on the colour printing.

The title of the book is a big clue as to what topics the books covers. A rough overview of some the subjects of each chapter is listed below:
  • Chapter 1 - Re-creating the World - An Overview
    • Descriptions of various techniques of simulating the real world in Blender, using both Physical and None Physical ways of representing things. A very useful description of Modifiers and how to use them to make various effect are described. I especially liked the techniques to make a spring.
  • Chapter 2 - The Nitty-Gritty on Particles
    • This chapter goes through the various options and setting of Particles and how to use them. Various techniques are shown as to how to make things like smoke and fire and how to use explode. After reading this chapter I had nice understanding of forces and dynamic particles. Even more surprising was the coverage of BOIDS, very interesting.
  • Chapter 3 - Getting Flexible with Soft Bodies and Cloth
    • This chapter goes through the various options and setting of Cloth and Softbody objects. It was a very involved chapter but worth it as it has a real example of how to put clothes on a mesh, and lots of other tips and tricks for using Softbodies and Cloth. Another interesting topic was how to create stress maps which was totally new to me.
  • Chapter 4 - Hair Essentials - The Long and Short of Strand Particles
    • To me this is one of the most important chapters in the whole book. It covers the use of particles to make hair and other strand objects. Going into detail on how to manipulate and control the strands. As well as giving some information on how to use texture and Softbodies to get various effects on stands.
  • Chapter 5 - Making a Splash with Fluids
    • This chapter goes into detail about all things fluid in Blender, from the basics of domain objects all the way up to animating object through fluid and gives various examples of what can be achieved with Blender.
  • Chapter 6 - Bullet Physics and the Blender Game Engine
    • This chapter goes over some of the ways in which the Blender Game Engine can be used for modelling purposes and physical simulations, covers areas such as rigid body simulations and how to make a rag-doll that reacts to physical conditions, among other things. I enjoyed this chapter as easy to understand info on the BGE is hard to come by unless your a code warrior. The book by Allan Brito only covers the BGE briefly and the Official Blender Game Engine book is so out of date it's useless.
  • Chapter 7 - Imitation of Life - Simulating Trees and Plants
    • This is the last chapter and wraps up by demonstrating how to use various external scripts to create real world objects, such as trees and ivy. This chapter was useful in showing how to use these various scripts. Though I could argue it would of been more useful to take the time describing the use of these scripts and instead direct it towards describing more of Blenders internal features instead.
Another point worth mentioning is that this book is not officially a basics book, as it is assumed that you know the basics of how to use the Blender interface and how to do really simple things like add and manipulate basic objects. So if it's the basics you are after then you really need a basics book such as "Essential Blender" or make your way to wiki.blender.org or one of the many other Blender tutorial sites.

I personally am not some Blender guru and I didn't have any problem keeping up with the book, Mullen's use of pictures and mostly clear explanation of what the various bit of Blender do and can achieve were clear to me. So although it is true to say this is not a basics book it is by no means hardcore, a Blender newbie should be able to read this book and get something from it.

To my mind, BTS can be seen as part of a companion set with Mullen's other book:
This does not mean that you need to have read ICAB for BTS to be useful, but there are times in the BTS text where certain topics are not covered and the reader is referred to Mullen's other book. These don't happen very often and even when it did, it didn't stop me in my tracks so I doubt it would stop anyone else.

Another nice quality I liked about this book is how good the proof reading/error checking must of been, as I found very few things that I would call mistakes and for a book this detailed it is a very good achievement.

Only occasionally were things not explained in the detail I would of liked. This happened very rarely and for the most part when a button or option was used it was explained.

Every Blender user should probably have this book. It's for now at least the most complete source of information on Blender physics and particles (until the wiki.blender.org wiki catches up).

The information on keyed particles, BOIDS and hair are reasonably hard to come by and information on how to use them with all their new features as brought to you in Blender 2.46 is even harder still to come by.

It's not what I would call the complete bible of everything as regards Blender physics, hair and fluids but it's the best there is at the moment and it's going to be hard to beat unless someone decided to publish an 800 to 1500 page bible book on Blender (ala Blender Guide 2.3 for Blender 2.47 or something like that, which I can't see happening).

QUE and Packt publishing I dare say will be watching with interest and wondering how they are going to beat this book. As for now at least this is the books to beat.

Review Score 89%