03 June 2012

www.cartoonsmart.com - Blender and Second Life - Video Tutorial Review

As mentioned in a previous review, CartoonSmart.com came out with 2 new Blender video tutorials, the first one being "Blender Basics Series 4", and now it's time to take a look at the second offering from CartoonSmart.com, "Blender and Second Life".

Product Specifications:
  • Name: Blender and Second Life
  • Price: $10
  • Type: Video Tutorial
  • Runtime: 2 Hours

It will likely come as no surprise to you given the title that this tutorial covers how to use Blender to integrate with certain features of Second Life, specifically how to use Blenders texturing abilities to create textures which can be used from within the Second Life environment.

For those not familiar with Second Life, it is basically a 3D, almost real-time, interactive environment, where users can chat and buy items for their 3D world and create objects such as clothes and other items which can then be integrated within the world of Second Life.

The tutorial from CartoonSmart is split up into a series of videos covering the following topics:
  • Video 1 - Just the Basics
  • Video 2 - Adding Clothes
  • Video 3 - Skirt
  • Video 4 - Projection Painting
  • Video 5 - Beyond the Basics
  • Video 6 - Super Quick Start
Now I should probably state at this point that I have never and more than likely will never use Second Life. I never got the attraction of using it, even when it was new and hip. So the first question I had was given that I have no interest in Second Life, will there be any point in me having this video tutorial? Thankfully as it turns out, even though I have no use for Second Life, the information contained within this tutorial is still useful to a none Second Life user, though obviously some aspects of the video won't be applicable if you don't use Second Life, the vast majority however will be useful to a Blender user.

So with all that out of the way, let's get down to describing what is in the video tutorials.

Video 1 - Covers the basics of using and interacting with Blender in terms of how to navigate the user interface and interact with objects, as well as describing some of the different modes in which Blender can be operated in. Usefully the process of getting the Second Life Meshes and resources are covered for people who do not want to use the files that are included with the video tutorial. Obviously this video will not be telling long time Blender users very much, but if you are coming from Second Life and just want to use Blender to get something uploaded to Second Life then this section will give enough information for a completely new Blender user coming from Second Life to get started.

Video 2 - This video goes through some of the features and preferences that can be configured within Blender to give a better user experience when it comes to Blender's interface and interaction with it. After getting the configuration details out of the way, the process of describing how to import the Second Life mesh resources and uploading textures to Second Life are demonstrated. This section to me was very clear and I think anyone with even a passing knowledge of Second Life will have no problem understanding what is going on. The OBJ files that come with Second Life seem to have inbuilt UV Maps within them, so at this point in the video only adding textures to the UV Maps is covered. If you have never used Blender UV/Image Editor before it is explained in a clear and concise way. Then after all the textures are applied, the procedure for uploading the modifications to Second Life are carried out and again seems very clear. The end result being that you will now have an avatar within Second Life that has a new pair of Denim Jeans shown on your avatar (assuming you have the Linden Dollars).

Video 3 - This seems to be a slight addition to Video 2, in that it covers how to texture a skirt in Blender for use with Second Life. The exact same process as for the Jeans is used for the skirt so it is somewhat puzzling as to why this was not part of Video 2, still it is a quick video, so is no real chore to watch.

Video 4 - This section is a standout part of the overall video tutorial, in that it covers how to use a very useful feature of Blender called Projection Painting. The video author goes through the steps of setting up projection paint and shows the user how to paint a pair of jeans onto the Second Life base meshes. Even if you are not a Second Life user, if you are interested in one of Blender major features then this projection paint video section is very interesting to watch, as it's not one of the easiest things to setup without being shown how it is done. Also covered is how to do manual unwrapping of UV's and how to individually alter UV Map layout to help with painting of a mesh. It's a bit of a shame that seams do not seem to be covered but, for the most part it does not matter in this tutorial. As a bonus, how to use alpha transparency to create holes within a texture is demonstrated, which is very useful as not a lot of people know about this feature. I really liked this video and found it very informative, this section alone makes it worth the price of the entire tutorial.

Video 5 - This video is somewhat of a grab bag of topics as it covers various subjects. Subjects such as how to remove artifacts from a mesh texture. One of the best parts of this video are the methods described that allow a single continuous mesh to be assigned and partitioned into different sections using Vertex Groups, which then allows much easier texturing. Also covered are the various options of the OBJ importer and how to use them and their affect upon the base Second Life mesh. Although this videos topics may sound confusing I found it very handy and actually learned some new things from it. So well worth a watch.

Video 6 - Is a highspeed run through of how to assign textures to a Second Life mesh, only without all the extra explanations of the previous videos, it intended to be used by people who know how to use Blender and just want a quick run through of the process of getting resources uploaded to Second Life as quickly as possible. Not sure how useful this is given that if it is all you need to get up to speed with textures and Second Life then maybe you would not need the rest of the videos. Still it is small in runtime and someone may find it useful.

So overall an excellent video resource for Blender and Second Life users, especially given the fact that Second Life's native modeling tools don't hold a candle to those provided by Blender. As I have said previously even if you are not a Second Life fan you will find something in this tutorial, especially if you want a detailed demonstration of Projection Painting.

Review Score 80%