03 June 2012

www.cartoonsmart.com - Blender Basics Series 2 & 3 - Video Tutorial Review

On my weekly browse through all things Blender, I heard that www.cartoonsmart.com had released 2 more Blender Basics video series tutorials, which brings their current Blender offerings to 3 different series, each covering different areas and features of Blender 3D modelling.

The current packages they now have on sale are:
  • Blender Basics 1 - Learn the Essentials & Create a 3D Character - 2 hours - Price $15
  • Blender Basics 2 - Learn To Setup a Scene: Modelling, Texturing & Rigging - 4 hours - Price $20
  • Blender Basics 3 - Learn ALL About 3D Animation! - 3 hours - Price $20
  • Blender Basics Package - All 3 Blender Basics Packages - Price $40

I had previously reviewed the Blender Basics 1 video tutorials so I will leave you to see the previous older article to see what I thought of that. Which was basically it wasn't awful but they could of done a heck of a lot better.

Blender Basics 2 - Guides the users through creating a mouse trap using various modelling techniques. Paths, Bezier curves and various other topics are covered, on the whole it seems to be a pretty good overview of most of the major modelling processes. One thing that particularly caught my eye was its mention of numerical keyboard input to allow positioning and creation of mesh elements.

How to use Material and Textures is also explained as well as what UV textures are and how to use them. The screw and spin tools are explained and used to make a bobbin of thread. Which is a very handy area to know. A block of cheese is also modelled and then Boolean Modifiers are used to punch out holes in it. Although the boolean modifiers are very useful here, I think the tutorial should maybe of covered some of the downsides of using booleans such as poly count increases and the fact that it can screw up sub-surfacing.

After having a bobbin and mouse trap created, things move onto using the mouse made previously in the Blender Basics 1 video tutorial. Shown is how to import the mouse and add an Armature and then skin it. This then enables the posing of the mouse and that is shown also.

All this eventually leads up to making a self contained scene with a basic movie set constructed and textures applied, with the mouse, mouse trap and bobbin all brought into the scene and the mouse is posed and rendered.

Blender Basics 3 - This 3rd series focuses on the basic animation features of Blender.

To start with, a simple camera animation with a logo on screen is created, showing the use of keyframing.

One thing I did find very useful was the covering of the K key for showing the location of keyed objects in the 3D view. This onion skinning feature is very, very useful and not covered that often.

After the basic animation is completed, the video goes back to the mouse trap and animates it. At this point the author of the video could of done with editing the video or pausing it and fixing a bug he encountered with the Preview Render function. Still this is minor, it's annoying as Blender has a method of altering and post processing videos called "Video Sequence Editor". So it is strange that the strange pauses and snafus are left in the video.

Motion Blur is covered in the final animation of the mouse trap and the benefits/drawbacks of Motion blur are explained.

With the mouse trap out of the way and animated, the tutorial video moves onto the mouse again and shows how to animate it and give it a walk cycle. Also covered are the uses of the Action Editor and the NLA editor, in combination with the IPO editor to tweak the final animation. The Offset bone is explained which is very useful for doing continuous walk cycles where the character is not just walking on the spot. And finally IK Solvers Modifiers are covered as are constraints.

All in all series 2 and 3 of the Blender Basics videos are well paced and cover most of the things a basic Blender user would want to know, as well as some of the less well known options and features of Blender. I would have preferred a few extras such as bump and normal mapping in more detail and the baking of them for use on lower poly models. The other pet peeve is that the movies are in .mov format and this is very annoying, .ogg theora would of been better.

Also looking at the prices in relation to how long each of the video's lasts it is strange that you seem to be paying significantly more for Blender Basics 2 vs Blender Basic 3, I am not sure why this is but I think it should be fixed.

Here is hoping there are more of the www.cartoonsmart.com series maybe covering more advanced things or in more depth. Worth keeping an eye on, as on the whole it has improved in quality in comparison to Blender Basics 1. Obviously for people who are only just coming to the Blender Basics videos it makes sense to get the combo pack of videos, but there are lot of places where you can get all of what Blender Basics covers and a whole lot more for free from various places, but if you want simplicity this will work.

Review Score 65%