03 June 2012

www.montagestudio.org - Introduction to Character Creation Part 1 - Video Tutorial Review

Well another couple of days pass and another company releases another video tutorial for Blender, this time it's www.montagestudio.org.

They bring a new video tutorial titled:

Introduction to Character Creation - Part 1

The video tutorial is aimed at the new Blender user, it's aim being, to guide the new user through some of the basic modelling features of Blender, to allow them to model a very basic character using some of the basic modelling tools.

This is the 3rd video tutorial from www.montagestudio.org, they seem to have 3 products so far, those being:
  • Training DVD 1 - Modeling the Female Head - Length 2 Hours 30 Min - Price $30
  • Training DVD 2 - Modeling the Female Body - Length 4 Hours - Price $45
  • Training DVD 3 - Introduction to Character Creation - Part 1 - Length 3 Hours - Price $30
I have yet to review DVDs 1 and 2, as when they first came out there didn't seem to be a way to purchase them using PayPal, this has changed so hopefully I will be able to get round to checking them out.

Anyway what did I think of the 3rd DVD?

Well the first thing i have to make clear is that I am a PC based Linux user running Blender 2.46 (the latest version of Blender as of 2 July 2008). So it came as something as a surprise to me when I had finally downloaded the 700meg+ zip file, and on opening it, finding that it had some strange file layout and directories for MACOSX.

What this basically means is that if you were to try and burn these files to a DVD and expect it to launch you would be in for a bit of a shock unless you happen to be a MAC user. It really should of been packaged in either a simpler way with just the videos in the zip file or done in such a way as to allow both MAC and PC users to burn the DVD correctly. Luckily I have been using Linux and computers long enough to figure out how to search the directories on the DVD and surmise what directory to go to, and what files to click to get the tutorial video's to launch. To someone who is not computer savvy (like say most artists that may be using Blender) this could be a problem, if they are PC users, as they may not know they can just navigate to the web based video launching interface or just open the videos directly.

The web based interface was very clean, and organised the individual video sections nicely. Though some of the video sections were very small in Length, so it could be argued that some of them would of been better suited if they had been combined together, to give a less bitty feel.

The issue above is minor, but more serious was that fact that the movies were encoded in .MOV format; this is not an open sourced format and as a result a lot of Linux users will not be able to open this format and keep their machines clear of patented CODECs. There really is no excuse for not using OGG Theora as the encoding standard for all videos for use with Blender. Every platform has drivers/support for OGG available, and given that Blender is open sourced, video tutorials for it really should be also. This kind of laziness is really annoying.

Another issue with the video is that none of the key strokes are highlighted or displayed on screen; this is a feature that almost all video tutorials have now, and this video really should include this feature as it is very useful to the total Blender newbie. Another slightly strange issue is that the author of the video seems to switch between different release versions of Blender and use none standard defaults when he is doing the video. This shows itself in the fact that icons are none standard and the version moniker at the top of the video for Blender has a habit of changing.

Perhaps a more serious issue is that the video has View Names turned on for the 3D view port, this is not default in Blender, yet it is never explained how to activate this feature. You really should expect these sort of basic mistakes to be spotted and fixed before the video was published. It may not matter for an experienced Blender user, but for a newbie it could be confusing, and they don't need more confusing.

Also, although open to argument, I do think that the price for this tutorial video is a little too high given it's length, some may disagree, but I do think the prices should be lowered or the tutorials made a longer length. Some of the video sections also appear to be encoded badly, because some have noticeable lower quality audio output. While this doesn't affect the tutorial, it shows lack of checking, which if it carries on throughout the rest of the series could be a problem as things get more complicated and advanced.

Even given the issues noted above, this is still a video that a Blender newbie could find useful. Though the price and the fact that you can find all the stuff covered in the video for free and in better quality in a lot of places does work against it.

Here is a short list of each of the sections of the tutorial:
  • Chapter 1 - First Steps in Blender - 01 Getting Started - Length 5m 44sec
  • Chapter 1 - Interface - 02 Windows Types - Length 14m 46sec
  • Chapter 1 - Objects - 03 Manipulating Objects in 3D - Length 10m 21sec
  • Chapter 1 - Modeling Tools - 04 Modifing Meshes - 17m 09sec
  • Chapter 1 - Modeling Types - 05 Different Working Styles - 7m 33sec
  • Chapter 1 - Modifier Stack - 06 Non-Destructive Editing - 7m 44sec
  • Chapter 2 - Conquering the Cube - 01 - References - 4m 40sec
  • Chapter 2 - Conquering the Cube - 02 - Basic Form - 16m 27sec
  • Chapter 2 - Conquering the Cube - 03 - Refining the Mesh - 20m 45sec
  • Chapter 2 - Conquering the Cube - 04 - Hand - 17min 50sec
  • Chapter 2 - Conquering the Cube - 05 - Hat - 5min 01sec
  • Chapter 2 - Conquering the Cube - 06 - Final - 13min 17sec
I feel there isn't much point giving a detailed review of each chapter as the video is so basic that it will just be listing the obvious things, so I won't do a chapter review.

On the whole I think this video tutorial does what it sets out to, though it is very limited in what it actually sets out to do in the first place. Here is hoping the follow up parts of this video tutorial follow quickly.

Review Score 60%