03 September 2012

Pablo Vazquez - Venoms Lab 2 - Training DVD Review

I recently got myself a copy of Pablo Vazquez's "Venoms Lab 2" DVD, and since I had some spare time I decided to give it a look and see what I thought of it.

Product Specifications:
  • Name : Venom's Lab 2
  • Author : Pablo Vazquez
  • Price : €27.50 (on 3rd Sept 2012)
  • Runtime : 213 Minutes
  • Format : DVD Training Video

For those of you with good memories you will know that Pablo Vazquez previously had done an earlier version of Venoms Lab, but that was for older versions of Blender 2.4x.  This new Venoms Lab 2 DVD is a complete rewrite, this time for the most current version of Blender 2.63+.

Pablo Vazquez has created many different training products for Blender and is a very experienced Blender user, he has worked on many of Blender's Open Movie Projects, so he knows what he is doing.

Another impressive thing about this training DVD is that is that it is multi-language because it supports both English and EspaƱol.

This time around with Venoms Lab 2, Pablo goes over the process of planning, modeling, sculpting, texturing and adding fur to a Guanaco which is a small Camelid (you even get to learn new words!) like creature.

The training DVD presents all its videos inside of a web browser interface, but also allows you to play the videos from within a more advanced player such as VLC.  VLC is provided on the DVD, as are versions of Blender and all the extras, textures and Blend files needed to examine how the Guanaco was created, as well as the Blend files which are used to create the official trailer.  So pretty much all the resources you could need to follow along with the tutorials are provided.

The first videos on the DVD go over the basics of planning and preparation.  It explains in a clear way how you approach a project such as this  one and the ways in which you can make your work flow as efficient as possible, so as to avoid problems.

Once the theoretical discussions are out of the way Pablo begins to model the basic Guanaco creature.  He explains what he is doing and the keys he is pressing and why he is doing what he is,  all in a clear and concise way.

Pablo breaks up the modeling of the different parts of the Guanaco creature and goes over the process of modeling each different part.  For each part he first goes slowly and describes in detail the techniques he uses and then speeds up the videos so you are not watching him push vertices around, when an important stage is reached he puts the video back into realtime mode and explains what he is doing and why it is important.

If you have at least a tiny bit of familiarity with Blender you should not really have any problems following what he is doing, though if you have never used Blender before, you may have to click the rewind button once are twice to see what he is doing.

After the modeling is completed Pablo goes over how to use sculpting to add extra details to the model, such as creases, as well as baking normals to add even more detail while not increasing mesh geometry sizes.  The coverage of the available options for sculpting is very good and a lot of the lesser used options and described.  You won't be a sculpting expert after having seen the sculpting video but you will have a good grasp of the major sculpting options and methods.

The next section of the DVD covers how to use Blender's particle system to create hair and fur on the Guanaco creature.  This is probably the most advanced section of videos on the DVD and you really do have to be paying attention to see everything that is going on.  It packs in a lot of information, you will learn a lot of clever things in this section.  The coverage of weight painting is very clear and Pablo takes a good deal of time explaining how to use it effectively.  It really is a very good example of how to use Blender with multiple particle systems to create very impressive looking fur effects.

Once the application of fur has been completed Pablo moves on to texturing his creation to give it more realistic colouring.  Blender's UV Texturing tools are covered as is Texture Painting, all from inside Blender.  Good explanations of UV Unwrapping are covered as are UV Creases for more accurate unwrapping.  Also covered is Live Unwrapping with Pinning, a feature you don't often see explained in any great detail.

The final part of the DVD covers rigging.  It's included as a bonus addon section of videos.  Unlike the rest of the videos, these videos are created by Nathan Vegdahl, an amazing rigger who has made his own rigging DVD's for the Blender Foundation.  If you have Nathan Vegdahl's Humane Rigging DVD then you will recognise these videos, as they are from that DVD.  Although the information contained in these videos is not specific to the Guanaco creature they are still very useful as a way to rig that creature.

Note that this DVD does not cover the Blender Cycles render materials system, as Cycles does not yet have support for fur/hair, only Blenders Internal material system is covered.

So, all in all, this is a good DVD, very well produced and well explained, great update to Blender 2.6x.

Review Score 80%