12 June 2013

Tony Mullen's - Mastering Blender 2nd Edition - Ebook review

With the constant publication of Blender books and video training materials that are available to review, it can sometime become difficult to keep track of them all.

I managed to miss reviewing one of Tony Mullen's recent Blender related publications:
For those unaware Tony Mullen is a very experienced Blender user who writes books about topics related to Blender quicker than most people can read them;  The end result of all this writing is that he has amassed large collection of books covering many aspects of Blender.

The list of previous Tony Mullen books that are Blender related:
The content of his previous books have all been very high quality.  As Blender gets updated and new features get added Tony will come out with updated books covering the new features.  This is the case with "Mastering Blender 2nd Edition";  It is an update to the "Mastering Blender" book.

This update was released in December 2012, so this review is roughly 7 or 8 months late.  Luckily although Blender has had lots of new features and changes in the intervening months, the information in the book is for the most part still relevant and accurate.  There are small inconsistency but since this book is aimed at the intermediate Blender user this should not be a problem;  The book covers the 2.6x series of Blender.

Product Specifications:
  • Name : Mastering Blender 2nd Edition
  • Author : Tony Mullen
  • Price : €48 (on 12th June 2013)
  • Pages (Useful) : 630
  • Format : Ebook (DRM Adobe Editions)

Mastering Blender 2nd Edition is a big book, it has to be because it tries to cover most of the major features that Blender has, giving an intermediate level Blender user a good grounding in the use of Blender.  I think this book will be a little hard to follow for a complete Blender beginner so the intermediate tag is appropriate.

The ebook version of this book that I read has full color pictures and they are very clear and numerous.  If you buy the printed book version the pictures are mostly in grayscale but there is a color inset in the book for the pictures which need to be in color to properly interpret them.  All the resources and files used throughout the book are provided on the website.  They downloaded quickly and reliably for me.

The book is split into 5 parts over 16 chapters:

Part I Fundamentals of Blender 3D
  • Chapter 1 Working in Blender
    Data and Data Access
    Improving Your Workflow

  • Chapter 2 Working with Textures and Materials
    Creating UV Textures with Blender and GIMP
    Advanced Materials with Material Nodes
    Transparency and Subsurface Scattering
    Creating Convincing Real-Time Viewport Materials with Material Capture Images

  • Chapter 3 Sculpting and Retopo Workflow
    Sculpting with Blender
    Retopologizing the Mesh
    Normal Map Baking
  • Chapter 4 Rendering and Render Engines
    What Is Rendering?
    Rendering with Cycles
    Rendering with Renderfarm.fi
Part II Physics and Simulations
  • Chapter 5 Getting Flexible with Soft Bodies and Cloth
    The Hard Facts on Soft Bodies
    Force Fields and Collision
  • Chapter 6 Working with Particles
    Introducing Emitter Particles
    Working with Boids
    Hair Particles
  • Chapter 7 Volumetric Fluid, Smoke, and Fire
    Using the Blender Fluid Simulator
    Getting the Shot
    Simulating Smoke and Fire

  • Chapter 8 Bullet Physics and the Blender Game Engine
    Physics in the BGE
    Rigid Body Simulation and F-Curves
    Joints, Ragdolls, and Robots
    Further Resources
Part III Video Post-production in Blender
  • Chapter 9 Compositing with Nodes
    Compositing with Render Layers and Passes
    Pulling a Green Screen Matte with Nodes
    Using the AnimAll Add-on
  • Chapter 10 Advanced 3D/Video Compositing
    Camera Tracking and the Movie Clip Editor
    Setting Up the Scene in 3D
    Masking in the Clip Editor
  • Chapter 11 Working with the Video Sequence Editor
    Introducing the Video Sequence Editor
    Adding Transitions and Compositing in the VSE
    Working with Blender Scenes in the VSE
Part IV Blender-Python
  • Chapter 12 The Blender-Python Interpreter
    Introducing Python
    Understanding the Python Development Environment
    Understanding Python Syntax
  • Chapter 13 Python Scripting for Blender
    Editing and Running Scripts in Blender
    Creating an Interactive Add-on
    Working with Custom Properties
Part V Mastering the Blender Game Engine
  • Chapter 14 Creating Assets for the Blender Game Engine
    Creating Content for the Game Engine
    Setting Up the World
    Getting More Familiar with the BGE Environment
  • Chapter 15 Making Things Happen in the Game Engine
    Working with Logic Bricks
    Using Properties, Messages, and States
    Creating Special Effects with Textures
    Working with Sound in the BGE
  • Chapter 16 Python Power in the Blender Game Engine
    From Logic Bricks to Python
    Python Power for the BGE
    Sound Effects and Multiple Viewports
    Further Resources

    As can be seen from the table of contents list above the range of topics covered is extensive.  All of the chapters are well written and very clear.

    The teaching approach taken in each of the chapters is to explain a particular topic in enough detail for you to follow along and then links are given for you to find even more information if you want to get even more in depth.

    One very nice feature was that at the end of each chapter there are a set of challenges that the book asks you to complete;  These challenges serve to cement your knowledge of the topics just discussed in that chapter.  I found this approach very useful and I think it's a method that serves well in really getting you to understand certain topics.  If you just want to read without doing the challenges you can, the book does not require that you do them to be useful.

    Each of the chapters of the book has information in them that Blender users will find useful and informative.  Standout parts for me were the coverage of materials and textures, Python and Blender Game Engine use.  I liked the  texturing section as it covered methods of creating seamless textures that I had not seen before;  The Python and Blender Game Engine coverage I liked because it's always good when less covered features of Blender are detailed.

    Other topics such as sculpting, baking, retopology and sub-surface scattering are also covered in extensive detail.

    Both the theory side and practical sides of the subjects are covered so if you are completely new to a topic Tony describes what it is and why it is useful.

    Another section that got my interest was the coverage of Blender's Camera Tracking and Movie Clip editor.  I think this is the first time I have seen this feature covered in a book.  It was covered well and will be useful to those who want to get into Camera Tracking.

    There is one major downside to this ebook and that is the DRM (Adobe Digital Editions) that is applied to the ebook.  It is so troublesome that I actually had to find a hacked unencrypted version just to read it on my Linux machine.  So if you are against DRM or not on Windows I would suggest not going for the ebook version and instead buy the paper book instead.  Wiley/Sybex really need to do something about this appalling DRM (just as other publishers have), it harms Tony's book.

    So even though I am late in reviewing this book its content is excellent (even though it is wrapped in DRM stupidity) and still accurate enough to be relevant.  If you are wanting to brush up on you Blender knowledge this book will do the job very well.

    Review Score 85%