22 December 2013

Rob Tuytel - Creating 3D Environments - Unveiling The Old Masters

Rob Tuytel contacted me recently asking me to review one of his newest books "Creating 3D Environments - Unveiling The Old Masters".  I was excited to review this book as Rob is a very talented Blender user.

So talented that he worked on the Blender Foundation Open Movie "Tears Of Steel".  If you watched that movie then you will likely have seen the very distinctive buildings.

This ebook covers creating 3D environments using Blender tools.  The novel thing about Rob's approach is that he tries to model and texture buildings in a style similar to the old Dutch Masters.

Product Specifications:

        The Ebook is full color, all the images in the book are very clear and easy to see.

        This book is not for Blender beginners, it is aimed at Blender users who know how to use Blender tools, specifically, modifiers, uv texturing, cycles node system for example.

        If you have been using Blender for a reasonable amount of time you should be able to gain much from the information in this book, especially if you are interested in creating environment scenes with the old masters compositional styles.

        There are 2 version of the ebook available, one version comes with just the ebook that I am reviewing in this post, the other version comes with this ebook and an extra character pack.  This second version costs more but the character pack could be very useful for people who want to make environmental scenes with Blender but aren't very good at creating their own character models.

        It was mentioned previously that this book is aimed at intermediate level Blender users and the main reason for this is that when Rob explains what he does to achieve his modeling and texturing effects in Blender, he tells you what he doesn't but he doesn't tell you how to do it, you are expected to know.  This has a big advantage that he can cover a lot of ground going over the different aspects of environment creation.

        This books is aimed at Blender users but if you are coming from other software you should be able to convert the information easily enough.

        The book starts with Rob explaining some of his background and the history of the subject he is about to create, he covers some of his favorite painters and what he is inspired by.

        After the discussion on art history the real work starts, he breaks down paintings of old street scenes explaining why they are composed the way they are and how you as a Blender user can use the same techniques to achieve the high quality results in your own work.

        The book then moves on to creating a scene from a painting in Blender.  Although you can try to exactly follow along and make the same sort of picture as Rob uses in his examples, he recommends throughout the book that you instead find your own scene to recreate instead of try to exactly copy him.  He would rather you use his techniques to make your own scene as he says you will learn more;  This on the whole seems to me to make sense and will make reading the book much more fun.

        The street scene he creates is created in stages as he progresses through the book.

        These are just some of street scene elements he covers:
        • Street Foundations (Roads, Bridges, Pavements)
        • Making cobbled roads
        • Bridge and Railings
        • Buildings (Walls, Windows and Doors, Roof)
        • Adding Grime and aging a scene
        • Vegatation (Trees and Bushes, Grass, Moss)
        • Prop Items (smaller Items that appear in a scene)
         At a couple of places in the book he uses another piece of software called "Flora 3D" to do trees and bushes.  This is not open source or cross platform and isn't cheap.  Though Rob also shows ways to make similar objects using Blender's sapling addon.

        Throughout this section of the book when he is creating models and texturing them he uses the same set of tools over and over again to achieve very impressive results in his renders.  It goes to show that you don't need to use Blender's more complex tools to get excellent results.

        Having created and textured all the items in his scene he moves on to the  topic of atmosphere and lighting of the scene.  He covers some of Blender's lighting settings and how changing them can alter the look and feel of your final render.

        Finally that last part of the book goes over the process he goes through when making his own custom 3D environment scenes.  This covers collecting textures, planning how long the scene will take to make, visiting locations for inspiration, rough blocking of scene, modeling, texturing and finally rendering.

        Also especially useful are that throughout the book Rob has links to various videos he has created that show specific topics in greater detail for those who are interested.  They are very good videos and well worth a viewing.

        One interesting point he made was that he likes to finish a scene and then leave it for a while and come back to it so that he can look at it with fresh eye and make any improvements then.  This is a really good idea, don't think I have seen it expressed before in a Blender book.

        One thing to note is that although this book is written in English it is not Rob's native tongue so very occasionally the book can use odd wording, this is not a big issue but something to be aware of.

         So for the most part this is a very interesting and useful book, but do not expect it to hold your hand and explain every little thing to you, you are expected to know your way around Blender.

        Review Score 80%