24 May 2016

Chris Plush - Weapons Volume 1 – Modeling - CGMasters Video Training Course

For those that are hard core Blenderheads you will likely know about CG Masters.  They are a Blender based studio that has produced many high quality Blender training courses.  I have reviewed many of their products before and all of them have been of exceptionally high quality and worth cost and time that it takes to watch them all.

A long while back I was contacted by Chris Plush of CG Masters and asked if I would like to review his latest course.  I agreed, but unfortunately I had issues which resulted in it taking me a long time in getting around to watching the course so that I could review it.  I have now been able to get enough spare time to watch all of the course.  You won't be surprised to learn that just like all their other products this one is of the same high standard.

Product Specifications:

          This time around the course covers the modeling of a bolt action rifle with telescopic site and other relevant parts of the rifle.

          I have not reviewed many weapon modeling tutorials so it was a refreshing change for me.

          I am not a fan of guns but I know a lot of Blender modelers are so having a high quality course on the topic will be a welcome addition to the Blender educational environment.  Even if you are not a gun nut you will still find this course very useful as it shows you many ways to go about tackling how to model surfaces which have properties of hard surface modeling but also have lots of organically curved surfaces, with holes and screws scattered throughout the model of the gun.

          Along with the first volume of this course Chris will be releasing a series of free tutorials covering texturing for the rifle.

          I reviewed the downloadable version of the course which consists of almost  7 gigabytes of file data.  So you will need a reasonably fast connection to download all the files.  I had no problem, but if you have a slightly unreliable connection then I would recommend the DVD version of the course.

          Once all the files were downloaded and extracted you are left with a folder which contains all the files to follow along and watch the course.

          You can view and access all the content of the course in your web browser or you can go directly to the video and resource directories to access them using whatever software you want to use.

          The reference images that are used to model the rifle are included as is the completed model which is released under creative commons license.

          The course I would say is easy enough to follow for a Blender beginner, so seems to me to be open to all even those with almost no experience of Blender use.

          The most important part of the course are the video files.  They are very well made and encoded, very clear viewing and good sound with Chris's narration.  There are 23 video files split into 2 sections.

          The first section of videos cover the basics of setting up and using Blender and also covers some of the basic tools used throughout the course.  Section 1 will be very useful to new Blender users and will allow them to understand what is described in later parts of the course.  Of particular impressive note to me was the explanation of various modeling terminology.

          Chris uses the bevel modifier extensively through the course and he has a very good description of some of the most important options.

          There are some simple basics videos covering how fix certain issues caused by the bevel modifier.  Even an intermediate Blender user should find some of the information in those videos very useful.

          With the overview and basic tutorials out of the way Section 2 videos cover the main process of creating the parts of the gun model.

          Chris covers the preliminaries of setting up reference images in Blender.  Chris uses images assigned to planes rather than Blender background image feature.  This gives Chris a lot more flexibility, I especially liked the tip of offsetting the planes so that you can see the various reference points of the images.  As was putting the reference planes on their own layer so that they cannot be accidentally altered.

          From this point on in the course the various parts of the gun are modeled:
          • Gun Barrel
          • Gun Bolt
          • Gun Stock
          • Gun Receiver
          • Small details (screws etc.)
          • Gun Sight
          • Gun Magazine
          • Gun Butt
          • Gun Telescopic Scope
          • Scope Mounts
          While modeling the parts of the gun various tools are used and some clever techniques to accurately preserve curved surfaces with Blender's vertex projection tool is covered.

          Because a gun is a combination of curved and flat surfaces the different techniques for hard surface and curved surfaces modeling are covered completely.  Chris is very adept at modeling with both methods.  While modeling the gun occasionally there are times when Chris had to create parts of the gun with triangular faces but these places are few in number and only in places where the model is flat and so will not be affected by the triangles.  Chris does get rid of a lot of the triangles and shows various techniques to do that.

          Modeling a curved surface is often a taxing thing to do when modeling an object but Chris demonstrates some clever techniques using the Lattice Deform Modifier to create curved surfaces without having to do it manually.

          Chris can model holes both manually and using the Boolean Modifier.  Generally the Boolean Modifier is looked down upon by modelers but if you know what you are doing it can be a very effective tool for creating holes in a model.  Chris clearly demonstrates this while progressing with the modeling of the various gun parts.

          Together with an extensive use of the Edge Split Modifier is also demonstrated showing you have to control the sharpness of edges so they are not affected by the Bevel Modifier.

          Another useful tip from Chris was the use of Camera Clip Start value to enable you to zoom very close in on a model so as to prevent zooming through the mesh of the model.

          As well as the clear narration from Chris at a few points throughout the videos are various popup notes which explains certain features and changes for Blender.  These are very handy.

          One of Blender's newer features that Chris explained was CTRL+SHIFT+R feature which makes two edge loops which surround a central loop.  This is a real time saver.

          Since a lot of the time the same processes are carried out repeatedly Chris but these parts of the videos are put into time lapse mode so as not to waste time watching something you know how to do already.

          When modeling screws and bolts of the gun the Blender Bolt addon is used.  This is a very quick way of making screws and this addon is very useful.

          After all the major  parts of the gun have been modeled the final part of the course goes into final tidying up of the model.  One thing that I found very useful was the use of Matcaps to make it easier to see if a model has any shading issues caused by bad mesh geometry.  Switching on Matcap did show some issues and Chris goes over how to fix those issues.

          If you are interested in guns or if you are interested in learning how to do hard/flat surface modeling as well as curved surface modeling, you will get a lot from the course.  I know that a lot of people will be turned off by the model of the gun and would either have liked a different object to have been modeled or for the gun to be more futuristic so it was more interesting to look at.  Remember though that it is the techniques of modeling that are demonstrated that are important in this course not the actual object.

          Well worth the money, I can't wait to see the free shading tutorials as well.

          Review Score 85%