I was recently contacted by No Starch Press. They asked me to review Ben Simonds new book, Blender Master Class.
Ben Simonds is a well respected member of the Blender community as well as the co-director at Gecko Animation Limited. Since Ben often uses Blender in the animations produced by Gecko Animation Limited as well as for personal projects, he has considerable experience both with Blender and project completion. Knowing that, I was pretty sure that this was going to be a good book filled with interesting tips on his work flow and techniques in Blender.
Whenever I get a new book, Blender or otherwise, I can’t resist the urge to flip through it before settling down to actually read it. Flipping through the pages showed me a number of things to look forward to reading further. A quick glance at the table of contents let me quickly see the well thought out organization of information.
From a formatting standpoint, this book is beautiful. It has a clean layout, nice legible screen shots and the book itself is printed on a nice weight paper, giving the book a nice substantial feel. Having experience in typesetting myself, I was pleased with both the font choices and the layout itself. The font is very legible and easy to read and the layout is clean and organized. Which is very helpful considering the enormous amount of information Ben covers throughout the book.
Which of course leads right into the very important topic of content. The entire book is based on creating and completing three very different and unique projects.
- a mechanical spider
- a bat type creature character
- a jungle temple ruin scene
Using three such different projects allowed Ben to cover a multitude of techniques and tools. And while this book is not intended for a beginner, there is a wealth of information that even a new user would benefit from. The more experienced user will gain the most from seeing how Ben approaches each of the projects and the efficient work flow for successful completion of those same projects.
Many books of this nature lead you step by step through each process. Ben takes a somewhat different approach, in that while he does give some step by step information for difficult or interesting steps, most of the book is a more informal discussion of how he approaches things. I personally enjoyed this approach. I found his writing style to be informative and easy to read. More like hearing a friend tell you how it is done versus sitting in a classroom with a textbook.
So what exactly did Ben cover? After a brief introduction to both Blender and GIMP, Ben starts off in chapter 3 with Preparation. I personally found this chapter to be one of the most informative. Preparation is such a necessary part of any project and Ben’s treatment of this important first step is filled with great tips and useful information.
In chapter 4 the real fun begins as Ben blocks out each of the projects. This step is almost as important as preparation and is a step I often overlook. Blocking out your project can save considerable time down the road. Ben blocks out each of the 3 projects giving a good starting point for further work.
Chapters 5-7 take you through modeling the finer details, sculpting and retopology. In each chapter Ben discusses the tools and techniques needed to take each of the 3 projects closer to completion.
Chapters 8-12 cover UV Unwrapping, Hair and Particle systems, Texture Baking, Texture Painting and Materials. This particular section of the book is seriously packed with information and warrants a very careful reading. The end result combines together to create truly amazing results.
The last 3 chapters cover Lighting, Rendering and Compositing and a Going Further section. Just like the previous section, this section covers a huge amount of useful information and tips. Chapters 8-14 cover not only Cycles but Blender Internal, giving you a good look at their strengths and weaknesses.
Overall I found Blender Master Class to be an excellent book filled with useful work flows, techniques and tips. By covering 3 different project types, Ben ensured that the greatest number of tools and scenarios could be covered, giving the reader as much information and help for their own projects as possible.
Blender Master Class can be purchased at:
No Starch Press
Blender Foundation Eshop