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Blender 2.5 HOTSHOT
Blender 2.5 HOTSHOT
by John E. Herreño
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 55.94
14 used & new from CDN$ 10.87

4.0 out of 5 stars Great for beginners, covers broad range of topics in Blender, Aug. 3 2011
This review is from: Blender 2.5 HOTSHOT (Paperback)
This book includes 8 different projects and 2 downloadable projects. For each project there is a description of what you will do in the chapter (the planning stage) and the steps you will take to get to the final render. Then after you going through all the steps, there is a nice review of the key points of what you did in the project and how you could make the final outcome even better.
I liked a number of things about this book. The big one is that many different parts of Blender are used. There's modeling, shading, UV unwrapping, animating, compositing, video sequencing, the game engine, and other stuff I am not remembering at the moment. This is fantastic for early Blender users. Many new users don't realize just how much there is included in Blender. It is apparent that there was some serious thought into what each project would focus on in order to cover as much of Blender as possible. Also, the projects create most of the things beginners are just aching to do. The chapter list could probably double as the most requested tutorials from early Blender users.
Something else I liked is that every project starts fresh and clean and it ends with the final product. You will have a render or animation at the end of every project. I think having the reader do all the steps helps give an idea of everything it takes to go from a clean slate to the final vision. If the final render doesn't meet your standards, there are pointers on how you can take your project to the next level at the very end of the project. In my opinion, if you want really good renders going 'Gung HO', as he puts it, is absolutely necessary.
On the other hand, there were a couple things that were inconvenient. For many of the chapters you are asked to go to a website to download them yourself. While everything worked out fine for me, I worry that if a site becomes unavailable (like the one in project 5) then a reader might run into problems. Including all of those into the support file would prevent that. I also had to download Project 9 and 10 separately. I am not sure why it isn't included with the rest of the book, but it's only a minor inconvenience if you at least know that those chapters exist.
That leads me to another thing that might have been handled better too. Project 10 goes over modeling a character and Project 7 animates that character and has you use the character you model in Project 10 to do so. For me, going out of order wasn't a big deal, but it was a little odd when I got to Project 7 and was told to use a character I had previously made. If you are going in order, like I was, you won't have the character made and will have to jump to Project 10 first and then go back.
Overall, as long as the websites stay up, you'll be able to find everything and these negatives are probably going to be fairly minor. In the end, I would recommend this book for beginners and maybe intermediate users who want to get the basics of a handful of parts of Blender they have yet to use. Someone who has used Blender for quite some time may not get much out of it and probably won't be happy with the outcome of each project as they want because a lot of it is just going over the basics of a given part of Blender.

Blender 2.5 Character Animation Cookbook
Blender 2.5 Character Animation Cookbook
by Virgilio Vasconcelos
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 49.49
17 used & new from CDN$ 43.87

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Packed with info on a very broad topic, July 22 2011
After reading my last cookbook from Packt, I really looked forward to going through this one, titled Blender 2.5 Character Animation Cookbook and written by Virgilio Vasconcelos. I really like the idea of relatively short sections that can be done fairly quickly. The format allows you to walk away without having to worry about being halfway through a project when you need to take a break. You can do a couple sections, walk away, let it sink in a bit, and come back with a new mini-project to go through. No need to flip back a couple pages to remind yourself what you were doing.

While each chapter consists of many individual sections like any cookbook, if you are new to character animation, you can't really expect to jump to whatever section you want. You may want to go straight to the walk cycle, but there is a progression to the book. You start out with the really basic stuff at first (Such as adding a bone) and as you get deeper into the book the more you are doing on your own and the more detailed the projects get (like lip syncing and secondary actions). There is a lot less hand holding at the end of the book then at the beginning. I know some people out there who want hand holding all the way through, but I personally think less hand holding is better. It forces you to remember how to do many of the things you were supposed to learn in previous chapters, rather than just repeating each and every little tiny step. I've noticed that I learn the most when the hand holding stops and I have to remember the steps on my own. However, if you can't remember the first time, generally you'll be given a reminder of where in the book to go in order to refresh your memory or to another chapter that goes through a similar topic.

Another thing to note is this book relies heavily on the source files. I personally like starting from scratch and going all the way through, but considering the way a cookbook is formatted I completely understand why it is necessary. At the beginning of every single section you are told to open a new blend that is set up for you, typically with the use of Otto. (Otto is the character you get to play with throughout the book.) Sometimes these files will match right up with the end of the previous section but I don't think there was ever anything in a file that went beyond what you had already learned in previous sections. Whether that was consciously intentional or not, it's really nice because if you end up messing something up as you should have a good idea on how to fix it.

Beyond the technical stuff, there is a lot of information packed in this book and looking back I think it is amazing how much is crammed into it. Obviously, you'll get the basics of rigging and posing for each part of the body at a time, while thinking about all the types of movement the rig should be able to have. There's also the importance of all of workflow habits that beginners wouldn't think about their first time through, such as the importance of how you name the bones and how to make the rig easier to use and so on. After learning how to rig everything, you move on to actually using the rig and other tactics to animate Otto. Even after you finish learning how to animate with the rig, the book goes even further and talks about adding more realism with ways to keep the mesh clean and adding little secondary movements when you initially might think someone is motionless. All in all, the book covers a very broad range of topics within character animation and I think Virgilio does it very well. The explanations are short, sweet, and to the point and you are given clear reasons why you follow the conventions used throughout the book.

While I did learn a lot and will definitely go back to the book when I start my own characters, there was one thing I wish it had. You see, the whole entire book is focused on animating a human. Yes, humans are probably the most common character, but I had hoped for a section about robotic characters or non-human characters and was slightly disappointed that it didn't. Maybe just one section with a few pointers would be nice, stating the main differences between human and non-human characters if any. I think everything taught in the book could be used to create other types of characters on your own, but maybe a little reassurance and things I should pay attention to when doing so would be nice.

Overall, I think the book is great and I definitely recommend it. I went from nervous and unsure about tackling my own character to confident enough to see myself creating one in the near future (with the help of the book of course!). I do want to warn you, though, that this book will be difficult if you are brand new to Blender. There are reminders for the keyboard commands, but I really think you need to understand the basics on how Blender works, how to use it, and where things are. While it's not necessary, I think it would also help if you have a vague idea of armatures, bones, and what they do. Beyond that, people new to character animation and even those who want to take an extra step toward professional character animation would benefit the most. There's so much information, there is bound to be something new and useful for you.

Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook
Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook
by Colin Litster
Edition: Paperback
Price: CDN$ 56.41
22 used & new from CDN$ 5.64

5.0 out of 5 stars Extremely well thought out, extensive set of 'recipes', March 23 2011
First off, I will admit, when I saw 'cookbook' I completely expected to get a book with straight up steps telling you exactly how to do an assortment of different materials and textures on a sphere and that be that. I had used Colin's tutorials at his website previously and knew there would be really good results, but I figured I'd probably have to figure out what each step specifically does on my own. However, I was very pleased to discover I was wrong. You see, each chapter in the book is divided into sections, called recipes, and each recipe has a quick intro after which it goes right into the steps for making the material. There is no theory - which I love. You jump right into real usable material creation almost right away. I also really liked that at the end of each section there is a review of sorts, with explanations of key steps from the section and what certain settings that were used do. On top of how well the book it set up, it isn't just basic static materials on a mesh. There are also recipes for animated textures, UV mapping, and I was especially surprised to see a chapter on generating smoke and fire. Seeing materials and textures being used in such a wide array of applications all in one book was pleasantly surprising.

Another great thing about this book is all of the extras that come along with it. Throughout the book you are reminded (and a few times required) to use downloaded files from the PacktPub website. While it is a pretty big zip file, it was incredibly helpful in itself. The blend files match right up with when you are prompted to save in the book so that if you mess up (or try to go too fast, like me) you can open of the corresponding blend file and compare your blend to it. The blend files also open up the possibility of skipping steps that you feel you already know. In many chapters, especially as you get to the second half of the book, you will use provided blend files to skip the modeling portion of the exercise so you can focus on the materials and textures. Another download that goes along with the book are the color versions of the images in the book. Yes, the images throughout the book are black and white, which I wasn't sure about at first. I mean, it is a materials and textures book after all. However, I think I only used the colored images once because, frankly, they don't need to be colored. At worst, I just had to compare my renders to renders in the downloaded blend files if I wasn't sure I did it right and even if I never got my renders right, I still got some pretty sweet results.

One more thing I really liked was the emphasis on using procedural textures. I find that almost all inexperienced materials users, including myself, would rely on image textures found on the web far too much which, as this book shows, is in many cases inferior to well made and well thought out procedural textures. Until the second half of the book or so do you start working quite a bit with image textures and not only that but as you get to the end of the book you progress into making your own image textures. Another unexpected bonus.

It's probably obvious by now that I am really happy with the book, but there was one potential problem I noticed. I think it is really just a matter of how quickly Blender changes, but was when going through the Smoke chapter there were directions for using the Smoke High Resolution Cache, which I remember seeing before but doesn't appear to exist anymore (or maybe I can't find it?). So, if you wait to get this book, or any Blender book really, be prepared for some changes and doing some translating, so to speak. I ended up just ignoring the High Res Cache and things seemed to work out just fine. That was the only time this sort of thing happened but all in all, I don't think other changes could possibly change enough to be a major problem. Similar to the fact that you can still use 2.49 books with 2.5 if you know where to find things since what you are learning are concepts that will work no matter what version you use.

As you can probably tell, I highly recommend this book, especially if you have been struggling with creating good realistic materials and textures. I have really struggled with materials and textures and I always felt like I ruined my models, but after going through this book I feel so much more confident about it and I can't wait to use what I have learned. All of the results are fantastic and it is obvious that a lot of thought has been put into each project throughout the book. If you can get past the black and white images and any potential mismatches due to a rapidly changing Blender everything will run smoothly and you'll have dozens of new tricks and techniques that work for any version of Blender. Plus, just being as giddy as a school girl after you make some truly awesome fire makes it all worth it.

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