23 March 2014

Mythravarun Vepakomma - Blender Compositing And Post Processing - Ebook Review

A few weeks ago I was browsing the Packt website for ebooks about Blender that I may want to read and came across one on compositing that I had not seen before.

This one is by Mythravarun Vepakomma, and from memory I don't think I have read any other books by him.

One thing that did make me take notice of this book was the technical reviewer, "Olivier Amrein" one of the known Blenderheads for those that frequent Blender Artists and other popular Blenderhead hangouts.

Product Specifications:
 

        This won't be a particularly long review as the book itself is not very long.

        The books stated aim as described in the book is:

        "Blender Compositing and Post Processing is a one-stop solution to attain state-of-the-art compositing skills to create mind-blowing visuals and productive composites using Blender Compositor."

        So given the very bold statement above I set my standards very high as to what I expected from this particular book. To put the statement above in context that's like getting Sebastian Konig or Pablo Vazquez levels of compositing skills (TD Level).

        For those of you wondering if it actually achieves those lofty goals, the unfortunate answer for me at least is no.  If you are expecting this book to give you Technical Developer levels of  Blender Compositing super powers you will be disappointed.

        The book at best and if I am in a charitable mood could be described as being aimed at complete Blender compositing beginners.  Anyone with any prior experience of compositing in any other system will already know everything in this book (and almost certainly a lot more besides).

        The books approach to teaching Blender's compositor is to take a collection of Blender's most common Node Types and explain the settings on those nodes individually.  Only a small sub-set of Blender Nodes are covered and of the ones that are covered they are at best skimmed over.

        An indepth coverage of all the settings and features of the nodes provided by Blender's compositor would indeed be a very useful book for someone with previous experience in compositing, but the coverage is not indepth or complete.

        Unfortunately describing the functions of nodes in isolation is not a very effective way to teach someone how to use Blender's compositing features with any level of sophistication.  The real power of the compositor comes when you are shown how to combine all those nodes and do amazing things with them, and this book doesn't take things that far for the most part.

        I honestly think that you would get more indepth and useful information on Blender's compositor directly from the Blender Wiki than you will from this book.

        It doesn't cover enough of the basics to be useful to a Blender beginner, and is totally incomplete for someone aiming to reach Technical Developer levels of compositing skills.

        Avoid this one.

        Review Score 55%

        21 March 2014

        Buy One Get One Free From Packt Publishing

        I was contacted by Packt Publishing today as they are having a buy 1 get one free ebook promotion for their 2000th book release celebrations from 18th-Mar-2014 and will continue until 26th-Mar-2014.

        Since they have quite a large collection of Blender based books, this could be useful to Blenderheads out there.

        Info direct from Packt Publishing :

        Buy One, Get One Free on all of #Packt’s 2000 eBooks! http://bit.ly/1j26nPN #Packt2k #b3d

        26 January 2014

        Matthew B Stokes - 3D Printing For Architects With MakerBot - EBook Review

        It has been a busy time for me with EBook reviews as this is the second of two books I have been asked to review by Packt Publishing.

        This this time it covers using the MakerBot 3D Printer Replicator series.

        MakerBot are one of the most popular consumer level 3D printer makers out there, doing a number of different 3D printers.

        Product Specifications:
         

              The first thing to note is that although the title of the book suggests that this book is for architects it's slightly misleading.  When demonstrating how to use the MakerBot series of 3D printers it does this by having the user build a series of architectural items, building items and floor plans for example.  Though it is safe to say that even if you are not an architect but have a 3D printer there is a lot of useful information you can take from this book.  Also it is likely that if you are an architect you already know more about 3D printing and have access to much more expensive 3D printers than are covered in this book.

              The book starts by introducing the reader to 3D printers in general, explaining what they are and how they are used.  It goes over the various different types of technology that 3D printers use to produce their models.

              I especially liked the history of 3D printers section and a description of all the different technologies;  This is not really essential information but it is good to know.

              Having gone over the history and technology of 3D printers in general the book moves onto the main focus of the book the MakerBot series of 3D printers.  It details the specifications of the various different MakerBot machines, going over their various differences and some important limitations of each printer.

              There were good explanations of the various difference pieces of software you can use to model your items that you are going to 3D print.  Usefully there was information on how to properly model your models such that they can be successfully 3D printed, with the best results.

              If you haven't had a lot of experience with 3D printers the modeling theory section of the book will be a life saver and will likely save you a lot of time and wasted plastic.

              Having gone over all the theory, the book then moves on to the more practical side of things, by showing you how to 3D print a roof truss as your first real use of your MakerBot.  With this quick practical demonstration out of the way the book goes into more detail on the various software that can be used to control the MakerBot and alter it's performance settings.  Specifically it covers the MakerWare software that is the official software for MakerBots.

              Topics such as how to import models and reposition them in ways that make printing more efficient and likely to produce correct results are explained.  How to minimize printing problems such as warping and the various advantages and disadvantage of different types of plastic materials are covered, in clear and easy to grasp ways.

              More advanced topics like making acetone and abs plastics anchoring substance called slurry is covered, how useful this is I am not sure but it is nice to know.

              Once the basics of settings, positioning, and materials properties are covered, the topic moves on to Multicolor printing for those that have printers with more than one print head, and also covers a technique for printing multicolor 3D parts for machines that only have on print head.  Though here the books seem a bit confused calling this feature either Z Print of Z Pause depending on where you are reading in the book.  Either way its a very handy bit of information to have if you want to print multicolor parts but don't have more than one print head.

              When you have to create or import the 3D model that you want to print the MakerBot has to slice that model into a series of layers, this is called 3D Slicing and the book has a good explanation of the steps involved and does a reasonably good job of explaining the various settings which determine how the 3D slicer works, and how this can alter the final results of your printed objects.

              When printing more complex parts it is often not possible to print them as one single object, the parts must be split into multiple bits and then reassembled.  There are some good examples described that show some of the basic ways of doing this and how it helps to achieve more complex models.

              As one of the later projects you build a store facade which is entirely made of interchangeable parts which can be attached together.  Topics such as tolerance fits and connection types are covered.

              Once you have a reasonable grasp of how to make things yourself the book then moves on to involving yourself with 3D printer model creator community showing how to use 3D printers model sharing sites Thingverse and GrabCAD.  It shows how to register and download models from each site.  So at least you wont short of things to print.

              The more legalistic side of things is covered very briefly with respect to licensing and how you have to ensure you're not breaking it.

              As a last final more involved project Iterative Design process techniques are covered and you are shown one way that you could design an architectural floor plan.

              The writing style is clear and informal.
              I would say that on the whole this book is aimed a 3D printer beginners, who are new to both 3D and 3D printing.  The price is good as well for what you get.

              Good book, a little unclear in places but if you are a 3D printer owner and especially if you own a MakerBot Replicator series printer this book could help you get better 3D printing results.

              Review Score 85%

              Ravishankar Somasundaram - Git Version Control For Everyone - Ebook review

              I was recently contacted by Packt Publishing and asked if I would do a prelimary review of one of their books "Git Version Control For Everyone";  I agreed and did the preliminary review and what I had read so far seemed well written.

              Now I have finished reading the complete ebook so now it is time to do a full review.

              For those that are unaware of what GIT is, in simple terms it is a piece of software that allows you to store and keep track of many different versions of things from documents to source code.  It allows you to collaborate with people in teams managing their changes and additions to content they create.

              It's a reasonably modern version/content control system, it has many advantages over older control systems like SVN.  As a result it has become a very popular method of implementing version control especially on software projects.

              If there is one big limitation with GIT, it is that the official documentation that comes with it, although it is very complete, it is not, to put it mildly, the easiest documentation to understand and interpret.  Even the simplest and easy to use GIT commands when explained in the official documentation seem to be the most complex and labyrinthine command ever invented.

              This limitation of GIT official documentation has resulted in many books on GIT that seek to make it easier to understand and use for normal people (see non-coding geeks).

              Product Specifications:
               

                    This book by Ravishankar Somasundaram seeks to help the person that is completely new to the topics of version control and GIT in particular.  It's aimed at beginner and takes the approach of using examples and analogy to explain the important tools and concepts that GIT uses to get it's version control tasks carried out.
                    The book starts explaining what GIT is and it's history, as well as its advantages when compared to other version control systems.  All done in an easy, non-technical way of explanation.  Although it doesn't go into great detail it's a nice primer on the reasons for GIT.

                    After the history lesson, obtaining and installing the GIT software for various platforms (Windows, Linux and Mac) is gone over.  The instruction seemed clear and easy to follow and there were many very clear pictures to see, all in full color in the ebook I read.

                    Once installation of GIT has been covered the book moves on to doing basic configuration tasks with GIT, showing how configuring works in GIT allowing you to explore other configuration options when you want to.

                    From this point on the book introduces some of the most fundamental GIT commands, explaining how they work by using the approach of asking you to carry out various GIT version control activities by creating and managing various documents and placing them under GIT's control.

                    On the whole this method of do something then explaining what it is you just did, is a clear and easy to understand method of teaching use of GIT;  In parts I thought certain topics would have benefited from more explanation but this is a beginners book and so some deeper explanations of certain topics may have been to complex for a book like this.

                    One very useful thing the book does is to teach 2 different ways of interacting with GIT, those ways being either using a Graphical User Interface or by using a Command Line Interface.  Teaching both approaches will benefit the users who like one way of interacting with GIT over the other.

                    The book basically has 7 chapters each of which covers the various most fundamental commands and feature that GIT has.

                    There is one final chapter 8 that is very strange for a beginners book,  it tries to explain some of the more advanced internal features of GIT that make all of GIT work.  This chapter seem completely out of place.  There are basically two reason for this, 1st in a book aimed at a beginner the information it gives will probably just be seem like techno-babble & 2nd it's incomplete so if you genuinely wanting to know all the under the hood stuff, it doesn't give enough information to be really useful to an advanced user.  So it doesn't help the beginner or the advanced user.

                    So all in all if you are a beginner who has never use version control before or has never used GIT before, this book has the fundamentals covered;  You will be able to use GIT to get things done after reading this book, just skip chapter 8.

                    Not the best book in the world and it won't make you a GIT expert but it will give you enough information to get going in GIT fast.

                    Review Score 70%

                    24 January 2014

                    Ravishankar Somasundaram's Git - Version Control for Everyone - Provisional Review

                    Packt Publishing recently posted on G+ asking if anyone would be interested in reviewing one of their new books "GIT - Version Control For Everyone".



                    I agreed as Blender recently switched to using the GIT version control system and I thought some of the more technically inclined Blenderheads would be interested in a review.

                    This book is currently priced at £11.99 (Jan 24th 2014)

                    This is only a partial review as the people at Packt needed it posted fairly quickly and since I am not the fastest reader in the world, I said I would do a partial review of the chapters I was able to read.

                    I have so far managed to read through chapters 1 to 3.  It's not a massive book, the ebook consists of about 180 pages (trust me GIT huge so getting it down to 180 pages it an impressive feat).  So far it appears to be well written and easy to follow along with.  It takes the approach of guiding you through a series of tasks, teaching you GIT through a learn by doing approach and using common analogies to make sense of some of the more difficult concepts involved with GIT.

                    Because this books is aimed at the GIT beginner is uses lots of pictures, which are very easy to see and interpret.

                    From the chapters I have read it goes though all the basic steps of obtaining, installing and configuring GIT on the most common platforms available (specially Windows, Mac, Linux).  It describes the many different types of version control systems and their relative strengths and weaknesses when compared with GIT.  So it doesn't just explain how to do specific things in GIT but also the reasons why things are carried out the way they are.

                    So far what I have read has been very well written and even though this books seems specifically aimed at the GIT beginning, I think the person that has a little bit of exposure to GIT would also benefit from reading this book.

                    If you are not a person that likes to use Graphical User Interfaces for your GIT tasks the Command Line Interface versions are also covers.  So it appears that both type of user are supported.

                    By the last part of chapter 3, the basics of adding, removing and controlling files with GIT in a project had been covered and it to me at least seemed well explained and easy to grasp (and I am by no means a GIT expert).

                    When I have read the entire book I will do a full review.

                    See the links below for books website:

                    http://www.packtpub.com/git-version-control-for-everyone/book
                    http://goo.gl/mnN6kH

                    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%

                          30 November 2013

                          CG Masters - Master It - Volumes 1 & 2 - DVD Training Review

                          CG Masters have released another one of their tutorial series this time called "Master It"; 

                          It's a two volume Blender video training course which is aimed at beginning Blender users.  With it's aim being to take those beginners and give them broad exposure to many of Blenders different tools and features, enabling them to get up and running quickly when using Blender.

                          This course is presented by Christopher Plush and Aidy Burrows.  Both Christopher and Aidy are very talented Blender users with a lot of Blender knowledge to impart.

                          Product Specifications:
                           

                                If you decide to purchase this training course then you have two options, you can either buy a physical DVD or you can download an electronic version.  In either case the price of the course is the same and both version present the same material.

                                The price is one of the first things I noticed.  For $60 dollars you get almost 18 hours of training material.  So the value for money aspect is very high given the quality of the training material.

                                As with all CG Masters tutorial materials the content is produced to an extremely high quality;  The video and audio are very clear and easy to follow.  With lots of realtime and occasionally timelapsed video recording.  Chris and Aidy are very good an explaing what they are doing throughout their videos.

                                The materials provided in the course include all the Blend files, videos, textures and final results of all the work for you to examine. You can access the videos and other resources either directly using your own media player of choice, or alternatively access all the content from inside your web browser.

                                The web browser interface neatly organizes all the course content into manageable sizes allowing you to quickly navigate to the sections that interest you most.

                                This is a course for beginning Blender users so it is designed to be watched from start to finish and where possible you are advised to follow along and try and carryout the tasks shown in the training videos.

                                Unlike a lot of beginner type courses this one tries to cover all of the most fundamental features of Blender and it's tools.  By necessity it can't cover every single feature but it does cover a lot of different topics, and most of the important tools and features are covered.

                                Topics List:

                                Volume 1 - Section 1 - Welcome To Class 
                                • Chapter 1 - How To View
                                • Chapter 2 - Common Terminology

                                Volume 1 - Section 2 - Understanding Blender
                                • Chapter 1 - 3D Space
                                • Chapter 2 - Anatomy Of A Mesh
                                • Chapter 3 - Saving And Loading
                                • Chapter 4 - Window Types
                                • Chapter 5 - Creating A New Layout
                                • Chapter 6 - Toolbars
                                • Chapter 7 - Layers
                                • Chapter 8 - User Preferences

                                Volume 1 - Section 3 - Working with Blender
                                • Chapter 1 - Object Mode
                                • Chapter 2 - Part 1 - Edit Mode & Modeling
                                • Chapter 2 - Part 2 - Creating A Toon House
                                • Chapter 3 - The 3D Cursor And Object Origins
                                • Chapter 4 - The Specials Menu
                                • Chapter 5 - Materials And Textures
                                • Chapter 6 - UV Unwrapping
                                • Chapter 7 - Color, Normal, and Specular Maps

                                Volume 1 - Section 4 - Lighting and Rendering
                                • Chapter 1 - Blender Internal VS Cycles Renderer
                                • Chapter 2 - Camera
                                • Chapter 3 - Lighting
                                • Chapter 4 - Lighting And Rendering A Scene

                                Volume 1 - Section 5 - Modifiers
                                • Chapter 1 - Introduction to Modifiers
                                • Chapter 2 - Generate Modifiers
                                • Chapter 3 - Deform Modifiers

                                Volume 1 - Section 6 - Animation and Physics
                                • Chapter 1 - Introduction to Animation
                                • Chapter 2 - Object Animation
                                • Chapter 3 - Cannon Blast Exercise

                                Volume 1 - Section 7 - Game Engine
                                • Chapter 1 - Introduction
                                • Chapter 2 - Adding The Main Controls
                                • Chapter 3 - The Keys
                                • Chapter 4 - Opening The Door
                                • Chapter 5 - The Final Product

                                Volume 1 - Section 8 - Tips And Tricks
                                • Chapter 1 - Tips And Tricks
                                • Chapter 2 - Creating Normal And Specular Maps
                                • Chapter 3 - Normal Maps, Bump Maps, Displacement Maps, Which One Do I Use?

                                Volume 2 - Section 1 - Acoustic Guitar In Cycles
                                • Chapter 1 - Setting Up The Blueprints
                                • Chapter 2 - Modeling The Body
                                • Chapter 3 - Neck And Headstock
                                • Chapter 4 - Fretboard
                                • Chapter 5 - Turning Pegs
                                • Chapter 6 - Strings
                                • Chapter 7 - UV Mapping
                                • Chapter 8 - Creating The Texture Maps
                                • Chapter 9 - The Environment
                                • Chapter 10 - Rendering In Cycles

                                Volume 2 - Section 2 - Game Scene Overview
                                • Chapter 1 - Baking AO And Shadow Maps
                                • Chapter 2 - Game Scene Overview

                                Volume 2 - Section 3 - Finishing The Toon House
                                • Chapter 1 - Addons - Grass, Ivy, Clouds
                                • Chapter 2 - Nodes
                                • Chapter 3 - Finished Toon House Overview

                                Volume 2 - Section 4 - Cool Extras
                                • Chapter 1 - More Addons
                                • Chapter 2 - Cloth Simulation
                                • Chapter 3 - Face Modeling Made Easy
                                • Chapter 4 - Making Tileable Textures

                                As you can see from the topics list above the range of topics covered is very extensive.

                                Videos range in length from just a few minutes to over an hour.

                                The course is split between two volumes. The first covers the very basics, while the second volume covers slightly more advanced topics.

                                The standout part for me in volume one was the creation of a cartoon style house.  Using a select few tools Chris was able to create a very fun looking house.  This house is later improved on in volume two.

                                The second volume can be thought of as using all the topics and tools covered in the first volume to product bigger more complex projects.  For example volume two goes over how to model and texture a guitar, using all the tools mentioned in the previous first volume.  Volume two also covers various extra features and tools that Blender provides, such as addons and simulation features.

                                I personally would have prefered more and deeper coverage of the Blender Game Engine and a little more focus on the Shading Nodes of Blender Cycles Render.  Although both Blender Internal features and Blender Cycles render features are covered, a little more coverage of the Cycles nodes would have been welcome.  That said for a beginner course there is more than enough coverage to keep you busy learning and digesting what is in this course for a long time.  Also note that the Blender Game Engine coverage does not cover Python Scripting.  The Video Sequence Editor is not covered but is planned for a future course.

                                So all in all these two volumes are excellent and will get a beginner up to speed and confident in using Blender very quickly.  Even if you are not a complete beginner you will likely learn something from the second volume with its more advanced coverage.

                                So two volumes of training videos at this price, with this level of quality, it's a good choice;  If you are wanting to get a handle on Blender they are well worth having.

                                Review Score 90%

                                02 October 2013

                                Joe Larson - 3D Printing Blueprints - Ebook review

                                Packt Publishing recently came out with an ebook "3D Printing Blueprints".  3D printing is something that I am very interested in and since Blender is very good at allowing 3D printing I was instantly interested in reading this book, especially since it covers using Blender to create the models that get 3D printed.  So it was handy because Packt contacted me asking if I would review it, which I was, so I did.

                                Product Specifications:
                                 

                                      First for those who don't know 3D printing is the process of creating real world physical models using special devices called 3D printers.  Instead of printing words on a page they can use various types of materials to print objects in 3 dimensions.

                                      Until very recently 3D printers were only available to the professional 3D rapid prototyping business community.  They are very advanced and can print almost anything but with that flexibility comes cost and as a result they were very expensive to both buy and maintain.

                                      Recently however 3D printers have become much cheaper to buy and maintain;  So cheap in fact that now there are a multitude of low cost 3D printers which are ideally suited to home use.  These home use level 3D printers are not as advanced as those in the professional environment but they are improving quickly.  It probably won't be long before increased demand from the home consumer market starts to be the main driver of the features and flexibility that 3D printers have.

                                      With a 3D printer and some 3D modeling software to design the things you want to 3D print you can become your own object creator.  The range of objects you can design is almost unlimited.

                                      This book covers using the Makerbot line of 3D printers to print objects and uses Blender to model those objects.  If you own a different make of 3D printer do not worry all the information in this book can be used with other 3D printer types, with very few changes.

                                      The images in the Ebook are in full color and for the most part easy to interpret.  The writing style is a little patchy in places there are some typo's and the odd hard to understand section of instructions.  I was however able to do all of the tasks in the book.  It's a very quick paced book it quickly goes from one project to the next building on the previous projects.

                                      The book takes a graded approach, covering the very basics of using Blender and how to model 3D objects to give them the best possible chance of giving you a successful 3D printed object.

                                      Each 3D printed object that you model in Blender and then prepare for printing is called a Blueprint.  These Blueprint go from very simple to moderately involved.  If you are a beginning Blender user and have never used a 3D printer before than this book will be useful to you.

                                      Please be aware though that the coverage of Blender features is very basic if you want an in depth guide to all of Blender's modeling features this is not the book for you.  What it will do is cover the basic features of Blender and show you how to use those features to create simple 3D printed models.

                                      The 3D printed models that are created in this book are:

                                      A Small Mug
                                      A Vase
                                      An SD Card Holder
                                      A Toy Robot
                                      A Number Choose
                                      A Teddy Bear Figurine

                                      Joe Larson the author of this book I had not heard of before and that is always a worry but on reading his bio I was less worried as he has had a varied career path, all very interesting.

                                      So if you want a simple book that covers the basics of using Blender to make simple models which can then be successfully 3D print this is a good book.  Just don't expect and in depth treatment for using Blender or your 3D printer.  This book is a face paced quick read to get you up and running as fast as possible into the world of 3D printing.

                                      Review Score 75%

                                      16 July 2013

                                      Enrico Valenza - Blender 2.6 Cycles Materials And Textures Cookbook - Ebook Review

                                      I was recently contacted by Packt Publishing to review one of  their newer Blender Cookbook series of books.  Those with good memories will remember they have previously done other Blender Cookbook texts.

                                      This time around it covers the Blender 2.6x series and specifically covers Blender Cycles Materials and Texture Node Creation.  The overall aim of the book is to present various Blender Cycles Node setups to produce a large collection of different material and texture setups that can be applied to various different objects in Blender.

                                      The author of this book is Enrico Valenza and very talented Blender user and illustrator.  You can see his Blender Network profile page (http://www.blendernetwork.org/enrico-valenza) and his personal website (http://www.enricovalenza.com).

                                      Enrico has been involved with various Blender Foundation Open Movie Projects.  Given all of this the expectations were very high for the quality of content in his new book.

                                      Product Specifications:
                                       


                                      I downloaded the Ebook PDF version of this book.  The picture quality was generally good (some pictures were a little small) and in color.  Also available on the Packt website are all the resource Blend files needed to carry out the projects described in this book.

                                      The book starts by describing what Blender Cycles is and what it's strengths are.  It then quickly moves on to setting up the Blender Cycles Interface layout for best workflow for creating Cycles based materials and textures.  The very basics of how to activate and use Cycles are gone over.  So if you have never used Cycles you should be able to follow along without any problems.

                                      If you have never used Blender before you will be able to use this book as every step is describe in clear and methodical detail, at least as far as using Cycles is concerned.

                                      The approach taken to explain how to create the Cycles materials and textures is that of a series of recipes.  These recipes range from simple and small and progress to larger more complex sets of instructions.  You can either follow the instructions in the book and create the recipes from the ground up or you can use the provided recipes Blend files.

                                      The recipes are split up into groups which achieve specific types of visual effect.

                                      On the whole the organization of the recipes are good and if you do want to carryout the instructions for each recipe you will be able to as the instructions are clear and well written, with plenty of pictures to make things even easier.

                                      The book splits the descriptions of each recipe in to 3 general parts.

                                      First it describes what sort of material or texture you are going to create. 

                                      Second it describes exactly how to do that. 

                                      Third it describes why the particular recipe works.  This third part is to my mind the most valuable.  Just follwing a series of step by step instructions will get you a good end result but little understanding of why something works.

                                      In general the description of why the recipes work are good.  There are however a few recipes that would have benefited from a better description of exactly why they work;  As an example one of the recipes was a description of how to make water foam on an ocean material, and although the recipe worked it was hard to figure out why it worked.

                                      The book describes how to create a fairly large range of different materials and textures (combined together they are called Shaders), from water, ice, snow, rock, metals, sand and various other things.  The chances are there will be something in this book that will interest you.

                                      One thing that is worth pointing out is that I went through the recipes in this book to check that they actually still work for newer versions of Blender.  As far as I can tell they do, there are slight interface differences but they are so small that I don't think they will cause any problems when following the recipes.  A recipe book that has recipes that are wrong is no good at all, but thankfully in this case the recipes all seems to be accurate and work.

                                      Currently there are very few Blender Cycles books that go into great depth on using Blender Cycles Nodes.  This is reason enough to get this book as it's descriptions of what each node type can do is useful.  Once you take into account the way the book also combines these nodes to show how they can make some really impressive materials, I think this book is well work getting for anyone interested in Blender Cycles.

                                      Review Score 80%

                                      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%