on 16 January 2003
This fantastic insight into Character Animation will delight anyone with a firm grasp of Maya basics. The book leads you through a varied set of techniques for modelling, shading and animating your characters - delving into subdivisional and NURBS modelling in a level of detail that is hard to find elsewhere except in professional instruction videos.
It discusses the relative merits of each method - in a field where there are many different routes to reach the same end this is most welcome.
Mapping and texture editing are explored (specific to each of the modelling methods used) in great depth, but by far the most useful section is on character setup - Choi uses the delightful example of a frog (which has an incredibly complex skeleton) in a way that is explained simply and artfully.
The book contains 'notes' that can only be discovered normally through years of using Maya in a production environment. For example, Choi recommends deleting history of subdivided surfaces that have had mapping types applied in order to maintain a high system speed. (p195)
The books presentation is immaculate, with colour diagrams on almost every page. Much thought has gone into the layout, as any pages that would normally appear cluttered have been set with a wide left-margin to avoid the handling hassles normally associated with books of this thickness.
Best of all, the teaching method avoids the terrible "open project 3 on the accompanying CD" approach and instead takes you on a step by step route to completion often starting with a blank screen. This way you really get to learn the merits for yourself, and don't have to take someones word for it.
To summise, this book is a true joy to read and work with - and one that will sit close at hand throughout my final year on a computer animation degree.
on 24 June 2005
This is potentially a great book, relegated to mere goodness by a lack of attention by its editors.
The illustrations are fine. The text is properly organised and goes into intricate detail on standard poly and nurbs modelling techniques which have probably been in the program since year dot but which still inform how surfaces are constructed. It's possible, even advisable, to mix and match construction methods according to the kind of model you're trying to make and what you're going to animate. So, if you want a run-down on poly and nurbs classicism, you'll get it here, with all the insider nous that the author's years of 3D experience can bring.
Or you could, if the book's text hadn't been left in the faulty, convoluted syntax and inconsistent grammar with which it was written. Publishers normally employ a copy-editor to sort out the tedious but necessary business of rendering intelligible the words of an author's text prior to going to page make-up. In the overwhelming majority of cases the copy-editor has, as their first language, the language of the published edition. These conditions don't look as though they apply here and the book has suffered accordingly.
It could have been a classic text on Maya but the effort of reading the poor English (missing definite or indefinite articles, singular used when there should be plural, inconsistent names and terms: common grist to a copy-editor's mill) not for style but just to get information out of it, means that the book runs at about half capacity. To take an example from hardware use, you could try to run Maya on a tutti-frutti iMac with a one-button mouse but you wouldn't get so much out of it as you would on mid-to-upper range workstation. It wouldn't mean that Maya is a poor application, just that it's misapplied. That's about how much this book is held back by its editorial shortfall.
A future edition could set all this right, plus perhaps updating with a little content on poly proxy modelling and more on facial set-ups. If so, it could become the definitive text it has the potential to be.