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M. J. Anders "varkenvarken"
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Blender Cycles: Lighting and Rendering Cookbook
Blender Cycles: Lighting and Rendering Cookbook
by Bernardo Iraci
Edition: Paperback
Price: £29.43

5.0 out of 5 stars Well written book that delivers what it promises, 11 April 2014
Pros
- cookbook style with many examples
- thorough coverage of all things Cycles
- gentle learning curve
- some really great materials (especially carpaint and food)
- addresses lighting as well
- plenty of relevant external references

Cons
- could do with some detail renders of the individual materials
- doesn't cover volume shaders

The Cycles rendering engine has been available for some time now in Blender but it is still hot because it enables the artist to produce great results. However, its many options can overwhelm a person just starting out, so Bernardo's cookbook is a blessing both for beginners as well as for more accomplished artists.

The book is well written and covers almost everything from basic node setups to very complex ones, including subsurface scattering nodes and script nodes. The illustrations of the node setups are also very clear and although the book's style is a cookbook, the reasoning behind the creation of the materials is often explained as well which really helps to understand why the materials are set up the way the are.

I also like that the is a fair amount of information on lighting because now matter how good your materials are, without proper lighting your render won't shine. The book presents some useful lightning setups and covers both mesh lighting and HDRI lighting quite well.

The criticisms I have are minor indeed: the book doesn't cover the new volume shaders but this is of course not a fault of the author. Cycles evolves at a rapid pace and at the time of writing volume shaders were not yet available.

Also it would have been clearer of some of the many materials presented in this book would have closeup example renders; now there is just a larger overall render of a scene at the beginning of each chapter which doesn't show the smaller details very well. Of course the sample scenes are available to the reader so you can render them yourself but it would have made for an easier read.

All in all I really enjoyed reading this book and in my opinion it is one of the better ones on Blender published so far.

Conclusion
A well written book that delivers what it promises. Well worth its money. (But consider buying the e-book because the printed version is in black and white)


Blender Compositing and Post Processing
Blender Compositing and Post Processing
by Mythravarun Vepakomma
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Mixed feelings, 8 Mar 2014
pros
- complete and concise reference of all compositor nodes
- very clear illustrations explaining each node

cons
- very few pages (about 100, not counting fringe content like index and front matter)
- very few task oriented examples, just a short example of each node

I have mixed feelings about this book. Clearly the author knows his stuff and he sure knows how to make clear illustrations that explain each individual building block very well. However the book hardly offers any step by step walkthroughs for more complex, real world tasks. And solving complex tasks by stringing together node networks that each solve a particular task is what Blender's compositor excels at.

So the book is a fine reference but would have offered much more value for money if it had shown for example how to composite an actor in front of a green screen onto background footage from start to finish, including solutions for problems like uneven lighting of the green screen, masking hair, matching color, coping with reflected light, etc. and not just the simple demonstration of tbe alpha over node's options.

Conclusion: not a bad reference, produced quite well but it could have been a lot better.


Blender 3D Printing Essentials
Blender 3D Printing Essentials
by Gordon Fisher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £21.99

4.0 out of 5 stars short but good, 9 Dec 2013
Gordon Fisher previously authored Blender 3D Basics and his experience and subject skill is clearly shown in this new short book on 3D printing. The book is Blender specific of course but pretty much 3d-printer agnostic, so it's useful not only for printer owners but also for people who want to use online print shops.

Pros:

- short
about 100 pages real content. Clear language as well, so you won't need much time to get up to speed

- to the point
it won't tell you much about modelling as such but does show what elements of modelling need extra care when preparing a model for printing and how to fix problems

- complete
all you need to know for most common printing materials and printing techniques but of course with new materials becoming available every day you'll have to check the material specifications for things like minimum wall thickness if you want to try a new material but that is not a critique on the book. On the contrary, it does an excellent job of describing things like what influences surface detail, why wall thickness is important and when and how to deal with overhang.

- good description of essential tools
Blender's 3D printing toolkit and mesh analysis tools are covered well and the use of the protractor tool (to measure distance and angles in your model) is explained very clearly.

Cons:

- uv-unwrapping and texture painting (for printers that support multicolored models) would have benefited from more in depth attention as these subjects are generally considered difficult by beginners

- the price; I personally feel that the 13,56 list price for a 100 page e-book is steep, not to mention the almost 26,- price tag for the print version, but of course online retailers may give you a better deal.

Conclusion

Good book, well written. Based on the content alone I would give it 4.5 out of 5 stars but the unrealistic price tags lowers that to 4.


3D Printing Blueprints
3D Printing Blueprints
by Joseph Larson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £30.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Well written, 6 Oct 2013
This review is from: 3D Printing Blueprints (Paperback)
With literally dozens of books on 3d printing on the market yet another one has to be something of quality to be able to compete and indeed 3D Printing Blueprints does offer quality.

It has many pros:

- clear writing style
- good illustrations, in color, illustrating each step
- good coverage of concepts; modelling, material constraints, copying real life objects, designing reusable components, creating multiple component designs

Of course there are some cons:

- it's a bit short, more examples would help getting key concepts across even better
- focus is almost exclusively on makerbot and plastics (I.e home printing) while outsourcing the printing itself to an external printshop which might do materials like glass or metal is glossed over
- sometimes the illustrations are too wide for the format (I read the epub version with Aldiko on a 10" tablet so that shouldn't have occured)

What I didn't get entirely is why Blender was chosen as a modelling program. Yes it is great at modelling but many really useful features for 3d printing where not used, like assigning units (metric or imperial) or using the solidify operator, And while the introduction to basic modeling was adequate, if you keep to simple modelling a program with a gentler learning curve than Blender like for example Wings3d might have been a better choice. Of course the newest Blender revisions have addons specifically designed to help in getting your model ready for 3D printing but these are not covered in the book.

On the other hand the chapter on designing a posable teddy bear is very in depth indeed and does make use of the fairly new skin operator and some of the dynamic topology features in sculpting. It is a good introduction to skinning a stick figure and sculpting the result (and the result is cute :-).

So in the end, not a bad book at all if you want to give 3d printing a go and want to do more than just download and print stuff other people have designed.


Blender 2.6 Cycles, Materials and Textures Cookbook
Blender 2.6 Cycles, Materials and Textures Cookbook
by Enrico Valenza
Edition: Paperback
Price: £27.40

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A comprehensive cookbook, 2 Aug 2013
The author, Enrico Valenza, is an experienced and professional Blender user so a book by him is certainly worth checking out. The book presents some thirty shaders in a cookbook style and offers many insights in the Cycles rendering system not limited to specific materials. Although a cookbook implies that you can use the recipes as they are presented, the techniques that are offered in the book will get you a lot further than that and will help you develop skills necessary to develop your own materials because of the very detailed way their implementation is described.

Pros

thorough, each material is described in step-by-step detail and pretty much every avaible Cycles node is featured somewhere and both node groups and frames are covered as well,

comprehensive, both materials based on textures and materials based on procedural noise are covered and the all important concept of layering increasingly fine detail to get realistic textures is featured quite some times,

interesting, some materials feature mainly as a means to illustrate a concept but many materials are quite good and some are even excellent, my favorites are the sponge texture, the leather texture and the ancient bronze texture.

Cons

the introductory chapter on how to set up Cycles and where to find stuff isn't all that clear. This isn't necessarily the author's fault because sometimes the Blender interface can be overwhelming. Maybe this is one of those situations where a video tutorial is useful,

the resolution of the illustrations is way to low (I read the e-book version). If you try to zoom in the lettering of the node labels isn't readable. And yes, high resolution versions of those illustrations are available for download but that detracts from the reading experience a lot.

Conclusion

Nice and thorough book to get you started on creating materials for Cycles.


On Growth and Form
On Growth and Form
by D'Arcy Wentworth Thompson
Edition: Paperback
Price: £7.09

1.0 out of 5 stars Feels like a ripoff, 22 May 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This review is from: On Growth and Form (Paperback)
I wish I had read the previous customer reviews. Not only is it an abridged edition, the quality of the printing is so poor (black lettering on a grey stippled background) that it is almost impossible to read for people with less than perfect eyesight.

This is the first time ever I feel ripped off by Amazon (and the unnamed publisher of this poor edition) and unfortunately I am too late to exercise my right to return the book.

I am truly disappointed, the more so since I learned there are free, good quality unabridged versions available on the web.


Blender Game Engine: Beginner's Guide
Blender Game Engine: Beginner's Guide
by Victor Kuller Bacone
Edition: Paperback
Price: £24.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Quite ok, 11 Oct 2012
My first impressions of the book were a bit disappointing because in some sections of the book the language feels awkward and too many times we are told that things are easy and while his might be true, the reader surely can discover this for himself without being told so time and again by the author.
But, overall it is a good book to start working with Blender's game engine. It does cover most issues to create a complete game, including user interaction, animations, collisions, multiple levels, splash screens and creating a stand alone executable. You name it and it is covered.
The approach is consistently step by step and guarantees you will get to a working game, however the chosen game motive, moving a whale around in a sea of icebergs, may not satisfy your expectations if your idea of a game is a fast paced first person action shooter.
Of course an entry level book cannot possibly cover everything, but I would have liked to see some more on creating low poly game assets, creating somewhat intelligent opponents or even some alternative game scenarios. Now it just feels a little bit shallow.
But don't get me wrong, if you have a some game idea this book will not only get you started in realizing that idea but it will probably help you to get it completed. And creating a real working game based on your own ideas that other people can actually play, is very rewarding.
At the current price I reckon the e-book to be a good buy.


Blender 3D Basics
Blender 3D Basics
by Gordon Fisher
Edition: Paperback
Price: £30.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nice & Thorough, 20 Aug 2012
This review is from: Blender 3D Basics (Paperback)
The first impressions on reading this book are that is well written. The writer clearly has thought about how to present the reader with projects that provide a smooth learning curve. No details are left out and animation, not just modeling an rendering, is a focal point from page one.

While reading the book you clearly get the feel you are getting somewhere. Many easy to follow steps guide you through subjects like camera work, animating, rendering a final compositing and even touches on that all important point of animation: telling a story. At the end the reader will be able to create a small animated movie (even in anaglyphic 3d!).

It helps of course that for almost every small step sample files are available for download and the pdf version of the ebook is in color, a necessity for books about graphics in my opinion (although the .mobi version read just fine on my Kindle)

Of course there are some things it doesn't cover : character animation, (which is advanced, but something about armatures would have been nice, even for non-character animation), while texturing, especially UV mapping, is only touched upon. Cycles, the new Blender render engine, is only covered as an addendum but that I think is hardly a problem: thousands of fine animations have been made with Blender's internal renderer and thousands will be.

Conclusion: I am impressed. This is an excellent book for Blender novices. Reading this book gives the aspiring Blender animator the biggest chance of actually finishing something instead of leaving the reader with some boring technical experiments.


Blender 2.5: Hotshot
Blender 2.5: Hotshot
by John E. Herreño
Edition: Paperback
Price: £27.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A practical intro to Blender 2.5, 20 July 2011
This review is from: Blender 2.5: Hotshot (Paperback)
The fresh new approach of this book had set my expectations high. Instead of focusing on specific Blender related skills like modeling or texturing it takes on complete projects from start to finish. This is a great idea because for many people starting with Blender, the complexity of even a simple project is overwhelming. That is no fault of Blender but it just takes a lot more than just a cool idea to create that space scene or enormous explosion, leaving many people disappointed about the results of their first endeavors. So a book that covers projects from start to finish is a very good idea.

However, after reading the book I am a little bit disappointed. The projects are chosen well enough: from creating a car, to a space scene and animating a humanoid figure, these are all appealing subjects that inspire many people to start working in 3d and can benefit greatly from this start to finish approach. The book covers even some subjects rarely seen elsewhere, notably creating an interactive walk-through in the game engine and adding a model of a snail into a real image of some foliage. All aspects of these projects are covered thoroughly and everything is explained well enough, so why my grumpiness?

The first thing is the annoying language: each project is structured like the mission of a secret space agent or something. This means we have sections like Briefing and Debriefing, but also 'Engage thrusters', 'Mission accomplished' and 'Classified intel'. Now of course books don't have to be dead serious all the time, but this simply detracts from the subject matter in my opinion, especially when coupled with the all too frequent use of the words 'awesome' and 'nice' (the latter alone over 30 times in just the first chapter). This kind of language may be less of a point to younger people and this is all just a minor point of course.

The other thing is that the projects just don't feel polished or even really finished. Yes, you will completely model, texture, light and render a car but don't expect the shiny looks of a concept car in an automotive magazine. This isn't bad in itself, after all, most people will not even get to this stage but it sure isn't 'awesome' and the author does not show in detail what steps are needed to get a really professional look (with one exception: the (cover)image of Earth as seen from space is rather nice and how to make it is covered in one of the chapters).

Don't get me wrong, this is not a bad book, in fact this is a good book to learn and master Blender 2.5 if you are new to Blender but it could have been lot better. John Herreño clearly knows what he is talking about, so with a little bit more effort the book could have been really awesome.


Blender 2.5 Character Animation Cookbook
Blender 2.5 Character Animation Cookbook
by Virgilio Vasconcelos
Edition: Paperback
Price: £27.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Well organized, well written, 13 July 2011
Packt Publishing is expanding its library of quality Blender 2.5 books in a serious way: already we saw excellent books on materials and textures (Blender 2.5 Materials and Textures Cookbook) as well as on lighting and rendering (Blender 2.5 Lightning and Rendering) and now we have a book on character animation.
I have always found the task of actually animating a character in Blender rather daunting, so any book that explains this process in depth has my full attention. Animating a character is not an easy task: you have to add a skeleton (or 'rig') to your character in order to pose it and then you have use this rig in an effective way to actually animate the character. Blender has many powerful rigging and animation facilities so any book on the subject has to face a considerable challenge to explain the myriad of options in an understandable manner without losing focus. After all, animation is not about fiddling knobs but conveying emotion in the movements of your characters.
I think Virgilio met the challenge quite well. This cookbook is well organized and covers both rigging a character and using this rig to animate the character. The rigging is done step by step: after explaining the basics, each body part, like torso, legs and face is covered in detail. Especially the setup of the face rig is an excellent example of Virgilio's skills in explaining complex issues: here we learn not only how to make a face move, but also why we want to mix techniques like using both bones and shape keys to control facial features and how to hide this necessary complexity for the animator by providing just a few control bones that drive the motion of many other elements.
But rigging is not all there is and this cookbook contains many recipes to focus on getting the basics of your animation right: how to set up a walk cycle, let your character pick up a ball or speak: all of this is covered in detail. Virgilio explains this an accessible way and provides clear screen-shots for each step. He even found a way to highlight important details in Blender's otherwise rather murky interface by adding bright arrows where needed. This will be especially useful when you read the book in print, where reproducing Blender screen-shots in a readable way is quite difficult.
Of course the books comes with its full complement of example files that you can download from the publisher's website. You will not only get the fully rigged Otto character but many additional files with partial rigs as well that let you start at any point in the book in true cookbook fashion.
The only minor point of the book is that it's only about a humanoid character. Maybe animating a quadruped isn't that difficult but a few tips would be helpful, but then again it is impossible to cover everything of course.
All in all this is a book I like. Learning to rig and animate a character might still be large hill to climb but this book makes it possible to scale the slope in little steps without fear of falling.


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