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Learning Blender : a hands-on guide to creating 3D animated characters
Villar O., Addison-Wesley Professional, Upper Saddle River, NJ, 2014. 352 pp. Type: Book (978-0-133886-17-7)
Date Reviewed: Jul 22 2015

Creating 3D animated characters is a difficult task that can greatly benefit from proper software support. Blender is such a 3D animation software system. There are currently many other such systems available, all with their own strengths and weaknesses. Blender’s main strengths lie in it being open source and having one of the most complete 3D graphics creation suites. Over the last few years, Blender’s user base has grown significantly, aided by the fact that it has been used in top movie productions such as Life of Pi and Red Riding Hood. Blender’s target audience is professional, freelance 3D artists, small studios, and research groups that require 3D animation.

This well-designed and very well-written book allows users to learn how to use Blender to complete a complex 3D animation project. But thankfully it is not simply a Blender manual. The author covers every part of the 3D animation process, and Blender is used as the modeling system of choice. Conceptually, however, Blender is simply treated as a tool to help illustrate the 3D animation modeling process. The goal is to allow readers to take any project from preproduction to the final result.

The book is organized into six parts, and readers already somewhat familiar with Blender may be able to skip parts they are not interested in. There is also a companion website that includes video tutorials, Blender example files at different stages of project execution, and an HD video that shows a finished Blender 3D animation project.

In the first part, chapters 1, 2, and 3 cover the basics of Blender such as the user interface, concluding in chapter 3 with the development of a first basic 3D scene. These first three chapters are mainly designed for users unfamiliar with Blender, and the author does an excellent job taking the reader by the hand using examples and explaining step by step the basics of Blender 3D animation.

The book then goes into the animation process itself by covering in detail the three stages of any animation project: preproduction, production, and postproduction. First, in Part 2, chapters 4 and 5, the author covers the design phase. Part 3, chapters 6 and 7, then explains how to use Blender modeling tools to create a 3D character. Part 4 continues with the unwrapping (chapter 8), painting (chapter 9), and shading (chapter 10) of a character. In Part 5, chapters 11 and 12, the author teaches the reader how to pick the correct skeleton to animate a character. In the final part, Part 6, chapters 13 and 14, the author covers how to composite the character into a video using Blender’s camera tracking tools and compositing notes. In the last chapter, chapter 15, additional Blender features and tools are very briefly discussed.

Overall, I tremendously enjoyed this book. I believe it will not only introduce many new users to the Blender 3D modeling system, but may also become a general introduction to 3D animation. I strongly recommend it to anyone curious about Blender and interested in learning about the 3D animation process.

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Reviewer:  Burkhard Englert Review #: CR143641 (1510-0872)
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