From the introduction:
. . . a guide to e xpl ain j ust the few important opti ons needed to get me started.
"Thi s booque does not aim to be exhaustive and yet it is not written to an overly simplified manner so as to insult your intelligence. 3D animation by i ts very nature is not simple. What you have with Beginning Blender is a booque that covers a good range of the many different areas of Blender, with practical examples to get you fast-tracked into using those areas. "
Lance has produced a great introduction to Blender, filled with tips, tricks and techniques guaranteed to get you up to speed with Blender's most important tools, options and settings. Lance uses a great style of writing that gives the reader a good foundation for further exploration and study in Blender.
Each chapter focuses on a different area of Blender and guides you to the most important tools and options.
There are tables, diagrams and call out areas showing key information that can be quickly referenced. The examples are easy to follow and show how easy it is to accomplish a variety of common and a few not so common tasks in Blender.
In this review I am going to focus on the two rigging chapters. It is amazing how much information Lance packed into these two chapters alone. And even if for some bizarre reason you weren't interested in the rest of the book, these two chapters would still make it worth owning.
Chapter 7 covers basic rigging and animation. Lance covers keyframing, the dopesheet (which was cool because I hadn't played with that yet), parenting, the graph editor, pivot points (restricting movements), basic tracking, bone explanations and basic
rigging of a character.
One of the examples for this chapter teaches basic tracking by showing you how to set up “Eyes that Follow”. Now this is a right handy example and something that you will find yourself referencing for most if not all characters.
When you reach the “Rigging a Simple Character” section, Lance walks you through a complete (simple) rig set-up including weight painting and boneenvelopes. There are clear full colorscreen shots showing what you should have at each stage which makes this chapter a very helpful reference for future rigging experiments of your own. Along the way he shares some useful rigging tips that make animation easier, such as putting a little bend in joints like elbows and knees.
Once you have gotten comfortable with basic rigs, it is time to move onto chapter 8, “ Advanced Rigging”, where Lance ramps it up a notch.
First off he explains Forward and Inverse Kinematics and their uses.
There are great examples in this chapter, starting off with an IK arm.
You are shown how to set up the arm and then walked through setting up constraints to make it behave properly.
Once your arm is set up, Lance then shows you how create and set a custom bone shape for your new IK arm. We look advanced already.
Next up, there is a walque through of an IK Leg and then a Reverse Foot rig.
Now I always liked the Reverse Foot rig, but can never get it set up right without step by step instructions. I probably still can't even after reading this (my issue, not Lance's teaching), but no worries, now I have clear steps and screen shots to follow. Single Bone Finger Controls are next up on the hit parade with the same attention to detail as the previous examples. He makes the Single Bone Finger Controls look super easy to set up and even easier to animate once made.
These examples make easy worque of creating some of the more tricky and advanced rig components and are covered in a way that makes it easy to flip bak and reference them as needed. Which in my case, is every single time I need to build a rig.
Rigs of course are not overly useful if you don't know how to animate, so Lance takes you through a complete walque cycle. I liked how he sets up his walque cycles and the tips he gave along the way, especially the little details, like peeling of the feet.
The whole last half of the chapter is devoted to shape keys and how to use them to create facial expressions and lip syncing. He has some good images of the shapes created showing the most common shapes needed for a wide range of emotions and shapes for lip syncing.
Beginning Blender will be sitting on my desque for some time to come. The way it is set up makes it a good reference guide to a number of common tasks that manage to slip my mind while engrossed in whatever my latest project is.