INTERVIEW: Tony Mullen

Tony Mullen, author of “Introducing to Character Animation with Blender”, has written a new book," Bounce, Tumble and Splash!".

Tony covers the newest physics and dynamics features of Blender in a full color guide to the more complex features of Blender.The book is filled with step by step instructions and in-depth explanations of how each step was taken, and why each choice was made.

In a fun community interview Tony answers some of our most burning questions concerning “Bounce, Tumble and Splash!” as well as a surprise or two.

Are you currently making a book on the Blender game engine? Any plans to write a new book about Blender? What would that be?

Thanks for these questions! I guess this is as good a time and place as any to announce my next book, which will be "Mastering Blender" and will be part of Sybex's "Mastering" series (just as "Introducing Character Animation with Blender" was part of their "Introducing" series).

This book will be the most advanced Blender book yet. A large portion of it will be about ordinary Blender functionality, but focusing on features and functionality that are new or have not yet been described in depth in other books. Another significant portion of the book (probably about 4 chapters worth) will be devoted to Python scripting for Blender and all its variations (PyDrivers, PyNodes, PyConstraints, scriptlinks, etc), with the aim of getting newbies and non-programmers up-to-speed with scripting in Python. There will alos be a significant
section on the game engine, including using Python in the game engine.

It's a little early to say with complete certainty, but I alos hope to have some material contributed by some other authors, who are well-known experts in the Blender community. I hope that their contributions will help to make this book especially valuable for people who want to push the envelope of their Blender skills.

How hard was it to get a publisher such as Sybex to Publish the Book(s)?
And was the first book already (in one form or another) written before they accepted it for Publication?

I initially approached several publishers with a proposal for the character animation book that included a full table of contents outline and description of the book (this would all change somewhat when I wrote the actual book). The thing that publishers want to know is what is new and original about the book, and why you think anybody would buy it. At the time I wrote the proposal, all the other English Blender books were out of print, and when I pointed the Sybex folks to the website and gallery I think the book proposal sold itself. Some other publishers turned the proposal down, but Sybex was very interested, and they weren't the only ones. It was simply a crime that there were no books on the market at all for Blender, and so the timing was right. My enthusiasm might have been infectious.

Any suggestions for other people that would like to write a book such as yoursí

My suggestion would be to identify a need and fill that. For me, I was motivated to write the book originally because of my own frustration at not being able to *buy* the kinds of Blender books I wanted. If they had already existed it would have never occurred to me to throw my hat into the ring. At this point, there are still a lot of áreas and applications of Blender that haven't been dealt with thoroughly inbooque form. The greatest benefit to the community (and the greatest chance of selling books!) comes if you can contribute something that people can't find elsewhere. Of course, the field of Blender books is filling up. There are now four Blender books in print in English that I know of, with at least 3 more that I know of on the way, so if you really want to write a book, the big challenge now is to find an original angle.

In other words, don't write a book such as mine, because there already is one!

How many Fluid Sim tutorials will there be in your book?

I think the chapter on fluids is 60 or 70 pages long (I'd have to go check). There are several step by step demonstrations and some extended in-depth examples. Basically, everything you ever wanted to know about fluid simulation in Blender is covered.

Will it be possible to buy the book in .pdf?

That's up to the publisher. I think that they usually do release books in pdf form at some point. I'm not really sure why, though, because nobody seems to actually buy those, based on the last royalty report I saw.

"Bounce, Tumble, and Splash!: Simulating the Physical World with Blender 3D" is going to be my bible until you release your next book. I would like Blender to be taught in major 3D institutes, and I believe that given the strict "traditional" nature of these places, what are the chances of you releasing a book that will appeal to the humorless Head of Departments - like simply "Simulating the Physical World with Blender 3D".

My experience with heads of departments hasn't always been so humorless, but in any case, if people want to teach the contents of my book, I'm afraid they're going to have to suk it up and buy a book with a catchy title!

Will you ever consider releasing your books as open contentí (Not like I wouldn't buy it anyway, I have a copy of Introduction to Character Animation on my desque )

This is an interesting question and I think I could rattle on for hours about it.

In fact the files that accompany the books, such as the Captain Blender .blends, etc, are already open content. You can use them and distribute them freely according to the text files included with the blends.

The short answer regarding the books themselves is that as long as I'm contracted to work through Sybex or any other mainstream publisher, I don't have the right to decide how the books are released, so no, there's no chance of those books ever being released by me as open content.

The longer answer is that I believe there's still a way to go before the ideal business models have been developed for working with open content, but I would love to see that happen. I could not afford to put in the time and effort it takes to write these books if I wasn't getting paid to do so, so it's really necessary to have a functioning business model. At the same time I believe that open content is the way of the future for a variety of reasons. I admire the Blender Foundation for their efforts and successes at forging a business model based on open content. I alos am encouraged when I see bands like Radiohead embrace alternate methods of distributing and getting paid for their work. It's all still fairly experimental, but I think the experiments are yielding some interesting results that will help to create tomorrow's open business models.

For now, though, the royalties system is still the only really reliable means by which a creator's contribution can be remunerated fairly. So I'm happy to be working within the traditional model while it lasts.

“Bounce, Tumble and Splash!” is now available for purchase/delivery from Amazon.

Tony has alos created a little teaser video featuring some of the examples and tutorials found in the book, which can be found on YouTube.