Thursday, November 5, 2009

d'artiste Digital Artists Master Class - Character Modelling 3 - by Ballistic Publishing

In the last days of October, while I was on a brief trip to Germany (Eh? You didn't know I was away?) Mr. Alan Halsted of Ballistic asked if I would like to review their upcoming Character Modelling 3 book on this blog.
My focus has mainly been on fantasy computer game art, and I have not in the past sought out such books, but his mention of a KillZone 2 focus (the making of the coolest character, the Helghast Sniper!) really piqued my interest. So of course I agreed.

The day after I got home, the book arrived.


For collectors, there is a 200-copy-only Limited Edition, and naturally I received for review the typical slipcover copy. If you've never had one of these books in your hand, I must say it's built to last and meant to be a permanent addition.
The book itself has a fairly thick cover, and the pages are full-cover gloss of good thickness, not the slightly thinner cheaper stock you sometimes get when you order art book reprints from extreme discount outfits. And it comes with a sturdy cardboard slipcase for added protection.
The book was also separately wrapped in plastic when it comes in the slipcase, and the shipping box was longer than the slipcase by about two inches, which means the box might be a bit banged up during shipping, but you won't get any dented corners.

A bit overkill, maybe, but why not? -- Software quickly becomes obsolete, and with them, some of the more technical knowledge imparted by the professionals featured in the book. But their insights on process (like how to approach complex parts like hands and fingers) may well be timeless.

And these are professionals. Not mere expert artists but industrial-strength veterans who work for prestigious firms such as Industrial Light and Magic (Giovanni Nakpil); and who have earned such titles as Art and Animation Director (Jan-Bart van Beek) and Lead and Modelling Supervisor (Cesar Dacol Jr.).

Is this book for you? If you're solely looking for artwork, it got a nice mix, but you'll have a better time playing the game or finding artwork elsewhere, such as with Ballistic's Expose or Exotique series. This is really more of a textbook. Some of it is commentary, some is general advice, while some sections read like technobabble. Are you using ZBrush? Would you understand this?

"Transferring Detail: We avoid using envelopers with sample options. We turn off Front Range so that virtual envelope only takes in data from inside. This way back bias controls a 'push out' of that envelope if set to a negative number like -1 or -0.1. We usually end up with two separate bakes for the normal map. One with bigger 'push out' back bias..."

That said, there's an interesting option for artists who are on the edge of understanding it all; who like to have a more hands-on experience and play around with the possibilities; or who would benefit from having all the details: (from the press release)

Exclusive Offer
Ballistic Publishing are pushing the educational possibilities for 3D artists even further with d’artiste Character Modeling 3 by making two of the featured tutorial characters available as downloadable high-resolution models. What better way to understand the 3D modeling process than by looking closely at the final meshes of these renowned character modelers? The first 500 customers who pre-order d’artiste Character Modeling 3 slipcase edition and all Limited Edition customers will receive a download link allowing them to start exploring the models in the book. The featured models are Giovanni Nakpil’s quadruped creature, and Cesar Dacol Jr’s Pond Guardian creature.

If you're still not sure, you can page through the 208 pages with the online book previewer to see the mix of finished artwork and the in-process snapshots.

CG page 38-39 dragon modelling - Cesar Dacol Jr.

CG3 page 92-93 partial - Building the Helghast Sniper

CG3 page 80-81 partial - Killzone gallery

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