3DFluff's latest DVD, Vol 6 came out in August 2007. This DVD follows on from 3DFluff's previous Vol 5 DVD on the HAIR module which the Cafe has reviewed here. I also own the excellent Vol 4 Advanced Lighting and rendering in 9.5
Vol 6 sees the return of Matthew (Mash) O'Neill for the first few modelling videos then Janine Pauke does the balance of the video tutorials. On the last DVD Matthew only did the introduction with the tutorials all presented by Janine. Both Matthew and Janine have previously worked for MAXON and are very knowledgeable with CINEMA 4D.
The DVD is a data DVD i.e. must be played back on a computer. Inside the case there's simple instructions that tell you to open the "Start here.html file." Once you've done that you get a friendly screen with options on where to find the video tutorials, how to get in touch with 3DFluff, where to find their web site and a FAQ section. The FAQ section is very useful for those new to CINEMA 4D and answers questions about running the videos and getting your computer to look the same i.e. colours etc
The videos are in Quicktime format using the H.264 codec. Resolution is 1024 x 768 and frame rate is 25 frames per second. Video and audio quality is superb. Like previous 3DFluff DVD's the audio appears to be recorded separately so you don't get any keyboard sounds or other background noise although listening through headphones on my laptop I did occasionally hear very faint background noises. With speakers you wouldn't hear them. The videos will play from the DVD if you've got a fast computer but it's best to copy the entire DVD on to hard disk which the DVD tells you that you are allowed to do. This will make playback better on slower computers plus the videos will load quicker. I watched most of the videos on my laptop and had no problems whatsoever. Make sure you're running the latest version of Quicktime and you should be fine. Older versions often struggled playing the H.264 format and stopping, starting and rewinding often caused problems. The videos are all recorded using CINEMA 4D Release 10 on a PC. The new "Light" scheme is used throughout.
Video 1 - Flower Pot 9min
This is an introduction by Matthew and begins with the final animation that the tutorials produce. The DVD is all about producing a 30 second cartoon type animation suitable for television. Matthew goes through setting up CINEMA 4D so that a few things like the object bounding box are disabled and some of the filter options are disabled. After that he shows how to model the flower pot using a Spline and a LatheNurbs object. The modelling is pretty simple stuff and Matthew shows how to make corners rounded by using the spline chamfer tool.
Video 2 - Flower Modelling 18min
Matthew begins by creating a 5 sided spline. This is then extruded with no movement and made editable. The 5 edges are extruded and then the polygon object is dropped under a hypernurbs object. Matthew refines the shape by doing some point editing. To make things clearer for us to see in this and in other videos the display mode is changed to a mode appropriate for the current actions. Some depth is created by extruding and the inner part of the flower is created by a number of extrudes. Matthew discusses reversed normals and what to look out for. A few more extrudes and moving polygons around and the flower is finished. It's a cartoon flower so it's very simple and round. The leaves are created from a cube primitive and Matthew shows how to use edge weighting to get the sharp points. If you have a second monitor I reckon you could almost follow along in real time and do the modelling as Matthew explains things so well, that if you're familiar with modelling in C4D you would have no trouble in keeping up. Best to watch the video all the way through first and then go back and watch again while you do the modelling.
Video 3 - Flower Texturing 20min
In this video Matthew applies materials to the flower. For the flower he uses a gradient and shows how to get the material correctly applied with the texture tools. Matthew shows how to get the flat cartoon look and how to get the yellow area for the face nicely blending into the reddish / orange colour. A supplied face texture with alpha map is supplied and applied to the flower. The flower pot gets a simple brown texture. Here's 2 renders of where we're up to at the end of this video.
Up until now the modelling had been pretty simple so I was pleased that the texturing was a bit more advanced. While the texturing may look very simple, to achieve these results requires a bit of tweaking and the use of various channels. Matthew does a great job of explaining things.
Video 4 - Honey 16min
The honey pot, lid and honey is modelled in this video. A Spline and LatheNurbs object are used for the honey pot and honey. The lid is made with a Star spline that's adjusted and extruded with an ExtrudeNurbs object. We're shown how to use cap fillets to round the cap. Matthew shows how to change the display colour of the objects so that the honey inside the jar is easier to see and work with. Again this is pretty simple modelling.
Video 5 - Bee Modelling 25min
Matthew shows how to model and texture a simple cute looking cartoon bee. The best part in this video is the texturing and how to make the gradient texture cycle. The modelling again is quite simple. Here's what the bee looks like at this end of this video.
Video 6 - Text 10min
This video covers creating the text. The MoGraph module is used for this and Matthew shows creating the text and how to use a random effector to make the words and letters bobble around. At the start Matthew says that the MoGraph module is not absolutely essential. I think what would have been useful is for an alternative method to using MoGraph to be shown as well as the MoGraph module version. Matthew explains the differences between the letter and word mode when using MoGraph effectors. As mentioned Matthew uses the random effector to make the letters and words bobble around and shows how easy it is by using the noise mode. Here's what the animated text looks like at the end of this video (only 60 frames for this example). I've applied a black material to make the letters easier to see. In a later video a plain white material is applied.
Video 7 - Flower Rigging 34min
Janine Pauke takes over for the rest of the DVD. For those who haven't heard Janine speak before, she speaks very good English but with a delightful German accent. Janine goes through and does a simple rig using bones and point selections for the restriction tags. I'm baffled by this. One of the big new features in Release 10 was joints and the tools etc that go with them. This would have been a great opportunity to show using joints. I actually think using joints and using auto weighting would have been easier than using 8 selection tags and 8 restriction tags. She could have then shown editing the weighting if required. Anyway, after setting up the bones and the restriction tags she then shows how to set up "Set driven keys" so that as one bone is rotated all of the child bones rotate as well. This is good stuff and Janine shows that by setting up the set driven keys that some XPresso has been automatically created. She also fixes up the geometry on the flower so that the flower stalk deforms correctly as the bones move.
Once the rigging is done and Janine starts playing around with the bones she shows a problem with the textures sliding. She shows how to fix this using "Stick texture" tags. There's some useful information in this video but I think a golden opportunity was lost by not using joints. To test that joints in fact do work I rigged the flower with joints. By using joints I was able to achieve virtually identical results to what Janine did using bones. I found that auto weighting worked fine on the flower but I had to manually adjust the weights for the 2 leaves. Here's an example of the what the flower does as one bone or joint as in my case is rotated. The set driven key set up is identical when using joints. The flower is now set up for animating that takes place in a later video.
Video 8 - Lighting 35min
Janine begins by making a few adjustments to the flower. A background is added and a supplied texture is added to the background object. For a floor a disc object is used and Janine shows how to blend the background into the floor but still have shadows on the floor. Janine sets up 4 lights and a shadowcaster light to only cast shadows. I have to say that up until now I'd found the DVD pretty light weight with the information at pretty much newbie level. This video was reminiscent of Vol 4 where Janine demonstrates her great understanding of lighting and goes into excellent detail explaining and demonstrating a main light, fill lights, back lighting with rim lighting and the use of a shadow caster light. Shadow maps are explained and some good tips given. Lots of test renders are done and perhaps we should have been shown the new Interactive Render Region tool when doing so many test renders. Enhanced OpenGL is not mentioned either on the DVD. Yet another new Release 10 feature. However to be fair the flower looked terrible with Enhanced OpenGL enabled because of the alpha channel for the face. This video is one of the highlights of the DVD and good a introduction to 3 point lighting.
Video 9 - Honey Texturing 23 min
Janine begins by merging the honey pot into the flower pot scene. She scales it up as it's a bit small. A honey material is created and applied to the honey object and a label is applied to the honey pot complete with alpha channel. The black plastic material is created and applied to the lid. This video is another highlight of the DVD as creating a believable honey texture and glass material isn't as easy you may think. Janine shows some excellent tips for getting the glass right as the lighting can do funny things to the edges of the honey pot. So if the modelling was fairly newbie level the texturing and lighting certainly isn't and I think many people would learn something from this video and the previous video. Here's a render of the final honey pot with the lighting created in the previous video. Yummy!!
Video 10 - Previs 32min
In this video Janine does a dummy animation using simplified objects to represent the flower, bee and honey pot. This allows for much faster viewport playback and for fast test renders and preview renders. Once you're happy with a previs animation you can load it as an animated material on to your background object and use it as a reference when animating the higher detail real objects. Janine shows setting the project settings to 25 frames per second to match European TV (Pal) but no mention is made of the render resolution or video aspect ratio or in the use of safe frames. These minor issues aside this video demonstrates the basic steps to creating a simple previs animation. Janine shows refining the previs animation in the timeline by adjusting keyframe timing and by adjusting F curves.
Video 11 - Flower Animation 41min
Janine starts by setting the project settings to 25fps and setting the animation length with the start at frame 0 and the end at frame 750 (751 frames). Perhaps I'm being picky but this actually gives 30 seconds of animation plus 1 frame. For precisely 30 seconds of animation the start frame should be frame 1 which then gives 750 frames. At the very least it could have been mentioned. The previs animation image sequence is loaded as an animated texture on the background object and Janine proceeds to animate the flower and the honey pot to match the previs animation. For the bee she shows how to make the wings flap using a vibrate expression. All throughout the video she has the timeline visible and uses the timeline to adjust keyframe timing. Things like overshoot are explained and resolved by clamping keys. This is all pretty good stuff and fairly straight forward. If you're looking for advanced tutorials on the various timeline functions in Release 10 then this DVD won't provide it. The DVD just shows you how to do a complete project from start to finish and only shows the tools and options required to get this particular project completed.
Video 12 - Bee Animation 40 minutes
This video just carries on from where the last video finished and focuses on animating the bee flying in and around the flower. A lot of work is done on creating and editing the bees animation path. The video shows doing preview renders and some final renders with what we have so far. Towards the end of the video the flower is animated to try and look at the bee. Here's a screen grab from this video. Click on the image for a full resolution version.
Click on the image for full size version. Video quality is excellent.
Video 13 - F Curves 28min
Again this video carries on from the last one. In fact they all do. This video is all about refining the animation created so far using F curves (Function curves). As mentioned previously we're only shown things needed to complete the project so there's no additional material on other timeline functions. A few full test renders are done so that we can see what our animation is looking like so far.
Video 14 - Composition 37min
The animation is completed in the video by further refinement and the addition of the MoGraph text object. The text is animated to follow the bee into the camera view and stop. To add some interest the bee is giving a MoGraph "Tracer" dashed tail. An alpha channel texture is used to break it up into dashes. At the end of the video the project is now complete with only the final render left to do. I think what have been useful in this video would have been for an alternative method for doing the tail was shown. Not everyone has the MoGraph module and an acceptable result could have been achieved by using a SweepNurbs object and animating the start and end parameters and by converting the bee animation path to a spline.
Video 15 - Rendering 44min
The final video on the DVD is all about rendering out the animation. Janine does a little fine tuning of the animation. A camera is added and she explains what the "Film offset" option does. To make things interesting Janine adds some scene motion blur and explains the settings. The main focus of the video however is on render settings and in particular antialiasing, ray depth, reflection depth and shadow depth settings. Janine shows objects like wine glasses and demonstrates what happens by changing the settings. This content is superb and what I would describe as classic 3DFluff. For me this was by far and away the best video on the DVD and it's just a pity there wasn't more in depth content like this. We're shown how to render out the animation as an image sequence but not shown how to combine the image sequence and add sound in an external program. Some programs are suggested for doing this but why not show using them? There was an opportunity here to show off CINEMA 4D's audio tools. A speaker could have been attached to the bee and a buzzing sound attached. Then with stereo microphones set up in the scene, the buzzing sound could have been made to move around from left to right audio channels as the bee flies around. Then we could have been shown how to render out 3D sound. The video finishes by playing the final animation that includes sound that was added in the external program.
Here's 4 small renders from the final animation. The blurriness is caused by the use of scene motion blur.
The DVD comes with some additional content. There's the excellent 37 minute 3DFluff fur tutorial, May 2007 and June 2007 3DAttack magazines in pdf format and some excellent HDR images (same ones as on the previous DVD's). Naturally all of the required textures are supplied as are scene files at various stages of completion and the final 30 second animation.
I had high expectations for this DVD after the disappointing Vol 5 HAIR styling DVD which was too short and didn't cover many HAIR tools. Review by the Cafe here. At around 7 hours duration Vol 6 is certainly a lot longer than the last one. What you get is a cute little cartoon TV commercial project from start to finish. The techniques used to describe producing this project are presented very clearly. One thing with 3DFluff DVD's is you're shown correct techniques. A few training materials I've seen have some questionable techniques shown. Okay, so can I recommend the DVD? Yes if you want to produce a cartoon type TV commercial or if you're new to CINEMA 4D and want a fun project to do. You'll have no problem following and completing the tutorials to produce your own version but if you were looking for a DVD that goes through the new features in Release 10 then this isn't the DVD for you. As mentioned, I was baffled why joints weren't used. Things like modelling layers, Enhanced OpenGL and Interactive Render Region are not mentioned at all. There's moments of classic 3DFluff excellence with things demonstrated and explained in some depth but not enough for what many intermediate users would have been hoping for.
For more information, screen shots, sample videos and to buy the DVD click here. The DVD costs £49. North and South America users can buy the DVD for $79.95 from MAXON's US online shop here which works out less than buying in pounds.
Review by Nigel Doyle / 3DKiwi - August 2007.