3D Modeling, Art, Review

Review: Anatomy for 3D Artists: The Essential Guide for CG Professionals by Chris Legaspi

Anatomy for 3D Artists

This book really is “The Essential Guide” for 3D character artists. Though you can probably make a decent model just following reference images and common sense, I think a solid basis of knowledge of the human form really is the foundation for taking your art to the next level of realism. If you are looking for that foundation, or just want to up your skills in the character department, look no further.

The chapter structure in Anatomy for 3D Artists has a variety of different artists tackling a few chapters each, giving the book some different flavor and allowing for these best-in-breed artists to highlight their strengths. It begins with 2D study, and has several chapters each detailing both male and female figures. This beginning part is very much foundational, and shows the basic proportions of the body as well as the basics of bone and muscle structure. This follows up with similar treatments of bone and muscles in a 3D context. Finally, they finish the book with some full sculpts of both male and female bodies in dynamic poses.

It really goes deep into the names and relationships between the bones and muscles, moreso than I was even expecting. And to put this into context, I went to art school for college and I don’t even recall ever going this deep. For example, the text is peppered with lines like: “The bone of the femur rotates inward around its longitudinal axis. The tensor fasciae latae, the gluteus medius, and parts of the gluteus minimus allow this movement.” I won’t lie, some of this descriptions are thick and I doubt I will remember the specifics. Though it is still helpful to understand, and you could always refer back to the text in cases of confusion. And, despite some of the heavily worded descriptions, the text remains very approachable.

Anatomy for 3D Artists is a great place to look, not only for guidance but also inspiration. They spared no expense at having literally every page packed with multiple full color illustrations of each step along the way. Especially for a book of this nature, pictures are key to understanding the material, and the presentation is beautiful. There’s also a few sections in the middle and end just to showcase finished artwork, which is appreciated.

One other great aspect, is that the instruction is not tied to any particular 3D modeling package. Though it’s clear most of the authors are using ZBrush, they stray from going into the specific technical aspects of the application. Pretty much all the instruction is general and could be applied to whatever software you or your studio prefers.

All in all, I consider this book to be a huge success and should be a key element of any character artist’s bag of tricks. Although there are other anatomy books going back years, this is one of the first specifically for 3D artists. I found it helpful and I think you will too.

3D Modeling, Art, Game Engine, Graphics, Review

Review: Maya Studio Projects: Game Environments and Props by Michael McKinley

MayaGameEnvironments

This is a book with a solid focus, and I feel like it accomplishes it’s goal nicely. Basically what Maya Studio Projects is about is creating environment objects and props for games (as the title implies). There are 9 chapters, and each one chooses a different object to model. McKinley is very detailed in his explanation, and really shows each and every step needed to follow along. Some of the objects modeled include walls and floors, foliage, weapons, vehicles, buildings, lamps, and a simple object animation. Supposedly there is a DVD companion, but I got the Kindle e-book and usually don’t bother with looking at the discs.

What I like most about Maya Studio Projects: Game Environments and Props by Michael McKinley is that the book is very much geared toward game artists. While pre-rendered art and game art do require the same skills, there is a slightly different thought process and flow when you are working within the limitations of a real-time game engine. The author does not assume you are using any particular engine (though Unreal is named a few times) and the techniques can be used in almost any modern engine. However, the instruction steps are very much tailored for Maya. While this is great if you want to follow along, step for step, it may make it more difficult if you use another package. Also, I typically like to just read along and sometimes I felt the author was too specific in each step, making it harder to extract the general philosophy of modeling. This can be a pro or con depending on what you are looking for. I would have also enjoyed more pictures. Sometimes as much as 10 or 12 steps were made in text alone and it can be slightly confusing without a demonstrating photo.

To sum it up, this was a fine book and I learned a little bit. I would not say it was exceptional, but there was nothing grossly wrong with it. Certainly, if you are looking to create props with Maya (especially man-made objects) this is not a bad place to start. If you are using Maya LT for game development, this is a very relevant book since it (thankfully) doesn’t use really any of the features missing in the LT version. One slight disappointment, McKinley doesn’t actually show you how to make the nice art on the cover. Can’t hold that against him, though. I’d consider this a great beginner’s book, and should help to get you started with 3d game modeling.

3D Modeling, Art, Gaming, Graphics, Review

Review: How to Become a Video Game Artist: The Insider’s Guide to Landing a Job in the Gaming World by Sam R. Kennedy

VideoGameArt

So I am actually not looking to try to break into the game industry as an artist. Why did I read this book? Well, I am very much interested at upping my game when it comes to real-time graphics and content creation as a hobby. Computer graphics are just fascinating to me, and the best engine and shaders in the world will not save a shabby piece of art. This book seemed like a good way to get into the artist mindset. To top things off, the sticker-price was a palpable $12 dollars and the cover art looked great (important when taking art direction).

Basically what the book amounts to is a series of chapters, each one describing a particular game art profession. Some of the jobs detailed include: concept, environment, character, ui, and marketing artists. Every chapter includes a job description, explanation of the process or workflow, example images, an artist profile, and finally a mock “help wanted” ad that could be for the position. The format is informative, and I think would be very helpful for a student looking to get into the industry as an artist. Certainly, you don’t have to be a student to find worth in this book and I personally feel it is a great choice if you are at all interested in video game art.

The author, Sam R. Kennedy, is a game artist himself and shares a some of his (quite impressive) work within these pages. Nicely, the photos on the Kindle e-book were in color. This is quite important, and in my research I did stumble upon some game art instruction books from people with questionable artistic ability. Of course, you don’t need to be da Vinci to make a 3d model (especially not when working from good photos or concept art) but I can’t help but wonder what I’m doing taking advice from an amateur. That was not the case with this text. Kennedy is a veteran and has worked at Ubisoft on Tom Clancy games and the like. I felt pretty comfortable accepting his opinions.

All in all, I was happy with the purchase and I’m glad to have the book in my collection. If it helps me (even a little bit) in improving my art that’s a net positive. In any case, it was inspiring and that’s enough for me.

Art, Gaming, Review

Review: Drawing Basics and Video Game Art: Classic to Cutting-Edge Art Techniques for Winning Video Game Design by Chris Solarski

GameArt

I’ve been trying to get back into making art (I did go to art school, after all) and this seemed like a well reviewed book. Plus, the Kindle edition was very reasonably priced at $12. Drawing Basics and Video Game Art: Classic to Cutting-Edge Art Techniques for Winning Video Game Design by Chris Solarski is not a long book (at 240 pages) but it’s well worth reading.

It almost seems like it’s two different books sandwiched together. The start is with basic drawing techniques and a study of classical artists. Anatomy, proportions, perspective, composition and layout, etc. Then the second part is more of a study of modern games with things like how color sets a mood, use of different shapes to evoke feelings, horizon lines, etc. It’s all very interesting, and I think would be helpful to not just artists but anyone working in gaming.

Just be aware, the book doesn’t really teach you how to be a good artist. There are various topics covered that can certainly help an artist, but there is little direct instruction (outside of the brief introduction at the beginning). I don’t think that was the author’s intention, and there are really tons of more general art books out there if you are so inclined. Drawing Basics and Video Game Art is more about theory and I feel the author is successful in that aspect. Solarski also managed to get screenshots of many popular games to analyze in the text, and thankfully all the images were in full color on my Kindle Fire tablet.

Overall, I liked the book and I think you will too.