3D Animation: From Models to Movies

The author of this book, Adam Watkins, is a lecturer in 3D Animation at the University of the Incarnate Word (UIW), which sounds like it should be in a Terry Pratchett novel, but is, in fact, in San Antonio, Texas. The content is based on his experience in teaching animation, and, as such, aims to cover all the bases: from modelling to movies. The book’s cover claims that it concentrates on three programs: Cinema 4D XL 6, Strata Studio Pro and LightWave, although you’ll have to search to find the references to the latter two. The book is divided into 15 chapters, with the first two dedicated to understanding the 3D workspace and 3D workflow. The next two chapters cover Cinema 4D XL’s modelling tools, from polygons through to Subdivision Surface (HyperNURBS) modelling. The later chapters on texturing and lighting contain a lots of useful information, such as faking time-consuming radiosity and caustics effects, but it’s held back as the book is printed in black-&-white. And, some of the points being illustrated just don’t come across. True, all the illustrations in the book – and more besides – are included on the bundled CD-ROM, and there’s an eight-page colour plate section in the middle of the book, but it’s no substitute for having the images in front of you on the page. Chapters nine to twelve cover animation proper, and are a thorough overview of all the basics, from simple keyframing to inverse kinematics. It also contains lots of information about the concepts of, and how to achieve, believable movement. It concentrates heavily on the character animation side of things, although areas such as lip synching and facial animation are absent. This gives an idea of who this book is aimed at: strictly beginners, although the blurb on the cover states otherwise. The final chapters deal with compositing and special effects systems, although the discussion is limited to standards such as morphing and effects. The final chapter is the most important in the book, since it bears the title Getting The Job. It outlines the various types of work available in the Computer Graphics industry from character animation to product visualization. It gives valuable advice on how to put together a demo reel to show to prospective employers – generally the make-or-break stage in securing a post. And it also contains lots of hints on intangibles, such as interview technique. Finally, it’s backed up by a CD-ROM, which contains demo versions of Cinema 4D XL 6.0 and a fully working version of Strata 3D so you can follow along.


The version of Strata attempts to log on to the 3D.com Web site for registration, so an Internet connection is necessary. The two apps install their own examples – a good thing, since I couldn’t find any tutorial support files on the CD. One oddity to note – on my 400MHz Power Mac G4, when the CD was open in the Finder, it, and other programs running, slowed to a crawl. All in all, it’s a solid overview of the 3D process for anyone who’s new to the game.

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