Remember how this all started? I followed the Blender Foundations book from start to finish, actually doing everything step by step, to get myself familiarized with Blender. I was done mid-May last year, just a little over one year ago.
Back then I exchanged a few e-mails with the author, Roland Hess, both when I needed help and to point out a few issues for the errata, and a couple of days ago Roland sent me a follow-up e-mail. He wanted to know, one year later and after having completed a few projects of my own, if I felt that the book had indeed achieved his goal of “laying a great baseline for people to develop from”. The answer, while straightforward, is long enough to warrant a blog post :)
Simply put, it is a fact that this book got me through the learning curve as painlessly as possible. “Yeah, but how do you know if you never tried just learning from all the tutorials out there?” Well, I didn’t… not until Cycles came up. And I’m telling you: having to learn this new engine by grabbing bits and pieces from different tutorials out there (after filtering out the bad information) is a very inefficient way to do it. Which is probably the reason why I haven’t given Cycles a proper go yet, and that says a lot about what could have happened if I had tried to learn “the whole Blender” that way. That’s why I still recommend Blender Foundations to people who are looking for a structured approach to learning the app.
The education resources out there, namely the video tutorial sites like BlenderCookie and BlenderGuru, have been growing in an awesome way, but to me the true value in them comes when you already know your way around and are just looking for solutions to problems you encounter, or want to learn the advanced stuff. That’s where I think tutorials are the most efficient – when you have the foundations set and are just looking to build your knowledge, which is pretty much all I’ve been doing since finishing the book. Also by giving you a look at the complete pipeline within a project it gives you a pretty good idea of how to segment areas of knowledge you may want to dig deeper into, and how this or that tutorial may fit into that program.
I’ll also take the opportunity to assess how well the book has stood the test of time. Quite an accelerated time too, since in a year Blender has grown like crazy! Well here’s what: the omission of Cycles is the only noticeable thing. Big features like camera tracking and dynamic paint would probably only deserve a quick mention in a beginner-level book anyway, and the addition of B-Mesh goes mostly behind the scenes – surely the new tools that it brought, like vertex slide, the improved knife and of course the ability to use n-gons are things very much worth learning, but if you pick up the book today to learn basic modeling you will be able to follow the instructions in just the same way as you could last year without B-Mesh. Same goes for the rest of the book. Aside from the very slight differences in the UI here and there, you’ll be able to follow everything and while you’ll maybe miss a few tricks that have been added meanwhile, you’ll learn the basics just fine. And the book was published two years ago..! I said it then and I’m saying it again now: that’s a great future-proofing job.
Ah by the way, here’s a funny twist: the Blender 2.6 glitch on the cover is actually more deceiving now that we are indeed on 2.6x. Before, it was harmless. “Hey, there is no Blender 2.6 yet!” But now people may pick it up thinking it covers Cycles… They should be researching these things though! :)
If I had that Fax Seal of Approval I’ve always talked about, this would still get it!