It seems many people found my pre-buying comparison between Compositing resources useful (I compared Sebastian König’s Compositing Training to Andrew Price’s Wow Factor, in case you missed it). Since I like to inform myself as much as possible before buying a product, and since I know many of you can’t be bothered to do that kind of homework :p I’ll start sharing my decision process whenever I’m trying to pick between related products. These will be based merely on the information available out there without actually looking into the product itself, so they are not reviews – again, it’s just me summing up the features in each and picking between the two. Sort of like pros and cons.
So this time I was looking to improve my rigging skills, and checked out the products out there: CMIVFX’s Massive Mammoth Rigging Masterclass by Nathan Vegdahl, and CGMasters’ Character Creation Volume 2 – Rigging, by Lee Salvemini. Both products are video tutorials and seem to be designed to take you from basic to pretty advanced rigging skills, so the differences between the two are really in the details. So what are those differences?
Let’s talk about the format. First of all I’m going to cheat a little bit on that “without looking into the product” thing and tell you that the format of Nathan’s video is what you are probably used to – he’s explaining things to you as he’s working through them in real time. Lee’s, on the other hand (and based on a video preview of the previous Volume of the series and production progress reports), was recorded as he worked on the rig and afterwards narrated to explain what is going on. Alright I’m going to cheat again to tell you that Nathan sometimes pauses the recording when he’s doing repetitive things, so the 6 hours of video are entirely productive. I can’t give you that inside knowledge on Lee’s yet, but the estimated duration on the product page is 8 hours and “every single second of the creation process recorded”, but since Lee is narrating I’m sure he’ll have useful insights to offer while repetitive tasks are being performed on the video, and also probably uses timelapses to speed things up. Another slight difference in the format between the two videos are the “various visual cues” in Lee’s, “such as: Zooming to smaller menus on the screen, hot-key pop ups, buttons and areas of interest highlighted, efficient mix of timelapse and real-time video”.
Now the subjects. On Nathan’s video we’re working on a quadruped character (a kick-ass Mammoth), while in Lee’s we’re talking about a biped character (a kick-ass Ninja). No rigging tutorial will be complete without explaining FK and IK and switching between the two, so you’ll be happy to realize by checking both product pages that these are thoroughly explained in both despite the differences in the characters. So no problem there. But you may think that you’ll find yourself rigging quadrupeds more often, or bipeds more often, so that may drive your decision.
Because of the different characters though, there are a few subjects that are touched on one of the products and not on the other. For example, the Mammoth features a large trunk (as they do), which Nathan uses to explain Spline IK. This does not seem to be covered in Lee’s video. On the other hand, Lee touches on rigging the accessories on the Ninja (so non-organic rigs) and also on rigging with cloth simulation, both of which are not presented on Nathan’s video.
Another interesting difference is this: along with the video (and the project files that both products obviously provide), Nathan provides an add-on of his that compiles a set of useful tools for the weighting process, and of course explains how to use it. I have no idea whether this add-on is available in the wild or not. On the other hand, Lee has a chapter devoted to Rigify, the automatic rigging add-on that is provided with Blender and that surely helps in the process of quickly rigging secondary characters.
Important feature: both products explain drivers, and both explain setting up custom shapes for the bones, however Lee also touches Python scripting.
Regarding everything else (and there is quite a bit of “else”), and to the best of my knowledge, the products seem to be identically chock-full of information. Accordingly, the prices are almost exactly the same, ha! $59,95 for Nathan’s bundle (if you get the two volumes separately it gets more expensive), $60 for Lee’s video.
Hopefully, if you’re interested in these products, this sum-up will help you make a more informed decision. So which one did I pick? Well as you probably guessed from my cheating above, I got Nathan’s video, with the help of a promotion at the CMIVFX store (I told you already, it’s a good idea to follow those guys on twitter!). What you may not have guessed though, is that I also took advantage of the current discount at CGMasters (get both Volumes, on Modeling and Rigging, for $90 – hurry though, because it only lasts while volume 2 isn’t shipping, and it may be shipping very soon). I had a hard time picking between the two, and since I figured I could use some organic modeling skills to complement the hard-surface ones… or at least that’s how I justify it to my wallet :p
So very soon (like tomorrow or the day after) I’ll be posting a review of Nathan’s video. If you can’t wait, I can tell you it rocks. As soon as Lee’s arrives in the mail I’ll let you know too!
Oh wait, one final thought! This shopping has been made a while ago, and meanwhile another good-looking resource has popped out: Blender 2.5 Character Animation Cookbook, a book by Virgílio Vasconcelos. In a way I’m happy it only came out after I’d made the decision (it either saved me more decision time or more money), but it does look like an awesome resource in book format to study both rigging and animation. But you’ll need to do your own homework on that ;)