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View Full Version : Tutorial CDs/DVDs comparison/review


rnb2
09-03-2003, 12:03 AM
As promised earlier, here's my compare/contrast views on Joe Cosman's first two tutorial CDs (see topic at the top of the CGTalk messiah forum), as well as the older Project Messiah tutorial DVDs from John Riggs (www.characterfx.com).

First, I think that all of the materials are a good investment - both instructors clearly put a lot of work into the products, and there is a lot of good information in each. That said, Joe's are certainly more up-to-date (being for messiah:animate rather than the plugin version), and probably represent a better starting point for new users. For details, read on!

Joe Cosman's "Character Rigging" CD and John Riggs' "Beginning Character Skeletons" DVD/VHS are pretty similar products, but there are a few differences. First, John Riggs does spend a lot of time and effort on organization - he takes a lot of care to group all of his animation controls, effects, meshes, etc. under their own Organizational null, so that each can be completely closed when not needed. However, due to the tutorials being done for the plugin version of messiah, he also has to spend a lot of time going into Setup Mode and linking nulls into the skeleton, which is no longer necessary in messiah:animate or studio.

The rig you end up with at the end of "Basic Character Skeletons" is just that - pretty basic. It does give a good grounding in the process of rigging in messiah, but it uses only the most basic IK setup on the legs (no reverse foot), and no IK on the arms. It does cover straightforward ways to attach accessories to characters with the MoveTo expression, however, which can be handy.

Joe Cosman's "Character Rigging" CD is, as I said, the better starting point for new users these days. While he doesn't put as much time into the organization of the rig as John Riggs does, the rig you end up with at the end of the CD is a more functional, sophisticated rig. Topics like arm IK, proper deformation of the forearm and upper arm, and the reverse foot setup are covered in detail, while you'll have to buy Riggs' "Advanced Character Techniques" DVD to get the same information.

I like the fact that Joe's tutorials are WMV files - you can copy them to your hard drive to view them whenever you want without carrying the CD around with you (very handy on a laptop), and because you get them on a CD, you also get objects and scenes that you can use to follow along with the tutorials. Finally, Joe has encoded his tutorials at 800x600, which means they are fairly clear and easy to follow. Because Riggs' tutorials are on DVD/VHS, they were recorded at a fairly low resolution (I think the actual size of the Project Messiah interface in the videos is about 600x400), and he has to "zoom in" to specific areas of the interface (like the expressions list) to make things clear.

The only problem I've had with the rig that Joe guides you in making is the hands. Specifically, Joe has all the bones in the hand parented to the IK Goal for the arm, and while it is an elegant setup, I've had problems with it while animating. The biggest issue is that, because the hand orients to the rotation of the goal null, it ends up effectively rotating when the null is translated to move the arm. For example, if you move the goal null in the Y axis to lower the arm from a straight-out position, the hand stays oriented to the null - which hasn't rotated - and by the time the arm is at a 45 degree angle to the body, the hand is at a 45 degree angle to the arm. So, whenever I animate the position of the arm, I have to re-orient the hand's relationship to the wrist. It's possible that there's something I've missed in the setup somewhere (perhaps in the expressions order), but unfortunately, when Joe goes over all the freedom the rig gives you at the end of the tutorial, he doesn't move the hand, so I can't be sure.

For face setup, there really is only one product available, and that's Joe Cosman's just-released "Rigging the Face" CD. While some have questioned its price in relation to the body rigging CD, since the included videos are only about half as long as those on the full body CD for an only "somewhat" lower price, I think the quality of the information easily justifies the price. You get pretty decent coverage of a full face setup using a combination of bones for tweaking expressions and morphs for phonemes and such. Also, Joe goes into some detail on how to generate morph targets - he uses Lightwave, but the information should be useable by anybody, regardless of software.

The only thing I was hoping to see and didn't was coverage of methods of handling full-body characters with morphing for the face - there's something basically unsatisfying about loading multiple copies of a full character just for the facial morphs, and since the CD only covers the face separate from the body, it really doesn't cover this. I know this is something that Puppetmaster can handle, and was hoping to see it in action.

Finally, there's John Riggs' "Advanced Character Techniques" DVD. As mentioned above, this goes over such things as the reverse foot setup and using expressions to get a nice deformation in the forearm, both of which Joe Cosman covers quite well in his "Character Rigging" CD. However, there are a few more techniques covered that make the DVD worthwhile - things like slider and expressions setups for hands and some really cool uses for the InheritRoot function for making automated but controllable tails, wings, and spines. This is the kind of stuff that will make even the worst math-phobe want to learn some expressions, and Riggs does a good job of explaining how the functions work and why.

Overall, as I said, I can whole-heartedly recommend all of the products mentioned. If you already have the Riggs DVDs, I still think that Joe Cosman's "Body Rigging" CD is worth a purchase, and you really can't go wrong with his "Rigging the Face" CD. If you already have Joe's CDs, you still might want to take a look at Riggs' "Advanced" DVD for some cool ideas not covered by Joe.

Monty
09-03-2003, 03:35 AM
Wow, great review! Just what I was looking for now. Thanks rnb2!

:thumbsup:

chikega
09-21-2003, 03:49 AM
Thanks for the review ... I even bought the CharacterFX DVD's.

Julez4001
09-23-2003, 11:52 PM
The only thing I was hoping to see and didn't was coverage of methods of handling full-body characters with morphing for the face - there's something basically unsatisfying about loading multiple copies of a full character just for the facial morphs, and since the CD only covers the face separate from the body, it really doesn't cover this. I know this is something that Puppetmaster can handle, and was hoping to see it in action.


Dude I know how you feel...
Just make a clean cut on the neckof the object.

And there is always SuperBlender

rnb2
09-24-2003, 02:46 AM
Julez - :) that's exactly what I did over the weekend. Works great!

Just another cool thing about messiah is the ability to "layer" effects - I have Puppetmaster with two clusters (head and body), then have MorphBlender applied to the head cluster, with my expression objects as clusters under that. Works so well, and so smoothly, it's scarey..............

Chewey
09-24-2003, 04:38 AM
For those Lightwaver's out there why use anything but Superblender for facial morphs?

Julez4001
09-24-2003, 05:03 AM
Just if they want to use anything else. Can't wait till Superblender automatically detect object changes and added endos.
Also there is a slip in the superblender slider keys when i am in LW. When I render, the shape is distorted and then it fixes itself. Go figure

for morphblender
I usually use endosplit and set a directory for all of the headshapes..anytime I make a setting change in the objects, I rerun the script and re-dump the heads.

WesComan
09-24-2003, 02:30 PM
Originally posted by Julez4001

Also there is a slip in the superblender slider keys when i am in LW. When I render, the shape is distorted and then it fixes itself. Go figure



Hmm...does it actually render distorted? I realize there's sometimes a distortion but I thought it was simply a display issue, once you start rendering it would deform correctly.

Anyway, the new version is nearly ready and will help with adding and re-organising your morphs. If you have the time Julez4001 would you like to beta test it? If so mail Mark Wilson (mark@passion-pictures.com). We're stacked with work at the mo' and another person giving it a good thrash would help us. :wavey:

rnb2
09-24-2003, 08:07 PM
Originally posted by Chewey
For those Lightwaver's out there why use anything but Superblender for facial morphs?

Well, I didn't use it because I wasn't using Endos. See, I haven't worked with Modeler for a while, and had the process wrong in my head, so I didn't switch to whatever the different mode is to create Endomorphs. I was thinking it was a "create different objects from the same base, and combine" process, so I just saved each object separately and used MorphBlender instead.

So, while I'm on the subject, is there a plugin out there that will combine layers into an Endomorph, or is that just not possible?

markpassion
09-25-2003, 01:15 PM
you can use bg to morph I think, but that would take a while. I was thinking about this problem on my way into work. I could extend Super Blender to be able to convert loaded in objects into its morph data. That way you would benefit from the reduced memory and other benefits of Super Blender. Anyway if I did add that functionality, it would be after I have got SBv1.0 stable and out the door.

Mark

rnb2
09-25-2003, 01:58 PM
Mark,

That would be cool, thanks! I'll keep an eye out for an updated version. Of course, it would probably be easier for me to create an Endomorph properly in the first place :)

Rick

pelos
10-07-2003, 05:10 AM
i whish there where, free videos, for the program,
like motionbuilder4, (in buzz.com)

the problem i think of people, buying programs, is not too much of the power they have(programs), is the ability to learn and aply

first was messiah, and then came motion builder, and create all this learning, stuff, and programs to learn, so the people use it,
every one went out and bought MB4 even with maya, and xsi, have their free learingn courses, maybe because, to much iligal use (piracy? i think is the term?) they dont want the big companies, now their are focus, in the people to use it, not matter for what, if is for mod, or games, for printing someting or the school, they want to people go and say i use this program, for this and that.


i do belive that the marketing, in any 3d product, have to much to do in sales!

do i make scence? or a becoming mad??
thanks

dragon_little
06-15-2004, 07:40 PM
yeah, think you are right with that.
messiah is a great program, but itīs very hard to learn it,
especially there are no, or minimal free tutorials on the net, and ordering the training tapes outside from the U.S. is nearly impossible, cause shipping is very expensive, and take weeks, or months. I wonder how the people from PMG can still work on the program, cause just a handful people seems to use it!?

chris

Miyazaki
06-16-2004, 02:14 AM
What about books?
Would be nice to have an ultimate Messiah compendium, written by the most proficient Messiah users. I have something like 1001 tips and tricks in mind. Would be cool, wouldn`t it?

chikega
06-16-2004, 04:31 AM
That would be cool ... the messiah user base is not quite as large as Lightwave's. So, a publisher would probably not want to take the risk of investing money on that endeavour.

But, another way around this, is to use a book-on-demand type service. You order the book and they print and bind one especially for you. Here's an example of A:M book at CafePress:

http://www.cafeshops.com/cp/browse/?No=1&Nao=1&Ntk=All&pv=zandoria.9928938&N=0&Ntt=animation+master

This could be a possibility for messiah. :)

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