A couple of weeks ago, a book I contributed to, called “Digital Mayhem – 3D Landscape Techniques: Where Inspiration, Techniques and Digital Art Meet” finally hit the stores, after an unexpected long time of preparations. You can read about my content that’s published in the book in my article “A Swiss Ride to Digital Mayhem“; in short, it’s an 8-page tutorial illustrating the creation process of my personal scene “Swiss Ride“. I’d like to emphasize that it was a pleasure for me to contribute and to work with Duncan, the editor I’ve worked with several times for 3D Artist magazine. I’m looking forward to working together on future projects.
Since the publication, the book has received many kinds of feedback; positive, negative and constructive as well. A few days ago we received our copy as well, so I could take a look into the content and form my opinion as well. In this post I’d like to address some issues that came up in the feedback on the book.
The book is HUGE; 256 pages, showcasing dozens of digital artists all over the world, with a strong emphasis on Vue, which makes me really like it, to be honest. Just as some of the readers – reading their feedback – are biased towards other “more common [whatever that means in this context]” 3D applications or against Vue, I’m biased towards Vue. That’s what made me fall in love with 3D landscape art, that’s what has led me to launch D&D Creations, and that brings food on my table right now. Vue has weaknesses, just like any other tool, but it also has some features that are unique and essential to many projects. Vue is an extremely complex software, takes years to master it, and yeah – it’s still quite unknown compared to some other softwares such as Max or Maya. Considering the fact that most Vue-showcase online focuses on hobby/personal projects of artists and you hardly can find any article that focuses on Vue used in a professional pipeline, it’s pretty hard to form a fair opinion on something you barely know.
As for the content of the book, my objective opinion is that the book is nicely edited, the layout with the beautiful renders is pleasing to the eye, and it’s clear that an insane amount of work – and love – was put into the book. However, I have to agree with those who say that there should have been more tutorials and less showcase in it. It’s also a nice idea to publish a book that showcases artists and their best works, but that’s more of a photobook of digital art, rather than something people can learn from. If a book’s purpose is to share proven techniques with the readers, then it should be full of tutorials – I agree. …but there are several factors that make the publication of such a book extremely hard, especially when it comes to Vue.
I’ve read feedback saying there are only a few books that focus on Vue. Yes, that’s true, and the reason is pretty logical. Unlike other companies, E-on Software releases a Vue upgrade in every 6 months, introducing new features and/or fixing bugs, adding elements that may change the workflow you’re used to. That’s why it’s a huge challenge to publish something up-to-date, since the upgrade comes out sooner than your book. Creating content, editing, contracting a publisher, printing, several legal procedures etc… – this process takes a long time, sometimes even years. With each software upgrade you constantly need to update the content of your book (I’ve seen this happening more than once in books I helped in writing), delaying the release date, and at a point you realize you spent so much time and money on the book, that it’s highly questionable if you can make a decent profit out of it.
The frequent software upgrades and the long publishing process affected my content as well. I’ve submitted my article almost two years ago when the latest Vue version was 10. Now I’m working with Vue xStream 2014, I’ve worked with 3 other versions since I submitted my content, several important new features were introduced, I’ve taken part in many productions, from a few days to 5 months, gained invaluable experience, and now there are several things I would do differently if I had to re-create Swiss Ride.
Another issue that came up was the general content of the tutorials. We shared what we did, but we didn’t share why. Now let me tell how this works in general: we receive a brief on writing a step-by-step tutorial, illustrating a workflow. The article is written based on a template which determines the topics, the sections, the number of the steps, highlighted tips and topics, and – most importantly – the word count of each section. This means that for a step we need to stay mostly within 60-100 words. Since I love getting into the depths of things, keeping the word count is the hardest part for me in writing an article. Since we need to follow such regulations, you can understand why there’s no room for going deep into the topic. The purpose of step-by-step tutorials is to illustrate a workflow and to help the reader create a similar landscape with the steps described in the article. Not more, not less. If you want an in-depth course in Vue or any other application, check video tutorials or attend MasterClasses that are not bound to such limitations (except the time limit, but there’s still more room for explaining the “why”-s).
As a final thought, considering the amount of hard work and time every artist and the Editor put in this book, you can get it at a really fair price, and you can enjoy taking a peek into the workflow of the artists and the background/story of the renders.
The book can be purchased here, at Amazon.com or other online book stores. If you already have the book or if you just want to share your opinion in general, I’m open for discussion. 🙂