Jean-Marc Gauthier has taken on a formidible task in the writing of "Creating Interactive 3-D Actors and Their Worlds". The challenge was to write a book that covers this complex topic with enough detail to be useful but simple enough to get novices started. Gauthier has succeeded admirably with a few rough spots. Inluded on the CD are version of Virtools, for creating behaviors, Deep Paint 3D for modeling with detailed textures, and a version of Life Forms a fabulous tool for animating complex sets of figures used by among other things, choreography.
One of my favorite aspects of the book is its logical organization. The seven chapters are:
- Some Points About This Book
- Digital Conversation Pieces
- Production of 3-D Characters
- Organic Modeling
- Character Animation
This organization leads you through the process of laying the basis for interactive actors, leading you through some modeling examples, animating the figures, making them interactive and them giving them behavior. A particulary good aspect of the book is how Gauthier goes through a fairly realisting production cycle using the output of one tool as the input to another. No one tool can provide you with a large enough bag of tricks, so you have to learn several tools and how to use them together.
As an example of using tools together Gauthier takes us through the use of Life Forms to create a complex animation. The animation is then used to as a guide to create a highly articulate and fully modeled character using Lightwave. He takes us though quite a bit of detail in the use of Lightwave using the bones facility of Lightwave. It is exactly the back and forth usage of different programs that is the greatest strength of the book and one of its most useful aspects. Books dedicated to these specific packages don't cover the interaction possible between different applications.
Of course if you are going to get into some heavy duty character modeling this book doesn't cover specific packages like Lightwave, 3D Studio Max, and Life Forms in enough detail. It's a terrific starter however.
The book also covers a complex example about the creation of interaction and behavior using Virtools, included on the CD. Virtools is an application specifically for the modeling of behaviors. Virtools includes interactive controls for direction the motion of object along paths with a wide variety of controls.
In summary this is a terrific book and well worth the $35 you can get it for on Amazon. There's a companion web site also. If you want to get started creating virtual worlds with characters this is a great place to start.