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Blender Cycles - Lighting and Rendering Cookbook Book Review

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A couple weeks ago I was asked to review Bernardo Iraci's Blender Cycles: Lighting and Rendering Cookbook. Before opening it up, I took note of the fact that this book has the 'cookbook' format, meaning each chapter has a theme and each section is a recipe for completing a task related to that theme. You may recall that I quite liked this setup from the last Cookbook I reviewed, the Materials and Textures Cookbook and I wasn't disappointed in this respect when I started the book.

As I read through the book, I found there was plenty to like. I am quite pleased with how much I learned and will likely use this book for future reference. The results of each chapter were quite satisfying and the book is completely focused on the subject at hand. The starter files mean no wasted time modeling or doing off-topic tasks.

I also liked the recommended links included at the end of many sections. I find this very useful for a second voice on a related topic or having resources for future projects. Also, the deeper you get into the book, the more advanced projects get. While you do repeat things from previous chapters, I find it really helps solidify it in your memory.

While I am quite pleased with what I got out of the book, there were a handful of issues that concern me. Here's a quick list of what I ran into:

  1. Inconsistencies between the text, the images, and/or the completed Blend file.
  2. File names in the book sometimes don't match the names of the downloaded files.
  3. Odd wording and/or odd ordering of steps (I got used to this after a few chapters).
  4. Occasionally there are missing/implied/assumed steps that you have to figure out on your own.
  5. Every chapter uses a starter file, however, there are times where steps are already done.

None of these are insurmountable. The process may not have been a very smooth, but I was able to finish the book, get the intended results, and learn a lot along the way. But what bothers me the most is that everything wrong with this book should have been fixed during a proof read. It feels like a rough draft with all the concepts, ideas, and content present but not much polish after that.

In the end, I am torn on this book. On one hand, there's some really good content, good explanations at the end of each recipe, and a lot of great things to learn. On the other hand, the combination of the issues mentioned above are really holding this book back. If I were to sum it all up in one sentence, I'd say you get what you came for, but it's a bumpy ride along the way.

Additional Notes

This is noted on the Book's web page but I thought I'd clarify. This book isn't going to hold your hand and point out every detail to you. The book refers to parts of Blender with the assumption that you know what and where they are. Do you know where the render panel is? Do you know how to add a lamp and where its settings are? Will you be able to find an object knowing only its name? If the answer is no to any of these, prepare yourself before buying this book.

Also, if your computer cannot use the Open Shading Language (OSL) in Blender, then there are two places where you will run into problems. From what I understand, Blender does not support the graphics card I have, so I couldn't use it. I didn't have a problem working around it, but I crashed Blender about a half a dozen times before figuring out what was wrong. Disappointing, but definitely not the author's fault and not a reason to avoid the book. Just consider this a heads up.

Did you read the book? Was this review was fair? I'd love to hear what you have to say!

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