Book Review: Ballistic Publishing's Character Modeling 3

December 28, 2009 12:25 am

Tags: 3D, Autodesk, Ballistic Publishing, Cesar Dacol Jr., Character Modeling 3, Giovanni Nakpil, Jan-Bart Van Beek, Mudbox, Pixologic, ZBrush

Character Modeling 3

Publisher: Ballistic Publishing
Pub date: October, 2009
First Edition Pages: 208 page (Limited Edition/Slip-cased Edition)
Dimensions: 14 x 9.3 x 1.1 inches
ISBN: Limited 978-1-921002-66-3 | Slip-cased 978-1-921002-67-0
Price: Limited $170 | Slip-cased $69

“Each d'artiste book hand picks a group of industry leading artists and demonstrates individual technique through a series of master class tutorials focused on specific projects. D'artiste also includes galleries of work drawn from each artist and their peers presented with personal comments.”

Ballistic Publishing is certainly one of the foremost publishers and proponents of digtial art/artists in the world today. Their EXPOSE and Exotique series of books which feature the best digital artists around are second to none in the quality and content. The production of the books themselves are works of art. Every book published by Ballistic is done on high quality paper with great attention to color reproduction. The layouts are intelligent and easy to follow, and the bindings are high quality which allows you to lay the book out flat on a table without fear of cracking the spine.

Character Modeling 3, part of the d'artiste series of books produced by Ballistic, is no exception. In fact, I find the combination of picture book and tutorial to be quite unique. I'm occasionally frustrated by art books primarily composed of illustrations/pictures because I want to know more about how certain pictures were made. And vice-versa, tutorial books are often lacking in good, quality illustrations which would give the lesson more impact. Ballistic has hit upon a mix of the two that is nearly perfect.


Third in the d'artiste series, which features small groups of hand-picked artists, Character Modeling 3 looks at the work of Cesar Dacol Jr., Jan-Bart Van Beek and Giovanni Nakpil, and their approach to character modeling. The background of each artist is covered, then there's an invited artist section, and finally a very detailed tutorial section.

Cesar Dacol Jr.             Jan-Bart Van Beek           Giovanni Nakpil

Cesar Dacol Jr. has extensive experience in the film industry as a Lead and Modeling Supervisor for many films, including “300” and “Fantastic Four.” Currently, he's a beta team member of Pixologic's ZBrush software and is an instructor for the CGSociety. Mr. Dacol takes the reader through the very detailed creation of three separate creatures: “The Pond Guardians,” “The Dragon” and “Angel & Demon.” Primarily using ZBrush, he takes you through the concept of each creature and specific methods for sculpting each element. Finally, he rigs each creature, textures and renders them. Nearly every step is illustrated with large color photos.

Cesar Dacol Jr. render

Jan-Bart Van Beek is the Art Director at Guerrilla Games where he was responsible for the quality of the art and animation overall on games such as Killzone. He also directed the highly regarded trailer for Killzone 2. He takes the reader through the concept and creation of the “Helgast Sniper” and “Character Heads” for characters in Killzone2.

Probably my favorite parts of Character Modeling 3 are the ones Mr. Van Beek does on head modeling. Game design is much different from film design in that everything you create has to function inside the boundaries/restrictions of a particular game engine. His detailed work on creating textures and mapping them to a specific head model are extremely helpful. Even if you aren't creating characters for games, his tips and techniques for head texturing are superb. Plus, he has a very easy writing style which makes me wish he'd write a full book on game character creation.

A page from Jan-Bart Van Beek's tutorial

Wrapping up the book is Giovanni Nakpil, a creature creator at Industrial Light and Magic. He has created characters/creatures for films like “War of the Worlds” and the recent remake of “Star Trek,” where he served as the creature model supervisor. Using primarily Mudbox and ZBrush, Mr. Nakpil takes you carefully through three main processes in creature modeling: concept to form, character topology and rendering/presentation. His description of the idea to model phase is inspiring. Using clay models and photo reference he develops a creature much like a sculptor removes everything that's unnecessary to the model shape.

A page from Giovanni Nakpil's tutorial

In addition to the three featured artists, there are several dozen hand picked illustrations of other digital artists character work that range from the simply good to the amazing. Each is commented on by our featured artists who point out some of what makes each illustration so remarkable. I particularly liked Guillaume Tiberghien's “Bodyguard” and Stephen Molyneaux's “James Whitmore,” but there are so many great pieces it's hard to choose favorites.

Character Modeling 3 is a superb addition to an already high quality series. If you are interested in character modeling, this book must be on your bookshelf. It will serve not only as a tutorial guide, but as a reference work as well. Can't recommend this book more highly.


Quick note: The slip-cased edition is in paperback, but the binding is very strong and the color reproduction is top-notch. The more collectable Limited Edition (not reviewed here) is bound in black leather with embossed lettering and only 200 numbered editions are available. Anyone who purchases this Limited Edition will get a certificate of authenticity (COA), plus a download link for two high resolution model meshes from the featured artists that you can examine in your own 3D software. It's a very, very nicely designed book. You can even pick which number you'd like at the Ballistic Publishing website.

For more information on Character Modeling 3, please visit Ballistic Publishing.

Special thanks to Daniel Wade and Ballistic Publishing for making this book available for review.

Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.
December 28, 2009

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Article Comments

XxDarkMessiahxX ( posted at 6:44PM Wed, 30 December 2009

Pick up this book. You will see art far beyond the best artists on Renderosity. It includes the modeling work flow of game & movie industry professionals. The work of Cesar Dacol Jr is great and he does a few projects in ZBrush from start to finish showing the best way to get the details you want. There is also a large part dedicated to the production of the characters and shaders in Killzone 2. It's a good way to get some tips on modeling, texturing, and detailing low poly in game models. The rest of the high quality work from contributing artists wraps up this book and makes it worth its price. I would also highly recommend Character Modeling 2 by Ballistic. It give a great look at the work that went into Gears of War game.

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