Digital Cinematography: A Good Place to Start
Chapter 1: Digital Cinematography
This chapter had a fairly good overview of film language and work principles though I felt myself wanting more. It seems that several ideas are touched upon lightly, peaking our interest, but never satisfying it with further elaboration. For example: When using movies as a reference source, it suggests that you watch the movie several times to grasp the film's approach. This makes sense because you typically get caught up in the story the first couple of times you view the movie, but you actually need to view the movie on videotape to be critical. The `theater experience' is too captivating with the big screen and THX Sound. It's almost impossible to be objective, particularly if you enjoy the film. You need to critique the film's approach in an environment that gives you control, such as on video. It's more difficult to be pulled into the story on a small television screen without the thunderous theater sound and giant picture. Besides, you can pause the movie for those all important bathroom and snack breaks.
Chapter 2: Introduction to Lighting
Here you'll find an excellent overview of the different light types and uses. To my knowledge this is the only 3-D book that has actually related 3-D lighting to its real-world counterparts, which was a refreshing change. You'll also find some very useful tips in this chapter. A particularly good tip was to identify the influence of individual lights by turning off all the other lights in the scene and creating a test render to see the influence of the light. Another great tip was the use of a backlight to make the character stand out from the background, which is something cinematographers and photographers have been doing for years, but 3-D artists rarely do.
While there was a great deal of good information in the chapter, I did notice the absence of a discussion on specularity. The chapter failed to mention that specularity must be disabled on the fill and backlights to prevent multiple `hot spots' from appearing on the objects in the scene. Since fill and backlights are used to simulate radiosity, they are considered indirect lighting. Since specularity is only created by direct lights, you'll want to disable specularity on your fill and backlights. If your indirect lights are creating specularity, your scene will appear very artificial. In film production and professional photography, reflectors are used to bounce the light from the fill and backlights to diffuse the specularity. Naturally, some 3-D programs don't allow you to control the specularity values of the lights. In these cases, you'll need to use several lights with very low brightness values to simulate the effect of a singular fill or back light. Using lights with low brightness values will diffuse the specularity and by using multiple lights you'll be able to achieve the desired brightness.
Chapter 5: Motion
I must admit I was very impressed by the attention to detail in this chapter. I found it to be very insightful with some excellent real-world references, which helped drive the concept home. If you are interested in perfecting your camera movement this chapter is a must. While the visuals were less than stimulating, the content was excellent. The most important tip in the chapter is that you need to conform to the viewer's expectations when adding camera movements to your animations. I can't tell you how refreshing it is for someone to point out this critical fact. Nothing will undermine your animation like improper camera movement.
Chapter 6: Working with Characters
I was pleased to see a chapter dedicated to character lighting since most 3-D animations do a very poor job of lighting characters, which then undermines the impact of the animation. I can't count the number of times I've seen characters that were poorly lit or had no dedicated lighting at all. This causes the character to blend in with the background, which neutralizes their impact in the scene.
While the chapter content was informative, I was annoyed at the superficial discussion of the specific light types. For example, the coverage of the use of eye lighting was great, but there was no explanation on how to properly stage the lighting. It mentions that you need to keep the light from being noticeable but then offers no explanation on how to do it. When I purchase a 3-D book I'm hoping it will show me how to save time by showing solutions to problems. While introducing the technique is paramount, it is only half of the equation. I need to be shown how to apply the techniques so I don't waste a lot of time experimenting. For example, it would have been good to point out that the character lights should have the shadow and specularity attributes disabled. Otherwise, the character will have lighting that conflicts with the scene's lighting.
Chapter 1: Digital Cinematography