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Home | Books | Book Reviews | Book Review: The Visual Effects Arsenal: VFX solutions – Author Bill Byrne

Book Review: The Visual Effects Arsenal: VFX solutions – Author Bill Byrne

Author Bill Byrne
Published by Focal Press
Publication Date: 2009
Format: Black / White / color images – 288 pages
Price: $49.95

As the interest in movie making and film creation projects increase in the market, there becomes a demand for more books focused on training folks to accomplish alot with a little. The recent flux of home made movies on the circuit is proof of that as well as the affordability of HD cameras. Bill Bryne recognized that need and composed a book full of techniques that range from basic to more advanced. In fact even though the book claims to address the techniques over the actual programs you use, viewers would be best served knowing a thing or two about Adobe After Effects.

While the assumption comes in the readers basic understanding of Adobe core products, the book does its best to educate users to read through confidently and apply the techniques. I’ve read most of the After Effect books on the market, so there is much here that will be redundant to advanced users. In fact much of the techniques have been addressed in numerous online tutorials with video lessons taking you step by step. However lets not take away from the value that this book brings.

Many needs are discussed such as rotoscoping, masking, fractal noise, cloning, editing, particle systems and green screening to name a few. The book features color pictures through out which is very helpful to refer to while implementing the projects. Byrne spends a degree of time explaining the importance of technique and essential tools. All of which are important in a training mind set. A highlight for me was the section interludes that profiles working professionals in the industry. This kind of stuff helps bring things into perspective from the pros who are creating these FX.

Approaches comment on using Photoshop in combination with After Effects and other products. At core, the approaches are meant as a base to educate the readers on multitasking importance. Screen shots of settings really help in your journey which in some books are left out completely. Perspective manipulations, green screen removals and texturing tips provide a nice base of learning. When you’ve hungered for more, the book even features a pretty cool “Sandman-esque” effect. In short the book only touches on areas that deserve far more exploration. One example of text effects or titling is introduced which actually could span several volumes in itself.

From a professional level, there are many techniques that wouldn’t work on a big budget level due to a higher level of believability needed, though what I took from this is not how to create “Terminator” frame for frame but to just get familiar with some approaches to different situations and needs. Proof of this comes in a low budget approach to “bullet time” which we all know by now is really created with a complex camera system. Other mentions which refer to things like a “Scanner Darkly” look may be deceiving if you take it too literal. The process itself has potential for greater things, but the end product of the project itself is far from what went into “that” particular technique.

Though tips like this introduce you to creative thinking which I believe has merit as a beginner.

My main complaint was that the DVD that’s included doesn’t contain a “finished” renders of the projects within. This is always helpful in tutorials to actually see how the final results are “supposed” to look. Though to be fair I did check the DVD and noticed that it was burned at full capacity to include the project files, so at least we are getting decent size footage to work with.

In summary, as mentioned before beginners will highly benefit from this, advanced users may find only a few things that will add to your training. For more advanced approach there are other books on the market that will educate you till your eyes gloss over…but hey if your at that level..then you’ll be right at home.

Check out other books at: Focal Press

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