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In 1996, George Maestri wrote what is now the benchmark for computer character animation books, Digital Character Animation.It quickly became a best seller, and addressed many important issues for people using computers for character animation.
But like many books of its type, it covered an enormous amount of territory without going into the depth that some sections deserved. With the publication of Digital Character Animation 2: Volume 1--Essential Techniques, Maestri has been able to restructure much of the original content, while going into more detail than the first edition. For example, building skeletons has been broken out into a whole separate chapter and the chapter on posing characters has almost doubled in length.
The new edition covers modelling, skeletal deformation techniques, animation timing and lip-synch. Luckily, it doesn't neglect the fundamental building blocks of good, basic character animation techniques to which the book devotes an entire chapter.
Why is something so important not covered until more than halfway through the book? Because the preceding chapters go into detail on building characters (there are whole chapters devoted to building the meshes for bodies, hands, and heads) and constructing the internal skeletons used for deformations. Appropriately, after you've built a character that is ready to be animated, you can then begin practising the important basics of character animation, as well as walking and locomotion fundamentals(chapter 9) and lip synch and facial animation (chapter 10).
Because this book is called "Volume 1", we can assume that the issues not covered in this edition will be explored in subsequent volumes. Topics like anthropomorphic animation, creating digital sets for your characters and the basics of making a film--sound design, editing, effects--deserve much more attention than they were given in the first edition.
This book does not get caught up in photo-realistic textures, rendering issues or software-specific tips and tricks. It is ideally suited for someone striving to learn the craft of character animation using 3D tools, who wants to breathe life into each frame of their animation. Digital Character Animation 2 is a promising first volume to what one hopes is a defining series. --Mike Caputo