View Full Version : Professional Character Courseware (Larry Shultz) : A review from a satisfied user

08-17-2003, 05:51 AM
Hey folks

I've been working through the rest of the training material from Larry Shultz (www.3dtrainingonline.com) and thought it would be a great time to do a review for those interested in this courseware, from a users perspective.

Originally I bought this way back when I was about to get my first real job at an animation studio. My problem was, well, I had very little character experience (if any) beyond a couple of robots and a little blue cartoon character I built (but never used). As you can imagine, it wasn't that I didn't know LightWave, it was that I'd been avoiding characters out of the 'looks too hard' syndrome I'd put myself into years ago. Spaceships, logos and anything else that wasn't organic in nature was all I did...

I needed to get a 'booster shot' of knowledge, and when Larry announced he was going to share some of that skill we'd seen him use on shows like Dan Dare and Max Steel, I jumped at the chance to get the initial modelling module. IMHO, it was the best investment I've ever made in training material...

There are 4 modules in the series - Each module is either 1 or 2 CD's packed with HOURS (True! No kidding!) of video tutorial material. The modules are:

Larry guides you through building a muscle-bound humanoid character using SubD modelling techniques. There are also 2 excellent Spline-modelling tutorials for building a torso and head included. You are guided step-by-step through everything, from head, to eyeballs, ears (in detail), teeth, gums, tongue, then onto Torso, arms, hands and legs. You finish with detailed feet, creating your character.
This was interesting - Not only does it cover the basics you need to know about LightWave texturing, but also goes into using UV's, breaking models up to logical surfaces, and then extends into applying Saslite for hair-eyebrows-facial hair, and some nice coverage of how to texture clothing nicely. There's a collection of pretty much all the different areas you need to know about when texturing your character (from clothing to hair)
Other then modelling, this module is my other personal favorite. Larry's rigging expertise on this disk is fantastic, starting out with some really easy to understand tutorials on what bones are and how they work, through to using Expressions, and even a mix of bones and displacement plugins for muscles as well, to create reliable character rigs that perform all the actions you'd expect them too.
The animation module has some nice material here to get even complete beginners off to a nice start in animation, with basic exercises that quickly follow up to walking, and secondary motion. This is one I'm still working through at the moment.

First of all, let me just say that the amount of content offered in this material is literally amazing. The modules come in packs of 1 or 2 CDs, each containing hours of footage in quicktime format.

The modelling module alone was close to 8-10 hours (I forget exactly) and broken down into logical 'chapters' so that you don't have huge video clips to wind back and forth through. This made it easy to view the 'steps' over and over as I needed.

Each CD also has an easy-to-use web interface that makes picking the videos quick and easy. Also, these videos are full-on tutorial material. If there's 10 hours of video - That's 10 hours of raw knowledge! :)

So easy! Its how Larry makes things look and does a great job too. What I also liked was how if he makes a mistake, he then explains what happened, and why it didn't work.

Another thing I really enjoyed was just how much faster I now work as well. Larry shares a lot of fast workflow tips throughout which is like an 'extra level' of knowledge on top of the already excellent techniques he covers.

So you not only learn Technique, but also workflow. Very cool.

Another great part of the courseware went beyond the CD's. Larry also includes an online forum system where students can post their progress. He spends time to work through the posted images and make a lot of comments on what needs changing, where and why.

He does this pretty much within the same day of posting, which means you get feedback fast!

For example, you can check out all my modelling work, including Larry's critiques and support posts online at the student gallery right here - http://www.3dtrainingonline.com/studentwork/Kevin_Phillips/

Having this extra 'level' of support really was great, meaning I wasn't left doing tutorials and just hoping I was doing OK.

This material was great - It not only pushed me forward into a very cool job doing LOTS of character modelling and animation, its been a massive boost for my own personal self-confidence.

I've been able to learn skills that would have taken me years to 'get around to learning' in no time at all, and with my own LightWave knowledge, I feel I am just that level 'higher' then I was before I started in the '3D expertise' field! :)

Before I started doing Larry's course, I had no idea where to even start characters! Having this new knowledge really saved my bacon at work a few times, and now I LOVE character modelling, I have a cool job and I'm doing just what I'd wanted to do!

I would recommend this material to anyone who felt they didn't know how to start character modelling or animating, or thought that their character work just wasn't as good as it could be. Larry makes everything really easy to follow, and by the time you're finished, you'll be loving the idea of creating and animating 3D characters in LightWave.


Kevin Phillips
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08-17-2003, 09:07 PM
Thanks Kev! :)
Its really amazing to see the changes someone goes thru from beginning to end. The stuff youre doing these days is great!
I really like the Gohan that you did. :)

08-17-2003, 09:47 PM
You did a Gohan? I'd like to see!

08-18-2003, 03:13 AM
How about I go a little better and show you an actual historical record of my attempts to model a humanoid head (the only 3 attempts I ever made before giving up - That volumetric thing was my attempt to do the Point method in 'Inside L6' - I hated it, it took time, and I am an impatient person! That's where Larry's technique really shines through - In the first 10 minutes I'm seeing results!)

...then on the other side of the image, just a SMALL sample of what I am doing now after I got the skills and experience to go ahead and just make characters!

Sure, theres a few robots inbetween those heads, but never in my life did I ever expect to be able to model something like the Teenage Gohan character, or the grey headed space dude before doing the courseware - That's just from the confidence and skills that I picked up - They showed me it was 'that easy' and as you can see, I'm more then happy with what I am able to do easily now!!

I really owe Larry a debt of gratitude - He's put me back on track with LightWave and doing what I always wanted to do, but thought was going to be 'hard' - It wasn't!

You can also check a few more images out as well as some animations on my web site at www.kevman3d.com

08-18-2003, 02:42 PM
Nice work Kev. Thats a pretty dramatic change.
It got me looking thru my older stuff too. Ill see if I can dig up some real old stuff. :)

08-18-2003, 05:39 PM
Yes! Its even more amazing I even had half of that old stuff still on disk! Everytime now that I find old images, AVI's or other rendered stuff, or even scenes and objects, I've been dumping them into a folder on my HDD.

I've dug out a tonne of stuff - Just recently I found some rather embarrasing old Spaceship flyby's! :) I even dug out an old Centauri Transport scene I modelled and animated, so I re-rendered it just for kicks!

However it means I can look back and see how my 3D has progressed over the years (and ideal in this situation to see my Character progression after doing the courseware!)

08-21-2003, 11:22 PM
If anyone would like to see a comparison of my courses and Dans courses check out this thread on CGtalk
VERY intersting reading. :)