Review Diary - Escape Studios "Zbrush for 3D artists' Part 1

 Apparently I now class as a 3D artist woot!

So I have been very kindly asked by Escape Studios to review their “Zbrush for 3D Artists” online course.

This course covers Zbrush 4. For those of you who follow me on twitter, you will have seen my very Dinosaur intensive self learning. I have found Zbrush to be both frustrating and revelatory as a new tool in my pipeline, and as I am far too stubborn to actually take time off and sit in a class. Online learning is my defacto choice for knowledge injections.

I have had both great and to be honest bloody awful experiences with online learning in the 3d space. So I leapt at the chance to see if both Escape Studios stuff is any good, and also use one of the first dedicated courses to teach me a method of hopefully fully integrating Zbrush 4 into my 3d workflow.

Zbrush is a funny programme, it is eminently customisable, and when you get used to it’s, let us say unique file and object system, (which it would appear only became fully cooked in the latest version with the addition of Zprojects), it becomes a stupidly fast creation system.

The issue is that the workflow, especially if your staying within Zbrush, is that the artist truly drives the software and can use very personal methodologies.

I had paid for some basic intro courses with other sites, but nearly without fail the first couple of lessons tend to be ‘lets customise the interface and let sculpt away. and let’s ignore the rest of the 3d universes way of doing things shall we.’

This in my mind fails the user, as its basing assumptions on how you want to use the programme, where personally, I would like to know why I am doing something rather copying, and customising the interface as a primary lesson is dangerous imho.

This is where the Escape course has its appeals, it appears to be designed as a proper intro to Zbrush, and while after only completing the first of eight modules, I already have a better core understanding of the app than I have had through comparative courses, and customising the interface, was the fifth topic, rather than the first - phew!

The lessons themselves are streamed online using flash, don’t get me started on how much I dislike streaming as an option for online lessons. I feel that the amount of money involved for the course should allow downloadable files, it also limits the amount of devices that I can view the lessons on, ie not on my iPad.

That being said the Escape learning environment is the best streaming implementation I have used, the lessons are in pleasingly good quality even when viewed at full scale on my 27” iMac, load quickly, remember their play point and clearly indicate which lessons I have watched.

Little sub lessons appear under the main lesson where appropriate, and offer more background on topics, such as differences from Zbrush 3.5 to Zbrush 4 lightbox for example.

I much prefer this to one long lesson, as the bite size focused approach works better for me. Though it would be good if these little lessons where available on the main navigation menu as a sub-heading under each primary lesson.

Thankfully even though this is a new course to Escape, it’s apparent that the course infrasturcture is solid, and this is mainly due to it being an enhancement of the similar Zbrush 3.5 course.

Personally I don’t have an issue with this, and if this mean’s that I am using a mature well thought out lesson structure I am happy, as I had another Zbrush course completely change its layout and lesson order on me over night, which meant I was totally lost, and therefore stopped learning - not cool

Zcurves WTF! Who Knew, thanks to Escape Studios I do!
The first module is primarily about the Zbrush interface and working conventions, and is very thorough and well explained in a simple this is what this button does’, ‘this is what this menu means’, and even has one class dedicated to where’s the best stuff on the internet to learn more, which I thought was very gracious. I learned about new, and if I’m honest fundamental tools such as ZCurves, which none of the other courses I had visited addressed at all!?! The initial lessons also give a really good understanding of the core zTool workflow.

The instructor, has a clear measured voice, and also doesn’t suffer from the tendency with some online instructors to engage a slight patronising tone when dealing with aspects of the application that they don’t use, which could be of use for you to learn.

The other thing, and yes I am contradicting myself, is that there is no immediate - make this head, make this creature, which you can follow along, it would be good to have this in the later sections of the first module, as you get into the masking and brush elements, so you have a mini project that you can follow along with.

I found that because I had a basic understanding of Zbrush and had used it (badly) to generate work, that this first module was an indispensable refresher to what went wrong, If I was coming to this course fresh, by the end of the first module, I would be itching to try out some basic stuff, but then there’s nothing stopping you from doing that anyway.

Having said all that, this is easily the best Zbrush intro online course I have used. The non-personality driven nature of the lessons, let you deal with ‘learning’ Zbrush as a full app to be integrated into your workflow, rather than learning it for one specific task, which a lot of the other Zbrush learning tools suffer from.

I will be posting my progress as I go through each of the 8 modules, next up is ‘Importing and manipulating models Zbrush”, which with still no GoZ for 501 (aka the easy way) will be reasonably important I reckon.

If you have any questions, please use the comments, or contact me on twitter
@creativebloke, or contact @escapestudios to find out more specific info on the course