Let me start out by saying that the tutorials by Vladimir and Ami Chopine on their website of Geekatplay are brilliant. If you are not familiar with the website, it is a must for learning Vue and all its intricacies. Knowing their work, I was very excited to be reviewing their new book. When the book arrived, I was very impressed with the cover and how it was set up. They include the work of some of the wonderful Vue artists in the Vue community.

In their Preface they state that the book is arranged in chapters that deal with topics "from the ground up" followed by a stand-alone tutorial. They have a website to go with the book: http://www.vue7fromthegroundup.com which contains information and all the tutorials and items for them which you can download once you have the book and password. Included are final images for all the tutorials in the book plus excellent reference sheets such as a 45 page pdf on the Function Editor. Another examples involves the chapter on Terrains. Here, they speak, among other items of the "Amplitude of Perturbation." I am sure many of you have never used this. While it is well discussed in the book, the Flash video from their website shows it in action as well as giving other hints on terrain development.

The Chapters are:

Chapter 1:The Interface
Chapter 2: The World
Chapter 3: Terrains
Chapter 4: Waterscapes
Chapter 5: Plants
Chapter 6: Objects
Chapter 7: Importing and Exporting Materials
Chapter 8: Creating Your Own Materials
Chapter 9: Fun with Functions and Filters
Chapter10: Populating Your World
Chapter 11: Atmospheres
Chapter 12: Clouds
Chapter 13:Planets
Chapter 14: Let the Wind Blow
Chapter 15: Lighting
Chapter 16: Cameras
Chapter 17: Animation
Chapter 18: Rendering
Chapter 19: Python Scripts
Chapter 20: Integration
Appendices - Resources, Workflow Scaling, Quality Checklist [a troubleshooting guide], and Postproduction.

A detailed list of what is in the various chapters can be found at Amazon.com

I thought I would start with the beginning of the book and then choose some chapters at random. However, after reading the first few chapter, I decided to read the whole book, basically cover to cover skipping those areas I already used comfortably or rarely used. I found that I kept picking up either new information or information that I had forgotten. While the back of the book gives the level as Novice and Intermediate, I believe that is is just as applicable to advanced users. Each level can easily take from it what they need. I found that I made notes on postits of things I wanted to explore further. These were usually items or procedures that I knew, but the Chopines added a new twist or angle to how I perceived and used them. In their first chapter, one of the first things they discuss is the Coordinate system in Vue. This can be very important since it is different from many programs. I was glad to see this at the beginning of the book. It definitely told me that their priorities were in order.

I was really glad to see that the illustrations are in color and of excellent quality. A pet peeve of mine is having to strain to see important illustrations. With graphic programs, good illustrations are a must and these are.

An example in the Terrain's chapter, shows all the Effects that can be gotten by using the Effects Tab in the Terrain Editor. While these effects are named, they mean so much more with screen captures of each of them individually so you can visually compare them.

The Chopines focus on details both in the book and on the Extras that you can download with a password so you are not left to wonder "how they did that?" With many of the chapter tutorials are not only a JPG and Vue file of the finished image, but additional atmospheres and objects.

Everyone learns differently and Vue Users come from many graphical backgrounds. I, myself, come from a 2D background and only use a few 3D programs. 3D computer graphics is not innate to me while working in 2D is. Perhaps if 3D was around when I was younger I would feel as comfortable in it as I do in 2D. Also, some people learn through reading while some learn through animated tutorials. That is why when I heard that the Chopines were writing a book, I was really excited. While their tutorials are brilliant, and I have purchased many of their DVDs, I learn best through reading. They have put together an equally brilliant book. Now there are flash tutorials as well as the written word.

We all develop set ways of performing actions and setting up scenes. This book opened up many new ways for me that either I had once known and forgotten or actually never knew. For certain chapter such as Rendering, you might want to look at the settings you already use for a final render and compare them to their discussion of settings. If you are an avid 3D users, these will make more sense than if you are a 2D user. While I have read many discussions on rendering in different forums and in different tutorials, the book opened new ideas for me on how I could adjust my render settings both for quality and speed.

Lastly, the book is very readable without being simplistic. You can sit down and read it and take notes of areas you want to investigate further. For beginners, you might want to pair the book with the Geekatplay tutorials on a particular topic. For more advanced users, you still might want to do that in certain areas or just play with the settings as you have used them in the past and make changes where necessary.

As a note, I liked the way the pages were laid out with wide outer margins. This made it very easy to take notes in the margins or place postits there if you don't like to write in books. I know some people don't, but as a prolific note taker in college, before the advent of computers, I did do that in all my text books.

To sum up, this book is a must for a Vue User's toolbox from beginner to advanced. In the latter if only to refresh one's memory or pick up other perspectives. From Intermediate level on, I believe, the reader can just read the book and take notes, as I mentioned before, or try out various controls or ways of doing things. For the novice, they might want to read the book and, then, do the appropriate tutorials on Geekatplay. Either way, this book is great.

It can be purchased from Geekatplay, Amazon, e-on software, and I'm sure at other sites. The book lists for $49.95, but the Amazon price is $39.16 and the price at e-on software is currently $35.00.

Also, if you are not familiar with Geekatplay, you need to join it.