So here is a review on wrote on the book ‘Away3D Essentials’:
Away3D is a 3D-engine for Flash Player. Showing interactive 3D content in Flash Player has been one major point of development in recent years.
There has been a lot of blog entries with code examples by developers and computer graphics enthusiasts about it.
Generally the author Matthew Casperson has done a great job by collecting all this information into one very comprehensive book, Away3D 3.6 Essentials.
The book starts with very detailed information about how to get started: where to download the sources and how to install Away3d on different Flash IDEs. The book goes through all the abilities Away3D offers to a programmer: coordinate spaces, creating shapes, materials and displaying the stage. It also contains sights on more advanced techniques like adding text elements to a 3D scene and how to use modifiers to create and animate more freeformed shapes.
All the 3D engines for Flash Player are for real-time animation, so more photorealistic effects like ray-tracing based reflections and shadings are not yet easily available. On the other hand Flash Player 10 with its support for 3D was one major breakthrough in this area, and I know all the developers are looking forward to see what new opportunities the next releases will bring.
The book Away3D 3.6 Essentials, as the name indicates, concentrates on Away3d engine. It is good if the reader already has basic skills of coding in actionscript. On the other hand, I do not see any reason why someone would not learn actionscript by going through, playing and studying all the example codes in this book – there are plenty of those and they are all well explained and easy to follow. In my opinion learning to code is easy but getting to know the abilities and how to get the most out of it, is what makes a programmer a good one.
The book also deals with some basic schemes of 3D-graphics, like the use of coordinate space, how cameras project that to screen coordinates, how primitive shapes are constructed of triangles, lighting the scene, using materials on objects et cetera.
These general principles are of course a very basis of understanding and creating graphics in 3D, no matter what programming environment or 3D engine is used.