Smith Micro's release last year of Poser 8 and their recent release of Poser 8 Pro 2010 were milestones in the development of this powerful CG software. In my Poser 8 review here at renderosity, I noted that the software had been re-designed and re-imagined to provide the user with a graphics program that would grow and deepen as he/she become more proficient. Designed so that the beginning user can get right to creating, Poser 8 is also very deep. Rendering, animation and applying materials can take the advanced user quite a while to learn everything that this remarkable program can do. Even the author of this excellent companion to Poser 8 admits that “I've happily discovered that there is a whole lotta Poser that I never even knew existed.” And this is from a professional user who is now writing this 3rd edition of Poser 8 Revealed.
At just over 2.5 lbs and 592 pages, Poser 8 Revealed: The Official Guide is a big book packed with information that will take the beginning Poser user and help turn them into an advanced one. Kelly Murdock, the author of other CG-related titles like Anime Studio 6 Revealed and the 3dsMax 2010 Bible, writes a very clear and uncluttered prose. It's not your typical dry, technical writing. Mr. Murdock obviously loves Poser 8 and knows it backwards and forwards. You couldn't ask for a better guide to this popular program created by SmithMicro.
“The main text of each lesson includes a detailed discussion of a specific
topic, but alongside the topic discussions are step-by-step objectives
that help you master the same topic that is being discussed.”
Aimed essentially at the user who is new to Poser (and to CG in general), Poser 8 Revealed is an offical guide (approved and supported by SmithMicro) and contains 13 chapters (with several “lessons” in each chapter) along with a list of keyboard shortcuts, a glossary and an index. Here is the chapter breakdown:
The author takes you through the basics of the interface and then starts a chapter by chapter close-up look at each “room” that Poser 8 provides to accomplish specific functions. Mr. Murdock wants the user to get his/her hands dirty right from the start, so he examines the “Pose” room (where you insert and pose your characters/figures) and then moves right into working with a Scene, Props and Materials. He also focuses on the new features in Poser 8 and lays out how each improvement works to build depth and ease of use. The new interface, full-body morphs, dependant parameters, global illumination, the new library and the new wardrobe wizard all get clear and interesting explanations.
Rather than use a full tutorial approach to learning Poser 8, the author provides a “read it and do it” context for each area of the program. After discussing the elements of a particular function, there are several “step-by-step objectives that show you a simplified example” of the topic written in the form of “lessons.” One very thoughtful touch is that each of the examples begins from the “default setting that appears when the program is first loaded.” Course Technology, the publisher, provides a download for example files that are required at certain points in the book. While a CD would have probably worked better for this, the downloads are easy to find and install on the company's website.
I also like the basic layout of the book. Starting with a well-designed cover by Jennifer M. Gann, the rectangular size with its two-column text makes for very easy use as you make your way though a chapter with the book folded flat on a desk in front of your monitor. The B&W illustrations are clear and it's generally easy to make out details, although color photos of varying sizes would have been a better choice. And while the binding is tight, the cover of the book is easy to separate from the spine, causing this reader to have to re-glue the cover. Course Technology should look into this and fix any production issues for future versions of this title.
“After loading and posing a figure, you can add many details to the
scene using materials. Materials are coverings used for the various
elements in a scene. They can be as simple as a color, or as complex
as a full texture with bumps and highlights”
Each chapter begins with an introduction to the concepts and information found in the chapter. In addition to a clear step-by-step explanation of the topic (organized into “lessons”) there are several “tips, notes and cautions” that are positioned nicely right near a specific paragraph so that you can get additional information outside of the main topic, and, at times, in other parts of the book.
At the end of each chapter, there's a nice chapter summary which outlines what you have learned in that chapter very specifically. Key terms are also laid out and defined, which helps in remembering terms which are essential to understanding later chapters. And there's an appendix near the end of the book (should have been placed in the front, though) that outlines all of the new features in Poser 8.
While it's possible to move through Poser 8 Reveleased out of sequence by following the topics that interest you, it's really designed to be learned chronologically as the chapters become more complex as the book progresses, building on the foundation set in the first part of the book. Every chapter is well done, but I found myself particularly impressed with the sections on “Editing and Posing Characters” (CH. 3) and “Adding Materials” (CH 4). I'd been struggling with understanding Materials and how they work in Poser, and Mr. Murdock provides the clearest and most intuitive description/lesson I've read anywhere.
More complex topics, like rigging your character, creating morphs, creating hair/clothing and setting up your renders, are very well covered. There is even a section on Python scripting which, while very basic, was an eye opener for me. The power in Python scripts for Poser 8 is amazing. Mr. Murdock takes some of the intimidation factor out of scripting for self-taught users like myself. It's inspiring to see his passion for the program as apparent in the final chapters as it was in the early ones.
Poser 8 Revealed is a book I think all beginning and intermediate users should have in their library. While the binding problem is a flaw, and no CD means you have to visit the publisher's website, these problems are not that big of a deal when you consider how well laid out and well written the book is. SmithMicro provides a ton of learning tools at their website, but I think for self learning you really can't beat a book. Especially one as good as Poser 8 Revealed.
I recommend this book to anyone who wants to learn Poser 8 for the first time, and for users who want to deepen their knowledge and skills in specific areas.
For more info on Poser 8 Revealed: The Official Guide, please visit the Publisher's website.
Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.
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