I’ve been using Poser for almost 10 years, and yet the last thing I usually do in it is animate. And if you take a look at my Poser Pro review posted last year, you will know why. The tools in Poser are not friendly enough to make a good animation in a decent amount of time, and that’s what made me wonder if Character Animation with Poser Pro by Larry Mitchell was actually a good idea. That was obviously before I even read the book.
I still think a book about animation in Poser may be a bad idea, although it can be a good idea depending on your point of view. It can be a bad idea considering there are more capable animation tools out there than you can write about. However, it can be a good idea considering that most (if not all) Poser users will need all the help they can to make a decent animation using the limited toolset they have.
Larry Mitchell starts by giving a brief explanation of the basic principles of animation and how they apply in 3D. In animation there are 12 different principles (sometimes less depending on the list you’re checking). However, some of them are applied differently to 3D animation, as they can be combined or “reinvented.” Understanding those principles is the first step in animation, and having that explanation in the book is extremely valuable.
The author then moves on to some posing exercises. Animation is basically a series of poses in motion, and that’s why posing is important. You explore how to take good photo references, how to use them in Poser, and how to pose your character accordingly. The idea of “good” and “bad” pose references may sound weird, but there’s a big difference in the work you can make with good photo references and bad ones.
The first thing that bothers me about the book is that your first animation is a walk. A walk is pretty much the hardest thing in computer animation due to one simple reason: we see hundreds of people walking on a daily basis, thus making it really easy to spot any minor mistake in a walk. The first walk exercise is done using the Walk Designer, but the next one is a hand-animated walk cycle.
The exercises following are about running, walking on a non-straight line, walking up and down the stairs, and avoiding objects. There’s also a part of the book devoted to using motion capture files in BVH format.
Just like the posing reference chapter, there’s also a chapter about using video references. The book includes a disc with all the scene files used in all of the exercises, as well as the video references. However, it is also important to record your own video references, something the author explains very well.
Poser Pro includes Poser Fusion, a plug-in that allows you to load your Poser documents into almost any host application. The downside with Poser Fusion is that you can’t manipulate your figure inside your host application (any posing and animation has to be done inside Poser). InterPoser is also featured in this book as a way to import your Poser figures inside CINEMA 4D (InterPoser is only available for CINEMA 4D). The advantage offered by InterPoser is the ability to adjust your dials inside CINEMA 4D, as well as animate your character inside the application. I don’t have InterPoser, and I’ve never used it, so I can’t tell you whether it works better than animating in Poser or not.
Animation is a very broad subject, and it is impossible to cover all of it in a single book (unless you’re talking about animation bibles like The Animator’s Survival Kit). However, I think the book could use a few more exercises related to weight (pushing and pulling, lifting and putting down objects) and acting.
Character Animation with Poser Pro should be very useful to Poser users, as there aren’t many resources out there focusing on animation in Poser. If you’re serious about animation, chances are you’ll need more books afterwards (most likely classic animation books that teach you the principles). Still, the book should serve well to give you your first steps in the world of animation.
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Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields.
March 30, 2009
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