Product Review: Smith Micro's Poser Debut
"What we are trying to do with Poser Debut is to attract people who
never even thought of using 3D."
After the success of Anime Studio Debut 7 and Manga Studio Debut, it was apparent to Smith Micro that a Debut version of Poser would probably have a wide appeal. So they went through Poser 8 "carefully and removed features that many users either didn't know about or use," according to Steve Cooper, the Poser Product Manager at Smith Micro. The developers of Poser Debut wanted to make the program "an educational experience" that would allow the user to "take what they learned in Debut and make it directly transferable to the more advanced version of Poser 8."
A massive cultural shift is going on right now where the tools for computer graphics and 3D are becoming cheap enough for the everyday Joe to buy. And if that person is motivated, they can learn through a starter program that not only teaches them how to create, but grounds them in the basic knowledge they need to progress to more complicated programs. Poser Debut is one of those starter programs. It addresses the basic need of the beginner: to be helped, to be guided, so that the terms and techniques don't seem overwhelming. And at $49.95 (less with some online discounts), I can't think of a better program to learn 3D.
What can Poser Debut do for you?
Poser Debut interface with my own tai-chi illustration loaded
Poser Debut Performance
It couldn't have been easy for the Poser Debut developers to choose what to include and what to cut from Poser 8 in order to come up with a program that would actually make the process of learning easier for beginners, but at the same time, allow them to create decent images and animations. In talking to Steve Cooper (I'll be posting my interview with him next week), I was impressed with his comment that as they were working on this problem, they discovered that they needed to rework their entire Project Guide for Poser to make it simpler and easier. They also decided to include learning guides for the basics of 3D in general.
More of the Poser Debut Interface with Quick Start panel loaded
Poser Debut features the same basic core features as it's big brother program, Poser 8, only the Face, Hair, Cloth, Set-up and Content rooms have been removed in favor of basic materials editing and fewer manual rendering settings. I was very glad to see that the Smith Micro developers decided to keep the advanced Poser 8 rigging system so that beginners can create very smooth character animation (with enough effort and practice).
Poser Debut also keeps the new Library system from Poser 8 and they have included 2Gbs of content for the beginning user. The new Ryan and Alyson Poser 8 characters are included along with lots of hair, clothing props, pre-built poses and lights. The easy drag-n-drop workflow that makes Poser such a quick program to learn is all there, along with the various dials you can use to adjust various settings, from morphing characters faces to adjusting animation.
Advanced Content Handling Matrix
One problem the Poser Debut developers faced in designing the program was how to handle Advanced Content/Data created in higher versions of Poser. Happily, they chose to allow most of this content to be importable, however, there are some limitations on what certain types of Advanced Content can do. Steve Cooper notes on his excellent blog that "The choices made in the handling method were guided by which tools were included in Debut and how much those advanced attributes would matter to the new users we designed Debut for. Simpler is better." You can see the Advanced Content matrix above which helps to explain what you can and cannot import into Poser Debut.
I think the crew at Smith Micro got it right with Poser Debut. Yes, some can quibble about whether there should have been more advanced rendering enabled, but frankly, new users aren't going to be learning advanced rendering, or advanced anything for that matter. I'm thrilled that they decided to keep the Sketch rendering and provide just enough manual adjustments to allow for a nice range of creative choices.
Sketch rendering in Poser Debut
Poser Debut is fun, easy to learn, and not intimidating to anyone interested in 3D. I was most impressed with the re-working of the Project guide. The step-by-step tutorials and videos are exactly what a new user needs to relax and start creating. You can access the manual, tutorials and project guides directly from inside the program. And, in a very nice touch, you can dock the project guide in the library panel, so there's no need to go back and forth from the guide to the screen you are working on. At this point, you can only search help inside of the manual (318 pages in pdf format). It would be helpful to have a search function right inside of the help menu. Also, lots of good links to the Smith Micro site along with Content Paradise in case you need to go to the forums, register the software or find new content.
I really like Poser Debut and believe it will bring many new users to 2D/3D. Even though its features aren't as robust as the full Poser 8, there are so many things a beginner can do with this inexpensive program: create a graphic novel, craft a short animated film, pose characters in a variety of landscapes and scenes, create illustrations and graphics, and, most importantly, learn all about computer graphics at a price that won't put a hole in your wallet. Poser Debut is a sweet program: perfectly priced and perfectly designed to give users excellent training and lots of creative possibilities.
Poser Debut is available for the Mac and PC (no 64-bit version yet), in English, French and German. Full requirements are listed here. Users of Poser Debut can upgrade to Poser 8 for $179.99. You can also side grade to Poser Pro 2010 for $449.99. Your serial number will be required for the upgrade.
Although there isn't a demo for Poser Debut (I hope they'll add one soon), you can download a free, 30-day trial of Poser 8 here, which will give you a good idea of how the program works. And free content is available at Content Paradise for those who purchase Poser Debut. More info here.
My sincere thanks to Smith Micro for providing a copy of Poser Debut for review. Special thanks to Steve Cooper, who has always been helpful and is incredibly passionate about Poser. And thanks to Maggie Quale for setting up a meeting with Steve and for her help in this review.
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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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