Even if you don't use it, you must know Poser because it's the most widely used human/figure generator available today. Poser Pro delivers a new set of features that may be appealing to some users, although some others may not find them to be compelling enough to upgrade.
At first sight, there are no changes in the Poser interface, because the developers have focused on improving existing features rather than adding new modules (or rooms). Some of the biggest improvements are related to rendering. Poser Pro allows you to render in the background so that you can continue working on your scene while you wait for the render. The renderer now supports multiple CPUs, so if you have more than 1 core you can take full advantage of that. Nevertheless, it only supports up to 4 cores (my test system is an 8 core system, and Poser will only use 4 for rendering).
Poser Pro also offers a separate render thread (or task), and includes a native 64bit renderer. This is really useful if you're on a 64bit system since you can use more RAM to render your scenes. In previous versions of Poser I'd reach a point where the renderer couldn't take on the job because it didn't have any more RAM left, but I haven't seen that happen in Poser Pro yet.
The last rendering addition is the Render Queue. You can queue different scenes and render them out one after the other. The Render Queue can be specially useful for people rendering one or more animations.
Another thing I found useful is the fact that I can use the Space Explorer to navigate the scenes. If you have a 3D mouse this may make your life easier, as Poser's camera navigation tools aren't exactly the best out there.
The library management is different as well. When using Poser 6, my runtime grew larger and larger every month, and soon the Poser folder became the largest application folder on my hard drive. On top of that, I found that Vista's UAC didn't like Poser, as I couldn't create new library items because the Poser folder is considered a system folder by Vista, which means it's protected (I had to manually turn off the folder protection for the Poser folder before I could do anything with my libraries).
Fortunately, in Poser Pro you can choose a different location for your runtime folder (mine is now on my secondary drive). This is also useful if you want to share the content with a different system on your network, or if you don't want to run the risk of losing your library if you uninstall Poser Pro for some reason. This is not without its problems, though. For example, the Daz Michael 4 installer wouldn't let me install it on my new runtime folder because it couldn't find the Poser.exe file in it. However, the installer wouldn't work even if I had used the standard location as the Poser Pro executable file is PoserPro.exe. This slightly different name makes any Daz installer pretty much useless for Poser Pro (a workaround is to make a copy of your Poser Pro executable and renaming it to Poser.exe).
The whole software has evolved and changed in different ways during the years. Nevertheless, my big complaint has remained after every release: the animation tools.
The first Poser version I used was version 4, I moved to Poser 6 and now Poser Pro, and the animation tools haven't changed at all. You still have the timeline that gets extremely difficult to work with if your animation runs for more than 150 frames, your dope sheet and your graph editor where you can't even edit your tangents.
According to my experience, when animating in Poser half of my time is used to fix the in-betweens by adding extra keys everywhere, and get a decent animation. To me, that defeats the purpose of having hair and cloth simulators inside Poser, because I'd never use them since it takes me too long to make a nice animation that would really take advantage of hair and cloth.
Something that users of other 3D applications may find appealing is the Poser Fusion plugins. Now you can open Poser scenes inside Maya, Cinema 4D or Max. This tool imports figures and scenes inside your host application, retaining the texturing and shading information. Most of the time, the shaders will translate correctly (although sometimes I'll have to turn off the reflectivity inside Maya, as some materials are imported with full reflectivity. The upside is that you will only have to do it once for each scene, as Maya will store the shader modifications in that scene).
It is important to mention that this is a one-way connection. You can import any Poser scene, modify it and also add more elements to it. However, any change you make will not be reflected in your original scene. What this means is that, if you want to make any changes to your scene (for example pose your characters differently), you will have to reload your scene.
Another issue you may encounter, at least when using Maya, is the fact that any new objects you add to your Poser scene will not appear in your Maya scene after the file has been imported. This is caused by the way Maya imports the files, because it creates a series of groups and transforms corresponding to your objects in your Poser scene, and after the initial groups have been created, Poser Fusion will not create more, meaning that you'll have to re-import the file into another scene.
Poser Fusion allows you to render images and animations using your 3D app's native renderer. You can offset your animation to fit specific needs and then setup your renderer to output your animation range. Once again, the only problem I see with this is the fact that animating in Poser Pro isn't exactly encouraging.
Since they announced COLLADA support, I kept wondering if you'd be able to bring your fully-rigged Poser characters inside other applications, and it does. The COLLADA format can retain the rigging information so that you can pose your characters inside your host application.
One of the problems is that the rigs in Poser are specially engineered to make the twisting work well, as they fall-off along your character's limbs. However, the transformations inside any other application are based exclusively on weights, and this means Poser characters will not be able to twists their limbs like they do in Poser. On the other hand, your weights may need some tweaking as they are too hard on the edges, yielding non-organic deformations.
If someone asked me what would be my reasons for upgrading are, I'd have to mention the separate render process, as well as the native 64bit renderer. Poser Fusion is a nice addition but I have the impression that it's a little late. On the other hand, the COLLADA export is a good start, but you still have to consider the issues I just mentioned.
There are several upgrade offers and special prices available for Poser users.
For more information, pricing, and availability, please visit the SmithMicro website.
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Animation Alley is a regular featured column with Renderosity Staff Columnist Sergio Rosa [nemirc]. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields.
November 17, 2008
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