SIGGRAPH 2009 in New Orleans this last month was filled with great moments for me. Amazing animation, panels, product demos, great dinners; the list just goes on and on. But one of the real highlights for me was the private demo Steve Cooper presented on Tuesday, August 4th at one of the little lunch tables outside of the main exhibition hall. I was fortunate to respond early when the opportunity came up for a private demo and, as it turned out, I was Steve's first appointment. Steve is the Senior Product Manager for Poser, and I knew right away I liked him because he was full of energy and (sorry for the macho take) he had a great handshake.
Steve Cooper, Senior Product Manager Poser 8
After I set up my digital recorder and Steve booted up his Mac Book Pro, we started in talking about Poser 8, which had just been released that day. I was able to record the entire conversation and have provided it for you at the end of this article. There is a bit of background noise, but Steve's strong voice cut through most of it. Since the demo is almost an hour, I cut it down into two parts, both at around 20 to 25 minutes long. Part One covers a bit of Poser history and what they were trying to accomplish in this new version. You'll also hear Steve cover the new UI, the 8 new characters that come with the program and (Steve's favorite) the new Indirect Lighting system. Part Two covers Tone Mapping, the new performance benefits from Poser 8, the new Rigging system, Dependant Paramaters, a bit of the new WXPython addition, documentation/content, and ending up with an explanation of what's in store for Poser Pro users.
“What could we do that we knew would be compelling to the users? That would address
a number of long-standing issues as well as give new functionality?”
Steve told me that the new Poser 8 had been in serious development for about a year and a half. He said that a user survey clearly told them that “people were ready for a new users' experience with Poser”. So, one of the main changes was with the user interface of Poser. The basic ideas was to maximize space, but keep the tools in the same place as they've always been. The decision was made to allow the user to create floating docks for all controls. Each room of the new Poser 8 has it's own custom UI and is fully customizable.
Rendering is now much faster.
Regarding the 8 new characters included with Poser 8, Steve explained that the developers felt that new types of characters were called for. Figures which were more diverse, with less emphasis on the physical beauty of each character. Hence, 4 pairs of male/female characters were created in high/low rez and in various ethnic identities: European, African, Asian and Hispanic. Many pre-built facial expressions are also available.
Steve mentioned that there were approximately 300 head morphs and about 170 figure morphs for the new characters, which are the the most advanced ever created for the program. And these new characters come with a brand new Content Library system which allows the user to search using keywords and to save “favorites”. And with Poser 8 you can now “drag and drop” content right into the scene for easier workflow.
The new Content Library system in Poser 8
Asked point blank what his favorite new feature was in Poser 8, Steve said, without hesitation, that it was the new Indirect Lighting. “It allows color and light from adjacent objects to reflect on other objects”, which makes the lighting in the new Poser very life-like. Several photos showing the difference between Ray-Tracing and the new Indirect Lighting clearly showed the difference between the two.
“The ability for Poser users to stay inside of poser has never been better”
Before reviewing the extensive performance benefits of the new Poser 8, Steve covered a bit of the new Tone Mapping node for rendering which helps to control overly bright areas in a scene and allows for deeper contrast.
Steve touched on the new Rigging System and a new Dependant Parameters tool for Poser 8. The Rigging System adds multiple zones to a joint, and provides a new Capsule zone which helps Poser characters to bend much more realistically. The Dependant Parameters tool lets the user create complex relationships between objects, humans, lights and just about anything in a scene. He demonstrated how animation can trigger a body morph to create more realistic muscle movement.
Dependant Parameters tool
The Wardrobe Wizard is included with Poser 8, along with 1.5 gigs of new content (and most of the old legacy content as well). WxPython support is provided with Poser 8, and despite the lack of a physical manual (they plan on releasing one later in the year), Steve told me that they completely re-wrote the Poser manual (over 500 pages) as PDF, along with a Tutorial Manual and a Poser Python Manual.
Finally, Steve very clearly spelled out how the company was going to handle Poser Pro users (those who wanted a version of Poser that fit into a professional production pipeline) by offering the Poser Pro 2010 beta to those Pro users who purchase an upgrade to Poser 8. The new feature set of Poser Pro 2010 will be announced sometime early in the new year. He also told me that Pro users who purchase the upgrade can deduct the upgrade price from Poser Pro 2010.
Cloth Sim Performance improvements with Poser 8
I thoroughly enjoyed listening to Steve Cooper for the hour-long demo of Poser 8. There wasn't a slow moment for the entire time. His insight and enthusiasm for this interesting “virtual stage” (as he called it) was infectious. I could have probably stayed and talked for another hour, at least. What a great presentation!
A large scene in Poser 8 on Mac Book Pro
I've been researching and testing the new version of Poser for the last few weeks and will have a complete review of Poser 8 here at Renderosity.com very soon. I'm looking forward to sharing my thoughts about some of what Steve presented, and my own experience as a first time user of the program. I'm particularly interested in how Poser 8 can be used to create 3D animated films.
My sincere thanks to Steve Cooper for his help and for allowing me to record his wonderful demo.
You can listen to the complete demo in mp3 format (with very minor editing for clarity) here:
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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