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Software Review: Poser 8 from Smith Micro

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With all of the products on the market that help you create 3D images, many of them do a reasonable job of creating creatures and alien looking beings, but few create realistic human beings. Part of this is because of the facial expressions and movements of the human form make it more difficult to reproduce.

That is where Poser comes in. Poser 8 is the latest version of Smith Micro's 3D figure design and animation solution for creating, and animating human, and animal figures. It is also capable of customizing figures and scenes by mapping facial photos to create realistic 3D portraits. It can create both stills, and animations, create output movies, and images for use in Web, print, and video projects. You can even export your renderings for use in other applications.

 Poser 8What is required to Run Poser 8?
On Windows:
• XP or Vista
• 700 MHz Pentium processor (1 GHz or faster recommended)

On Macintosh:
• OS X 10.4 or 10.5
• 700 MHz G4 processor (Intel Core Duo or 1 GHz G4 or faster recommended)

On Both
• 512 MB RAM (1 GB recommended)
• 24-bit color display 1024×768 resolution
• 2 GB free hard disk space (4 GB recommended)
• DVD-ROM for physical product
• Adobe Flash Player 9 or later
• Internet connection for Content Paradise

What is new to Poser 8?
New user interface has been worked over to provide a better workflow. It features new palettes that you can dock and float in any way you choose to maximize your workspace for better efficiency. The cleaner layout lets you focus on your workspace, not the interface, while still preserving the fundamental elements that Poser users are accustomed to.

 Poser 8Morphing tool enhancements now allow you to morph across multiple body parts making it easier than ever to create master parameter-controlled full body morphs. Dial in a morph brush and just paint morphs across body parts. You can then save the complete set of individual body part morphs as a single Full Body Morph channel in the figure’s “Body” parameter. This will let you create effects such as muscle bulges, scales, bumps, horns, veins or wounds.

Dependent Parameters Editor gives you the ability to create more complex interactions between objects and joints. It is now easier to create advanced body controls such as a muscle bulge morph that moves when a limb bends. You can use this new feature for full body morphs, partial body morphs, advanced body controls, joint controlled morph targets, joint controlled deformers, and parameter-controlled scene assets.

Improved rigging system allows for better bending of characters, and features a new capsule-shaped fall-off zone that allows finer control in specifying how joints respond to rotation.

Multiple fall-off zones can be used in joints for even finer control of joint rotations. These falloff zones can be blended by multiplying or adding the values. This gives you the ability to permit figure creators to rig problem areas such as hips and shoulders giving better results and better bending figures.

Indirect lighting effects provide lighting that bounces light from other objects in your scene on to your character. By using reflected light and color from nearby surfaces you can produce much more vivid and more photorealistic lighting in your rendered images.

 Poser 8Light Fall-off and attenuation will project a better, more physically correct light attenuation giving more realistic point and spot lights. You can create scenes with point and spot light brightness that diminish over distance just like it would with lights in the real-world.

Tone mapping and exposure control gives you more control for brightness, saturation, and post-render processing enhancing your rendered images much more accurately.

Normal maps are now supported at render time. This gives you the ability to add more surface detail without requiring extra geometry or modeling.

Performance optimizations include improved multi-processor support for faster rendering, increased performance for opening and handling complex scenes, bending on multi-core/multi-processor hardware, and better scalability when rendering multiple buckets.

Document Preview gives you the ability for real-time scene preview displaying up to 8 user-selectable lights and their accumulated values, sorted by intensity. Additionally, Mip Map support has been added giving enhanced performance when you are previewing large textures. Between these two, these enhancements let you view larger textures and offer more complete scene previewing when setting up lights.

 Poser 8Library Content now has a new searchable library system that makes it easier to find what you are looking for even if it is a large collection of content. There are eight new fully rigged, fully poseable photo-real human characters. There is 1.5 GB of all new content including poses, props, hair sets, lights and cameras as well as 1.8 GB of legacy Poser content. And finally, there is a new wardrobe wizard that allows you to fit existing clothing items onto new figures.

wxPython support provides more robust Python feature development, allowing for development of scripts that can run continuously allowing for more robust third-party support and add-on feature development

With all that you get, Poser 8 is truly a bargain at $249.99 (upgrades from Poser 4 and up are $129.99) considering what it is capable of doing. It does a remarkably good job of creating figures that look almost real, and animations that have realistic movement.

The new interface really maximizes the screen for you, and the improved functionality, new tools, and the streamlining of the workflow makes for a tighter program. Things like the big menu labels are a thing of the past, as are the big icons, making the whole thing much more organized while still maintaining a look that those familiar with earlier versions will have no problem working with. The library is much more condensed and smaller than in previous versions, which took a bit to get used to in its new more list-style effect, but after a while it becomes more efficient to work with.

The Dependent Parameters Editor is something that runs in the background and makes your use of animation, posing, and interaction easier. You can change any existing parameter dial or create new master parameter dials that can be used to control any number of slave parameters making interaction much easier than ever before.

Poser 8 is great for graphic and Web design, to create faces and figures for your illustrations and Web apps. It would work well for fine art and illustration, as you could eliminate the need for mannequins, or even live models. It would be a breeze for creating storyboards and pre-visualizations. It could be used for medical illustrations, as well as for architecture and design.

 Poser 8One additional note: You will want to get the Poser 8 Service Release 1 update that resolves a number of issues from the initial release. To check what version you are on, open the Poser help menu and click the "About Poser" item. If the version is less than 8.0.1, then you need the update.

If you want to see what some have done in the past with Poser, you can check out the gallery that is located on the Smith Micro Web site. If you want to work with animation of the human form for 3D generation, illustration, art, or animation then I highly recommend Poser 8.

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About T. Michael Testi

Photographer, writer, software engineer, educator, and maker of fine images.