Poser 3 is a posing and animation program for human and animal figures. It has come a long way since I reviewed Poser 1.0 in the May/June 1996 issue of the Pi Journal. Poser 1.0 did not do animation and the figures ported to an animation program could be animated there. Poser 3.0 figures can be animated in Poser 3.0 and can be ported to Ray Dream Studio 5, a modeling and animation program, and retain their animated features. Both Poser and Ray Dream are products of MetaCreations.
Amazingly realistic figures can be created and manipulated in Poser 3.0. Installation is a snap, as one would expect on a Mac. The first thing the manual tells you to do is to increase the memory allocation as much as possible. Use of virtual memory is recommended. I allocated all but 1.5 MB to Poser and found I couldn't open WordPerfect to write the review as I went along. I dropped the allocation down to 45 MB.
Figure 1: Poser Workspace
Opening Poser brings the intro title page very artistically enhanced with dissolving titles. Then the Workspace appears, Fig. 1. It doesn't surprise you that it occupies the entire screen because you just read that in the User Guide Overview (didn't you?). You don't even see the menu bar; however, you can bring it into view by moving the cursor above the Workspace.
All the Workspace feature titles are in a dull gray until the cursor touches them. Then they light up bright white. In Fig. 1 the cursor is on the title "Editing Tools" seen lit up at the top center of the figure. The controls for three lights are seen in the upper left. The center light is bright shining from the upper left which you can confirm by looking at the figure in the center. The camera controls are at the left. There is a choice of preset camera angles and shooting distances plus complete control of X Y Z position and 3D rotation. In the lower left are the display styles ranging all the way from block outline through several wire frames to increasing qualities of rendering. Below the figure you may see that the Chest has been selected. It can be manipulated by dragging in the figure or by the Parameter Dials at the right which give very precise control. The temptation to play with the controls (before reading the manual!!) is overwhelming!
Figure 2: Business man and dog.
The Tutorial is straightforward and easy but it is laden with "land mines," tempting options that lead you astray. The human male figure in Fig. 1 is the default figure. During the course of the Tutorial, I wound up with Fig. 2 Posed Figure/Dog. The posed figure, the "Business Man," is one of many available the Poser library. The library is available by clicking the handle at the extreme right of Fig. 1. The library also has several animals. In posing the man I changed the angles of both thighs and shins and both feet. I changed the "poses" of the hands selecting from the library of hands. Figs. 3, 4, and 5 show the basic hand, a fist, and the OK sign. However, the hands can be modified by changing the angles of each of the joints on every finger and thumb to create any desired gesture. (What this will do to make the ballerina's gestures more graceful is almost unbelievable!)
Figure 3: Basic hand
Figure 4: Fist
Figure 5: OK sign.
The thing that really bowled me over was Poser's facility with facial expressions. Fig. 6 is a close-up of the basic Business Man's face with one of many "hairs" from the library. I changed the color of the hair from the original green to a dark brown. I found how to do it with the help files. I'm sure later in the Tutorial this will be explained. Fig. 7 Wink and Fig. 8 Horror are two of many expressions in the library. And it is possible to create an infinite variety of expressions by manipulating the eyes, eyebrows, lips, mouth, tongue, etc. There is also a library of facial expressions corresponding to phonemes, i.e. basic speech sounds. Fig. 9 shows the man saying, "O." (This will come in very handy for my animation of the opera diva singing an aria.)
Figure 6: Basic businessman
Figure 7: Wink
Figure 8: Horror
Figure 9: Say "Oh."
Fig. 10, Head (Parameter) Dials 1, shows facial expressions that can be manipulated, but I could not see any dials to move the head. When the default figure is brought up, there are head moving dials but no facial expressions. I confirmed that in the manual. I drafted an e-mail letter to MetaCreations Support to ask about it. I also wanted to know how the wink was created since I saw no controls for the eyelids. The manual says, under Blink, to set the Blink Parameter Dial to 1.0 to close the eye. Where is that? The hint was that the Blink dial was described right after the Worry Left dial seen in Fig. 10 at the bottom. (Note: Ignore those nine dots; they can be preset to control camera views.) I found that I could "grab" the Parameter dials and drag them up so that I could see the rest of them (but I was unable to find any mention in the manual of moving the dials). Voila! Fig. 11 shows the rest of the dials. And, what do you know, there are the Blink dials and the head motion dials. I scrapped my e-mail letter!
Figure 10: Facial parameters
Figure 11: Even more facial parameters
I have gone through twenty of the forty pages of the formal Tutorial. However, I've glanced through and made frequent references to many of the subsequent 130 pages, nine chapters, to get a fair idea of what's possible - and that includes a lot! My next step is to produce an animation with synchronized voice sound, both speech and singing. One of the things deep into those chapters is the method of synchronizing animation to sound. This can all be done in Poser without resorting to Adobe Premiere. Wow! Can't wait!
On the advice of MetaCreations Technical Support, I downloaded an upgrade, additional plug-ins, and the Poser Advanced Techniques Manual (how much more advanced can they be?) from MetaCrations' Web site. These make it possible to exchange models and animations complete with key frames between Poser 3 and MetaCreations' Ray Dream Studio 5. The unlimited possiblities are now more unlimited!
For the serious animator who wants to work with human and animal figures, MetaCreations' Poser 3 is certainly a valuable application and I recommend it.
The package includes:
(Same CD works with Wintel machines.)
Poser 3 is a product of:
MetaCreations Corporation 6303 Carpinteria Avenue Carpinteria, California 93013 USA Technical Support: Phone: 408-430-4200 Fax: 408-438-9672 Web: http://www.metacreations.com List price: $199.
Revised April 11, 1999 Lawrence I. Charters
Washington Apple Pi