Poser 6.0
Issue: Volume: 28 Issue: 6 (June 2005)

Poser 6.0

Curious Labs continues to refine and expand its Poser application with the latest edition. Version 6.0 adds a wealth of new features, including improved rendering and lighting.

Poser is a software program dedicated to the design of human figures, or 3D renderings that can be animated. Recent versions have advanced to include features such as realistic hair and cloth dynamics. As a result, digital cloth can deform and collide with other objects, as well as sweep around realistically when a character is spinning. Each version has contributed to the production of more realistic and professional-looking renderings. This current version provides options to make renders and animations look even better, continuing to raise the bar as to what can be achieved with the software.

Poser 6.0’s new Firefly renderer improves rendering and lighting. Adjust settings via a global slider or customize each render parameter in manual mode.

A new feature called image-based lighting enables you to use any image map that you import as a 360-degree light source (sometimes called environmental maps in other 3D programs) for ultrarealistic renders. You can also apply generated Poser materials to the lights, for even more possibilities.

A new rendering option, ambient occlusion, creates a natural lighting environment. Surfaces are darkened in a scene when exposure to the lights is blocked by other objects, thanks to an advanced raytracing algorithm. You can toggle this lighting mode on and off, as well as target it for specific parts of your scene.

The new shadow-catcher feature allows you to render shadows separately from objects. Shadows are independent not only from the object from which they are cast, but also from the surrounding scene. You even have the option of rendering just the shadows in a scene and re-using shadows maps. The new fastscatter node allows you to add subsurface scattering of light to translucent objects, a feature that goes a long way toward producing better skin shading and realism. Light rendering also has been improved. You can add, as well as revolve, point lights. Specular and diffuse are available on a light-by-light basis for more subtle lighting effects. If you are looking for less realism, a new toon-outlines mode adds dark outlines to images and animations for increased drama.

Perhaps the biggest rendering news is full support for OpenGL. With OpenGL cards, such as those from ATI or Nvidia, coming in at hard-to-beat prices (typically starting at less than $200), it makes sense that Poser helps you take advantage of the technology and enjoy accelerated previews of your scenes. You can even export an OpenGL animation preview with the preview renderer. Other new options and features include adult figures James and Jessi, additional children models, a few superhero figures, and new poses, hair, clothing, and lights.

The new render wipe option allows you to compare two rendered images, whereas area render lets you render just a section of your scene. Auto balancing has been enhanced for easier and more accurate posing. At the same time, depth of field and Flash export have been improved. Poser’s entire user interface, including the palettes, have been redesigned to improve usability.

Also new is the redesigned Content Paradise, a Web resource that can be accessed from within Poser, from which users can search and obtain figures (some free and some with a price tag). the newly updated Web site is much easier to navigate than previous incarnations and offers a multiple store search.

Previous versions have improved the models, whereas Poser 6.0 focuses more on rendering. If you export to another program to render your figures, you’ll miss a lot of what is new in Version 6.0. Poser’s Firefly renderer delivers the added realism and subtle lighting that you’ve been wanting. Poser 6.0 offers high-resolution, realistic rendering with the included figures and a wealth of third-party props and models, as well as provides great cartoon work for Flash and film/video. Combined with realistic cloth dynamics and an intuitive user interface, Poser 6.0 is hard to beat.>

Frank McMahon, a graphics and video professional, runs a blog for creative artists called Media Artist Secrets (www.mediaartist.com).

E Frontier, Curious Labs: www.e-frontier.com
Price: $249 ($129 upgrade from Poser 5)
Minimum System Requirements: Windows 2000 or XP with a 500 mhz Pentium class or compatible processor or Mac OS X Version 10.2 or later with a 500 mhz G3 processor, 256 mb of RAM, 500 mb of hard disk space, a 24-bit color display with 1024x768 resolution, OpenGL-enabled graphics card or chipset recommended, and a CD-ROM drive.