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Poser 4: It has lots of new abilities

by Stuart Bonwit

Washington Apple Pi Journal, September/October 1999, pp. 38-40, reprint information

Poser 4 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 and Poser 3 in the May/June 1999 issue of the Journal. Poser 1.0 did not do animation and the figures ported to an animation program could not be animated there. Poser 3 figures can be animated. Amazingly realistic figures can be created and manipulated. A big step forward from Poser 2, which could do animation, is that for Poser 3 a wide variety of facial expressions is possible.

The thing that stymied me about Poser 3 is that the variety of clothing available for the human figures was too limited. It turned out that the feature most requested by users of Poser 3 was for more clothing. Well, MetaCreations obliged. The new features in Poser 4 are:

  • Conforming figures and clothing. You can now switch clothing rather than getting a new figure with different clothing. The clothing will conform to the motion of the figure for which it was requested. The clothing has body parts built in underneath. These are scaled to fit the selected body.
  • Props attached to a figure are now bendable to conform. For instance, a roller-blader's knee pads will bend as the leg bends at the knee.
  • New lighting features have been added. Poser 3 has only three lights. Their direction, color, and intensity are controllable. However, they are like the sun; the illumination from each light is uniform over the entire set. Poser 4 allows an unlimited number of lights which are easily turned on and off. And they can be changed from flood lights to spot lights, another feature the lack of which stymied me in Poser 3. Spherical reflection maps and transparency maps are now supported, another feature the lack of which stymied me in Poser 3!
  • Two new deformers have been added to Poser 4: 1) the Magnet that can stretch body parts and props; and 2) the Wave that can add ripples to clothing and props.
  • Morph targets allow body parts and props to change to completely new shapes.
  • Other new features include: a Hierarchy Editor, a Sketch Designer, a Grouping Tool, Copying and Pasting of poses and animation to other figures and props, and new Document Display Styles.

So, why did I jump to accept MetaCreations' offer of a special upgrade price for Poser 4 three and a half months after I bought Poser 3? The answer is: All of the above!

Figure 1

Most of my previous animations have been of ballet figures. When I heard that Poser 3 did facial expressions and even had built-in expressions for specific phonemes, I decided a change was in order. I would do an animation of an opera star singing an aria! (Note: Phonemes are individual speech sounds, for instance the "e," "t," or "m" sounds.)

As soon as I started my Diva's animation, I realized I was in trouble. The only attires available in Poser 3 for the human adult male and female figures were: business attire; casual attire; and no attire. None if these is suitable for my Diva on the opera stage. So I resigned myself to doing and head and shoulders only animation, very limiting cinematically. I set Diva with no attire! However, this was obvious in the head and shoulders shot and might have raised a few eyebrows. So, I modeled a pair of shoulder straps, as for a formal gown, and a pair of earrings in Ray Dream Studio 5 (reviewed in the September/October 1998 Pi Journal. Note: Poser is not a modeling program; it only poses and animates.) The result can be seen in Figure 1. However with Poser 4 this is no problem as seen in Figure 2. But, that's getting ahead of the story.

Figure 2

When I tried to install Poser 4, you can imagine my shock when it told me there was not enough space available! I figured 700 MB was plenty for my Applications partition on the 4 GB disk. There was 294 MB available. Poser 4's manual said that the Mac requirement is 240 MB of hard disk space. When I got the nastygram from the installer, it said that 377 MB was required! (Note: I have lots of space on the Working and Animations partitions, but I'm not about to repartition my drive.) So, I dutifully copied all the Poser 3 applications files to two Zip disks - just in case - and erased them from the hard disk. I installed Poser 4 without a hitch (it's a Mac!). And my Poser 3 animation still works (for which I held my breath!). Another memory glich got me later. I was working in Poser 4; I went to the Desktop and tried to get the Finder. I was told there was not enough memory! I checked and found that Poser 4 had allocated itself over 62 MB of my 64 MB of RAM; the was something like 300K left. I reduced the allocation to 45 MB so I could run Adobe PhotoDeluxe at the same time.

The first thing I tried after the gown on the Diva was the spotlight, a new feature in Poser 4. Spotlights were old hat in Ray Dream Studio 5 but sorely missed in Poser 3. Figure 3 shows our hero in a tux in the spotlight on a stage imported from Ray Dream (with great difficulty). Notice that the clothing conforms to the body motion: raised arm. Incidentally, the figure (body) in the figure is 20% of its default size to be consistant with the stage. You should have seen what happened when I tried to conform the 100% size tuxedo to the 20 % figure! The tux wrapped around the figure and completely obscured it.

Figure 3

Another new feature in Poser 4 is transparency, again old hat in Ray Dream Studio 5. There are several controls of transparency that can be varied from zero to 100%, a very large number of combinations. I experimented with them but I'm not yet happy with the results. Considerably more experimenting and study (of the manual!) is needed. But, just as a for-instance, see Figure 4. On the left are the wine cup and earring as received from Ray Dream, the transparency having been lost. They were exported in the 3DMF format. There is a whole chapter which I have not yet read in the User Guide on working with Ray Dream. It says to use the OBJ format for import ing objects. On the right of Figure 4 the winecup and earring have "some exact" amount of transparency. I hope that the Journal images show some difference!

Figure 4

As I go through playing with Poser 4, I think up more and more ideas to incorporate in my animation. For instance, I tried having the Diva walk (a feature from Poser 3) and the gown followed beautifully. So, she will walk on the stage during the voice-over introduction. Before I got Poser 4, I had completed animating fifteen seconds of the forty second operatic aria segment in sync. This took several weeks! There's lots to do.

Two things annoyed me in Poser 3. One was when my file opened, it was supposed to be in the "Face Camera." That's basically a head and shoulders shot. The drop menu said it was in the "Face Camera," but all you saw was the feet! When I clicked the drop menu on "Face Camera," I got head and shoulders. Another annoyance was that every time I quit Poser 3, it left "rescued" items in the Trash which were not visible until the next logon. These were very small or zero files for which I saw no use except to be removed from the Trash. Neither of these annoyances is in Poser 4.

There are tons of more stuff that could be written. I have skimmed through the rest of the User Guide and I see I have a lot to learn.

Bundled with Poser 4 is Painter 3D. I can see from the manual that you can paint right on bodies. I haven't installed it yet.

For the serious animator who wants to work with human, animal, robot, and other figures, MetaCreations' Poser 4 is certainly a valuable application and I recommend it.

The package includes:

  • A 364 page User Guide
  • 2 CD-ROMs
  • A 6-page reference card

System requirements

Power PC and compatible models
System 8.0 or higher
32 MB RAM (64+ recommended)
240 MB available hard disk space
16-bit color (24-bit recommended)
CD-ROM drive

(Same CDs works with Wintel machines.)

Poser 4 is a product of:

MetaCreations Corporation
6303 Carpinteria Avenue
Carpinteria, California 93013 USA
Technical Support:
Web: http://www.metacreations.com
Mail order: $250.

Stuart Bonwit

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Revised April 4, 2000 Lawrence I. Charters
Washington Apple Pi
URL: http://www.wap.org/journal/