Poser represents an easy and powerful way of creating and posing figures, but it does require a powerful Mac, and a fair investment in time if it is to become more than a toy. Only then will you be able to create natural looking figures, and have a great tool for creating them at a fraction of the cost of hiring models.
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Poser is now on version 4, so it’s probably at the stage where you either know you don’t need it, or else can’t do without it. For those in the latter category, version 4 offers a number of enhancements that will make it a welcome upgrade. For those in the former category, maybe there’s something here that will make Poser worth a second look. If you ever need to produce images, models or animations of human figures – or animals – then Poser is for you. Because it’s a dedicated figure-modelling tool, it offers features for modelling and posing humans beyond that of most 3D modelling tools. You’d need to be looking at specialist software running on SGI machines, or maybe 3D Character Studio for 3D Studio Max on the PC, to get anything similar to the functionality of Poser. The good news is that Poser is available on the Mac, and at a great price. Version 4 is not as huge a leap in features and functionality as was the quantum step from version 2 to 3. While version 3 offered a whole new user interface, a much more detailed human model, clothing tools, and a walk designer, version 4 is more a series of refinements to the basic building blocks from version 3. Clothing is perhaps the biggest advance in Poser 4. Clothes are effectively separate figures, which are ‘conformed’ to the pose of the main figure. Supplied with the program is a range of both men’s and women’s clothing, but creating your own clothing is limited to using complex texture maps, as in Poser 3, or subsequent work in something like Painter3D. Lighting tools are another improved area, with the ability to add an infinite number of lights, whether spotlights or global sources. Two new windows offer enhanced functionality. The Hierarchy Editor shows clearly the relation between objects in the scene – not only figures but also lighting, props and cameras – giving a greater degree of control, especially when you’re working with a number of figures. However, there are still difficulties in getting Inverse Kinematics – the system of insuring proper jointing and limb movements – to work within the limits of human movement. It’s all too easy to distort a figure into an impossible pose beyond the reach of even the most supple contortionist. The Sketch Designer offers a way of exporting still images of the current camera view in a number of artistic styles – from soft pencil cross-hatching, to screaming psychedelic acid-flashbacks. The Walk Designer has been tweaked slightly, but remains as hilarious as ever, as a means of animating steps the Ministry of Silly Walks could only dream of. Three new rendering styles complement the existing nine – so that, as well as the default texture-shaded style, there are various wireframe and mesh-shading options, flat shading and cartoon styles. Using these styles and the Sketch Designer makes Poser a powerful graphics tool – the ideal accompaniment to stock images, scanned figures or model photography. After Poser 3 introduced animals such as dogs and horses, I was expecting a veritable menagerie of creatures to appear in version 4. Yet the new creatures are restrained to a variety of quadrupeds, such as lions and wolves, as well as frogs, snakes, dolphins and fish. Plus a dinosaur, and a bunch of robots. Poser 4 compliments the rest of the MetaCreations range very well, with the ability to export as a MetaStream file, and the integration with Ray Dream Studio, Painter 3D and Bryce 4 is excellent. Not so hot is Posers’ hungry memory demands and sluggish operation – its recommended memory requirement is 64MB, and it struggled on my 233MHZ G3. The default installation also took up 444MB of hard disk space, most of this was for the geometries need to construct figures.