One morning I woke up and my entire Smart Content tab in DAZ Studio was empty. Nothing had happened since the day before when it was working perfectly fine. It just stopped working overnight.
What I had done shortly before going to bed was to install the latest service release of Poser Game Dev (SR5). If this was the cause of the problem or not will forever remain a mystery. In this article I’ll explain how I fixed this issue on my Mac.
Poser is a tad – shall we say – pernickety about where it allows you to save files if you’d like them to appear in the Library. You can save files anywhere on your system of course, using the options in the File Menu, but Poser can also save files into the Library with the little plus icon. This requires a Runtime folder structure.
By default Poser sets up two for us: Poser Content and Downloads. To create others, specifically empty ones for our own content, we need to create a specific folder hierarchy so that Poser recognises this as a Runtime. Here’s how to do it:
create a folder with the name you’d like it to be displayed as (say Your Scenes)
in this folder, create a new folder called runtime
inside the runtime folder, create the following three folders:
And that’s your Runtime Structure. Capitalisation is (or once was) important here. Poser will create other folders in this structure when necessary, as does content from 3D marketplaces.
To add your new Runtime to Poser, click that little “plus icon with a running man in a folder” type button in your Library palette. Now you can select it, just like the Poser Content and Downloads runtimes.
To remove it, select your runtime (make sure the drop down does not read <All>), then click the “minus icon with a running man in a folder” icon. Your actual folder will remain in place, but it no longer shows up in Poser.
Other 3D apps rotate around the currently selected object by default. Poser does not. By default Poser chooses to rotate around the center of the universe. That’s great for characters but relatively maddening for larger scenes.
The secret lies in the Display menu, in an option called Orbit Selected Mode. Select it and Poser will rotate around your current selection. Unselect it and you’ll rotate around the world center again.
In this menu is another helpful feature: Frame Selected. This will zoom in on your selection with a healthy distance, making it easy to pick out single objects in larger scenes.
Fly Around is a nice concept in which the camera circles the current scene, around the selected object if you choose. It can be a bit tough on the old CPU though and tends not to stop when you unselect it. Instead, simply click the top bar of the scene window (next to the object selection drop downs). That’ll make it stop.
Knowing these simple things may make Poser drive us just that little bit less insane.
Poser can two two types of Motion Blur effects: 3D Motion Blur as seen above, and 2D Motion Blur. The latter is more of a “preview” mode rather than the real thing. Motion Blur can be used on both still images to convey the idea that something is moving, as well as in animations.
A few years ago I bought Prostudio by Synthetic and Blackhearted. It’s a “light preset kit” for Poser that comes with an extensive manual and many presets to start a good render, but as the author explains you really need to know something about lighting to make renders look their best.
After reading the manual I took some important tips away which I wanted to make a note of, in regards to render settings. It appears they are closely linked to getting good results – so no matter if you’re using this particular light set or not, the following tips apply to any Poser render I guess.
The above are the default FireFly settings you’ll find with a fresh scene in Poser Pro 2014 Game Dev, under Render – Render Settings.
As with all the settings, experimentation is encouraged and not one setting fits all.
Blackhearted recommends to switch off the Gamma Correction for more realistic renders(bottom right). Here’s the difference without (left) and with (right), using the default lights and the Andy2 skeleton figure.
This setting has no impact on render times, just on the contrast.
This confusing term controls how anti-aliased rendered objects appear. Less anti-aliasing means a more jagged edge, while more anti-aliasing means a smoother edge.
Note than even though the edges and textures appear more jagged, the lighting looks the same. Lower values are good for test renders.
Here’s Andy again, on the left with a setting of 1, and on the right with 20. The highest Pixel Sampling I can achieve on my system is 36.
This option is not to be confused with Render – Antialias Document, which only applies quick anti-aliasing to the current preview, thereby creating a quick render. Pixel Samples are applied during the “real” FireFly rendering process.
Minimum Shading Rate
With this setting Poser defines how well defined shadow areas are rendered (I think). Lower settings take longer to render, but give a much more detailed and accurate definition on a model. Higher settings render quicker, and again don’t affect how the overall lighting looks – and as long as you don’t see a split render you can’t really tell what’s different between these settings.
Hence here are two full renders instead of a split: the top image is rendered with a Min Shading Rate value of 0 and yields a lot of detail in Andy’s chest cavity. Look at all the small reflections and detail, as well as the thin sharp shadows at his joints.
The bottom image was rendered with a rate of 20 (the highest value) and while not bad, much of that high definition is gone. It’s much quicker to render though.
Depending on the shader that’s used on a surface, you can see what Poser is doing during the first render pass (when it says Precalculating Subsurface Scattering): the preview polygons are larger, hence the lack of resolution on higher rates.
The Poser manual has more detailed explanations on all the other settings, but those three above always mystified me most up until now.
Poser also has an option to adjust all those scary settings with a simple slider, which appears when you select Auto Settings instead of Manual Settings.
Move the slider further to the left for quicker and rougher renders, or slide to towards the right for better quality renders which take longer. You lose finer grained control this way, but it’s a great way to get started quickly.
Note that both Auto and Manual do not influence each other: make a change in Manual and it will not affect your Auto settings, and vice versa. You can import your Auto settings into the Manual dialogue by selecting Acquire from Auto – but it doesn’t work the other way round.
Here’s one final tip on how to speed up test renders: while you’re working and setting up a scene, consider reusing your shadow maps (Render – Reuse Shadow Maps). This will prevent Poser from recalculating those every time. Depending on how much you’ve changed in your scene this can be quite a timesaver.
When you’re finished, just untick the box again. To force Poser to recalculate the shadow maps, select Clear Shadow Maps and they’ll be regenerated upon your next render.
Replicators and Surface Replicators allow you to duplicate single objects and make it look like you have an armada of “stuff” in your scene. For example, you could replicate trees on a landscape or a group of people, but only load a single object into your scene.
The difference between a Replicator and a Surface Replicator is this: Replicators duplicate (replicate) your objects along all 3 axis and only need a single source object. In fact they can accommodate several source objects, but they don’t replicate along anything.
Surface Replicators on the other hand only replicate along a given surface, like a terrain or another object. Surface Replicators only obey a twi dimensional plane along whose normals your replicated objects will be aligned.
To use them, simply drag an object onto the replicator in the Assemble Room. This can be tricky: make sure the source object turns green rather than yellow – which seems to happen when you drag it too far towards the right. Click and drag it further to the left, as shown below.
As soon as you do, you’ll see your object outlined many times over in the scene as bounding boxes.
To adjust the replicator, select it and click the Wrench Icon to enter the Modelling Room. Here you can tweak the behaviour of your Replicator: along which axis you’d like to replicate how many objects, if you’d like to add some distance or rotational changes to it, that sort of thing.
You can also add other source objects here if you would like them to have the same behaviour (in case you don’t like the drag and drop action described earlier).
Carrara has a very cool sunlight / moonlight feature that comes as part of the Realistic Sky option. With it you can transform your default distant light into the sun or the moon and reposition it in your scene.
Morph Targets are these little sliders in 3D objects that can move geometry without changing it. For example a door can open and close, or a character can open and close their eyes.
To create one in Carrara, head over to the Vertex Modelling room and select an area in which you’d like to create the morph. Choose soft selection if you like. In the sidebar, in the Morph Tab, click Create and give your morph area a name (mine is called Top).
A Morph Area can have several Morph Targets inside it. To create a target, click that super tiny drop down indicator next to your Current Area. This will bring up a menu from which you select Create Target. Give your target a name that adequately describes what it does (like Open Door).
This creates a little slider which does not appear to do anything at present. Click Edit and you’ll see your morph area in green on your object. Notice that you can only select from that area now, so select away and tweak vertices to create your morph. Don’t worry, none of those changes will destroy your geometry.
When you’re happy with your morph, click Validate – and all your changes seem to disappear again. That slider here is still not working – not to worry.
To see your Morph Target in action in the Vertex Room, you’ll have to switch over to the Animation Tab (it’s the little man icon under Edit Mode in the sidebar). You’ll see a very similar slider with your name on it which is working. Move it around to see your morph acting on the geometry.
Your morph is also accessible in the Assemble Room: select your object in the scene, then in the General Tab select the Morph Area and see your morph, complete with working slider.
Many features from Hexagon have been ported over to Carrara, but not all of them are obvious and easy to find for Hexagon users.
Here are my favourite features from Hexagon, and how to access them in Carrara:
Tweak / Stretch Tool
The one Hexagon tool I was missing most was Vertex Modelling – Tweak, which is very similar to the Utilities – Stretch tool. I was looking all over Carrara and couldn’t find anything equivalent.
Until I realised that this function is enabled by default! As long as you’re in Carrara’s vertex modelling mode, Move Tool enabled (T) and Paint Selection deselected. Simply hover over a polygon, edge or vertex and start moving it just like in Hexagon.
All movements happen perpendicular to the camera. For most accurate results, work in 4-view mode. If the manipulator gets in the way, simply hide in the sidebar (Manipulator – Hidden):
Utilities – Lay On lets you align two faces against each other in Hexagon. Carrara doesn’t have such a tool, but you can get the same results by using a combination of two functions in the Assemble Room: Edit – Align and Collision Detection.
For this to work, both objects must be individual objects, they can’t be two cubes that are part of the same vertex object for example. But they can be two unrelated objects (say a primitive and a spline object).
Position them loosely they way you want them, then select them. Next head over to Edit – Align (this option is greyed out if only one object is selected).
From the modal window, select all axis you’d like to align, as well as how you want to align them. Hot Point or Center works well. Now the objects are in position, but not quite touching. To make that happen, select the little “three ball icon” in the title bar of the current document.
Collision Detection is not related to the physics engine. Instead it’s a positioning tool you can use in your scene. Extremely handy!
Copy On Support
In Hexagon you could create an object, then select a path, and have a copy of your object made x times along that path. Carrara doesn’t have this option, but its Duplicate tool has a hidden feature that can work well for such tasks:
When you either select Edit – Duplicate, Carrara remembers the changes you’ve applied to your first copy. Don’t select any other object in between, simply make your first copy, apply a change, then duplicate again. The next copy will have your changes automatically applied.
Here I’m building simple stairs using Collision Detection to place the first copy on top of the other one. Then I’ll simply select Edit – Duplicate again until my staircase is tall enough.
Grouping the many parts of a Vertex Object
Hexagon takes care of giving each new 3D object an automatic name (like Form3, Line20 and so forth). This happens automatically as soon as you create a new object. With Carrara and its modellers it’s a little different.
Instead of creating one Vertex Object, and then adding several parts to this object (Construct 3D – Cube, then Construct 3D – Sphere, etc), create each part of your model as a separate object. In fact, mix and match kinds in a single object by amalgamating several parts from different modellers. Then select all items that belong together and select Edit – Group.
If you add two cubes in the same Vertex Object, Carrara will see them as a single object. To split them apart, select Edit – Split Object and a group will be created from all those separate parts. Very neat!
The key thing to note is that an object and its components are created in the Assemble Room rather than in one of the modelling rooms.
Twister / Bender
Carrara has those and many other deformers under the Modifiers Tab in the Assemble Room. Click the plus icon to add a modifier, then tweak the values as you like. You can even combine multiple modifiers and animate them if you like. Twist and bend are only the beginning. Wait until you try explode!
Quick note of caution though: Modifiers work great inside Carrara. However if you intend to export geometry created with those, forget it: even though it works, the amount of unnecessary vertices you get is rather frightening.
What’s missing from Carrara’s Vertex Tools?
Not all features have made it across, and perhaps never will. Here’s what I’m missing in Carrara:
1 over n selection
a knife or quick slice tool
Why not just use Hexagon instead?
As much as I love Hexagon, it hasn’t seen a major upgrade since 2006. Even though Hexagon’s feature set is rather complete, it has numerous bugs that can cause the app to crash frequently – depending on your system and what you’re doing with it. DAZ have chosen to keep the much more feature rich Carrara under development, but it appears that Hexagon has turned into abandonware.
Don’t get me wrong, I find it rather charming that the software still looks and feels the same as it did many years ago, but there is a danger that on future operating systems Hexagon may stop working altogether – you never know if and when this may happen.
Therefore it’s good to have a “backup solution” for your 3D modelling needs. Until then, when using Hexagon, save early and save often. Make use of the Incremental Saving feature or use Version Control.