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A new Poser version has been released this week, and it marks a new approach in several areas. First of all, Charles Taylor (aka Chuck Taylor, or Nerd3D) has left DAZ3D to become the new Poser Product Manager at Smith Micro Software (SMS). Chuck is one who knows Poser like few others, being involved with figure posing and morphing enhancing for over 15 years. As an example, he was the one who basically created the concept of ERCs in Poser/DS back in 2000, bringing some rather serious advancements in figure rigging ever since.
Since Chuck's arrival, I have seen some rather drastic changes in the way Poser is being developed, and most of all, in how it's now being supported. I have participated in the beta-testing and couldn't help noticing how things seem to have changed at SMS -for the better. I am not saying that everything is perfect now, but instead that it seems to be moving towards the right direction.
First thing people will notice is that there is no year-based Pro version naming anymore. There is only Poser 11, and Poser 11 Pro, which I personally find less confusing than Poser 11, Poser Pro 2016, and then Poser Pro 2016 Game Dev. You will also notice there is no Game Dev edition this time - it has been incorporated into the Pro version. This makes sense, since Game Dev didn't actually have enough features to exist in its own version. I think it was a wise decision.
Before I proceed, please note I will always be referring to "Poser 11" throughout this article. Some features are specific to the Pro version, and you can check out which ones are Pro-only at the SMS web site. This is because SMS no longer ships different versions of the program like it was in the past. Everybody is getting the same program, where the Pro features are enabled depending on what serial number you enter in the registration form.
The list of new features is actually quite long, so I will try to review the most important ones. Let's start with PSS3 (Pixar Subdivision Surfaces v3), which has replaced the old PSS1. This now allows us to subdivide older models without the spiking that used to happen in P10. It's a much more robust system that allows Poser to export subdivided meshes, which was not possible before. PSS3 also brings up the ability to sculpt morphs over a subdivided mesh, then subdivide it again and keep sculpting on top of the previous pass, just like we can do with zBrush, but without leaving Poser. This means HD morphs can now be created in Poser, or in combination with zBrush or other software that supports this.
The Adobe AIR external content library has been completely replaced with a new HTML5/JS one that can be docked and/or detached from the main interface. It basically has the same features, though this first version still lacks the ability to be navigated with the keyboard, which to me is like cutting my right arm off. Nonetheless, I have been working closely with SMS and they have been much more responsive than usual, and they have been addressing many of my concerns much faster than I expected.
As a matter of fact, SMS is promising a new attitude towards Poser updates. For example, service releases used to take several months, or even a year to come out. In the last public webinar last Wednesday, Chuck has mentioned that from now on, we should expect to see updates much faster than before. He has also mentioned that there is a good chance to find whole new features included with the updates, which makes Poser 11 even more interesting.
For content creators, I am happy to see new features in the Pro version that can make life a little easier. First we have the new ability to create morphs over subdivided meshes, and then we can now export any morphs we create directly to morph injection files straight from Poser. For the regular user, the Direct Manipulation gizmo has been improved, with expanded translation handles that used to only exist at one side. The OpenGL viewport now has a new display mode that shows wireframe over textured mode, which was really missing in previous versions. Dial properties now allow setting a dial to be set hidden without having to hack Poser files, or use external tools.
There is a new addition to the existing Toon modes that creates a geometric outline on the models (both internal and external lines), but without showing the edges that are on the backside - something that used to be annoying in previous versions. You can control the line thickness, and combine this new effect to all other toon modes. There is also an option to show/hide back-facing lines, in case you want them to show. As it was with previous Toon modes, this new one works in real-time in preview mode.
There are now arrows to navigate back and forth everything you have selected in the scene. This is like breadcrumbs navigation of previous selections. You can also see a list of everything in order of selection, and pick something from it directly.
It is now possible to create custom dial palettes. Just create one, and then drag any dials from any object in the scene, and they become available to you, no matter what is currently selected in the scene. You can create any number of custom palettes, and they can also be saved with your scene or to the library. Whenever you load the items back from the library, the custom palettes come back as you left them. I can see major uses for this, for like posing a figure's eyes and hands without having to hunt the dials down a long list of morphs.
Poser 11 now lets us create and customize all keyboard shortcuts that exist in the program. It ships with a new shortcuts editor where you can assign your own keys at any time. For example, I like the shortcuts from 3DSMAX, and now I can have them in Poser too. There were also missing shortcuts that I really needed, and now I can create them myself.
Poser 11 brings "Smooth Translations", "Adaptive Rigging", animated orientations, the ability to export partial scenes, and a nifty new auto-save scene. I will later elaborate on the first two. There is also a new 3D measurement tool that displays the distance between two objects in 3D. Probably as a consequence, there is also a new 3D text creation tool we can use in our own scenes. It's nothing fancy - we can't choose font or add bezels, but it's still fun to have it.
When we translate a part of a figure, for example, the head or a hand, there would be an ugly stretching deformation in between because the body parts were not designed to be moved this way. This also imposed limitations on body types and proportions when creating body morphs. Smooth Translations were introduced in Poser 11 exactly to cover this gap. It allows us to create giraffe-like neck morphs and the figure joints will still work as expected, down to physically possible limits. This will allow for some new kinds of figure morph creations that were not possible with Poser before.
Adaptive rigging is a simple, but powerful new tool that allows automatically moving the centers of rotations of an existing figure to match the new positions created with morphs, and keep them working together after the figure (or morph) is saved. It has a dialog where we can pick which joints will be affected, and once we pick the ones we want, that's all there is to it. The figure skeleton will automatically adjust itself to whatever shape and proportions the morph has created, and ERCs to keep up with it will be created in the background. This means after this is done, the figure skeleton will automatically adjust itself to adapt to the morph shapes when dialed. Very powerful, and all in one simple step.
When using FBMs (full body morphs), there is a new feature to make the process faster and easier: Master Synchronized dials. Whenever we want to apply a FBM on any given figure, we usually need to first find and select the BODY section. This is no longer necessary in Poser 11. By default, all FBM dependency dials are auto-synched, so you can dial them from any body part, and the morph will apply to the entire body. This is customizable, so we can enable-disable the feature if needed.
One thing that might pass unnoticed is the new ability to paint vertex weights constrained by material zone. This was a feature I was asking for since Poser 9, and I am happy to see it come to reality. For example, if you want to grab the Morphing Tool and create a lips morph, it was almost impossible because the morph would "bleed" out of the lips and affect parts we didn't want to change. Another example was when making vertex selections in the Fitting Room to make (for example) buttons be assigned to rigid groups - this used to be impossible, but no more! ^^
Another thing that used to be annoying before Poser 11 was the use of figure symmetry. Until now this would apply to both pose and figure joints rigging, which are completely different things, but the tools were treating both as one and the same. It was actually a recipe for some occasional disaster. For example, you wanted to copy an arm pose to the other side, but ended up messing up the figure rigging in the way. Poser 11 introduces a much needed separation of rigging and posing symmetry. These controls are now separated.
A new feature in figure and clothing rigging is Poser 11's ability to create body handles on the fly, without having to model the handles in other programs like it used to be until now. You can basically use any model or Poser primitives to become a body handle for a ghost bone. You can even copy parts of the model geometry to work as body handles as well, so there is no lack of ways to create your own body handles, for example, for skirts that never had them.
Still on figure handling, there is a new feature to allow applying morph targets from posed figures. It's the analogous of applying a morph before or after figure joints were posed. Some kinds of morphs, like correction ERC/JCMs would be difficult to create without this.
Also new in Poser 11 is the introduction of Layered Materials. We can now add overlays to any materials without the need for complex shader nodes. I have been creating material overlays for years in Poser for personal use in my gallery, and I can see this easily becoming part of my workflow. It's a quick and easy way to create things like tattoos, scars or catgirl stripes over any existing textures without having to change them in Photoshop.
When importing models created for other programs, Poser 11 now allows absolute scaling to make the model fit the rather unusual Poser scale. When exporting models from Poser 11, we now have support for industry standard "Alembic" point cache format, which can reproduce a Poser scene or even animations with faithful details in all platforms that support it.
Most other Poser 11 articles have talked mostly about the new PBR (Physically-Based Rendering), and I have to mention it too. This is the free and open source CPU and GPU renderer used in Blender3D, called Cycles. It is slowly being developed by the Blender3D community from around the world, and every update brings up new features from the list of most-wanted.
In the forums I have seen people asking what the difference between PBR and Firefly is. Well, to put in simple words, Firefly is a "biased" renderer, meaning it doesn't understand real-world light and materials. Every render uses a less-than-perfect simulation of how lights and materials really work. Conversely, PBR like Lux, Octane, I-ray and Cycles calculate light interactions with materials based on how it works in the real-world. That's why PBR images can achieve photo-realism with way less effort than Firefly or 3Delight. It is also much easier to create materials like metals, liquids and glass that look very realistic with minimal effort.
SMS has called Cycles as "SuperFly" as the new companion for Firefly. They have done a great work integrating Cycles materials with the existing Material Room, which has introduced a new feature: multiple root nodes. This allows us to create multiple materials for the same model, where each of them has their own root node, all present in the Material Room at the same time. For example, we can create shaders for Firefly and Cycles in the same material using different root nodes. In the past we had to create separate material presets, but now the same model can store different materials all at once.
Each root node has its own checkboxes for Firefly and/or Cycles. The one you check is the one that will be used in renders. If you have one for Firefly and one for Cycles, and both are enabled, Poser 11 will pick the right one depending on which rendering engine we use. If we create shaders for each renderer, the models will look their best no matter which engine we use! ^^
On contents, Poser 11 ships with two new figures: Paul and Pauline. Paul wasn't ready yet, so he will be released as a free update for current Poser 11 users. Pauline is already out, and she takes advantage of many of the new Poser 11 features. As expected, she's a weight-mapped figure, but her face and some parts of the body are controlled by body handles. On the face, these handles control her major facial muscle groups, and can be used to create facial expressions, or to complement expression morphs. This means we can now create some quite original facial expressions instead of relying on fixed morphs that always look the same.
Since Paul and Pauline use some of these new features, they basically only work in Poser 11. Nonetheless, all contents created in previous versions will still work normally in this new version. SMS is keeping Poser's long history of being backwards compatible with previous versions, and this is no different. If you create contents using some of Poser 11's new features, it will still be readable in older Poser versions, but some of the new features will be ignored - except for Unimesh skinning, which was introduced in Poser 9 and will not work with previous versions.
With this I conclude my review of what's new in Poser 11. There are, of course, more stuff that I haven't cover here, but I think this is already long enough as it is. As you can see, Poser 11 brings a lot of innovations and new features, as well as a new attitude from SMS that we haven't seen in the past. Both are good news. ^____^