SmithMicro Poser 10 & Poser Pro 2014 review
Price: Poser 10, £126 plus VAT; Poser Pro 2014, £255 plus VAT
Pros: Good Bullet physics implementation; great subdivision surfaces; excellent posing and scene building; some performance enhancements
Cons: Fitting room is glitchy; sluggish Firefly rendering; relatively expensive; Comic Book Preview Mode limited; some content is very poorly modelled
Poser is a character design, posing and rendering application. Version 10 builds upon existing strengths by delivering significant new features such as Bullet Physics, subdivision surfaces and a real-time Comic Book Preview mode. Smith Micro has also improved many of the application’s existing features, including the incorporation of vertex weight map editing into various toolsets, a better Morph Brush and new model libraries.
Bullet Physics is an open-source collision detection and hard and soft body physics engine, and Smith Micro’s developers have done a good job of rolling out this feature in Poser. Advanced physics such as jiggles and collision-based deformations can be applied, edited and re-calculated (in real-time) to almost any object in the scene, though, during testing we had issues with simulations that include conforming clothing.
New to Poser are Pixar Subdivision Surfaces algorithms, which allow lower resolution models to be smoothed, while still retaining a clean, useful topology. Different subdivision levels may be applied for scene preview and for render time only. It’s important to note that as with any Subdivision Surfaces process, the initial topology of the model dictates the end result. You should also be aware that many of Poser’s older models or third-party custom models may not subdivide properly. Also high levels of subdivisions can significantly slow down animation and rendering. Along similar lines, models may be edited with the improved Magnet and Deformation tools, which better support weight maps for precise vertex-by-vertex editing.
Poser is popular with comic book, graphic novel and anime artists because of its character content, so you’d expect that the new Comic Book Preview Mode, which provides cartoon and drawing style presets, would have further endeared this program to comic book community. In reality, however, this mode is limited.
There are, for example, no controls to adjust the fine aspects of the render, and Poser only provides seven presets, with a single slider to control light and shadow thresholds. It also doesn’t work with strand or patch-based hair. Similar Toon features in other 3D applications are far superior.
While Poser supports 64-bit computing and many of its processes are multi-threaded, its performance can be sluggish. On the plus side, Smith Micro’s developers have improved OpenGL display so that at least building and previewing complex scenes is faster, while changes made to a scene may be quickly previewed in the Interactive Raytrace Preview. However, rendering with the Firefly engine is still painfully slow. This is a problem that’s plagued Poser for most if its developmental life. Testing in Windows and Apple workstations with multiple-cores, plenty of RAM and high-end graphics cards produced disappointing results. With Firefly selected as the rendering engine, full renders and even area renders took roughly twice as long, sometimes locking up the computer, than similar scenes (in terms of model size, texture size, lighting and document size) in other 3D applications. At times even aborting a render locked up the computer. This is a real hindrance to animating.
Poser Pro 2014 ships with the same features as Poser 10. The significant difference between the two is the Fitting room. This has been designed to allow artists to fit clothes to any figure in a scene, which as anyone that has ever attempted to do so knows can be an extremely tedious process.
First, import the clothing item and generally ‘fit’ it to the character as best as possible, without conforming the imported item. Next, go to the Fitting room and create a new session. Select the item to be fitted and the character you want to fit it to in the Session dialog (morphs may also be transferred from the character to the clothing). Click Fit. Poser will automatically fit the clothing item to the character. Finally, convert the newly-fitted item into a Poser figure that can be conformed to and posed with the target character.
If there are any problems, the clothes may be custom fitted using several methods such as Prefit, Tighten and Smooth, which work via painted vertex weight maps. There are two main modes in custom fitting: Soft features for fabric; and Rigid features for buttons or clasps to avoid stretching or other unwanted deformations. Unfortunately, the results are hit and miss.
Both Poser 10 and Poser Pro 2014 are important updates. Bullet physics, Comic Book Preview Mode, better vertex weight map support, new subdivision surfaces and performance enhancements are significant improvements. However, there are still nagging issues such as slow rendering with Firefly, glitches with some objects and Bullet physics, limited Comic Book Preview Mode options, and clothes fitting that’s hit and miss. For die hard Poser fans, the latest releases are probably a must-have. There are, however, alternatives such as DAZ Studio, Maya, 3ds Max and Cinema 4D.