Monday, February 13, 2012

Happy Valentine's!

click to see at large size -- 1000+ pixels wide

Happy Valentine's Day to all! Have been absent for a few days ... sorry about that, guys ... work has been busy, and things went a little bit ballistic yesterday, which put me further behind schedule. But I've been doing art, just not getting the chance to upload it!

Quick update on the progress of the NARC books on their way to Kindle: we're on pace to be sending out a newsletter first thing on Saturday morning, downunder time, which will be late Friday afternoon in the States -- and this is the perfect time to catch you as you head into the weekend.

And now the big news:

Poser Pro 2010 has arrived ... has been installed ... is being puzzled over. You're waiting for first impressions, yes? Uh huh. Well...

Nice sturdy box ... don't like the artwork on it (she looks really, really weird) ... and the quick-start guide is printed in TWO POINT text. They ought to give away a free magnifying glass with it. Can't read a word, even with my glasses on! Two disks in the box -- one for Windows, one for Mac. The installation went with one hitch: they put up he ReadMe file, tell you to read it carefully before proceeding with the installation ... it's 14 letter-size pages of densely-packed type, and the window it's sitting on gives you no access to the printer. Umm ... sure. I'd love to sit here for an hour, puzzling over all this, but like the Grinch, my puzzler is sore, so I hit "next" and just installed it. Type in serial number to activate, and we're over the first hurdle: it understands about running on a computer that is NOT connected to the Internet. That'd had me worried because as you know, my machine has no modem, and is not likely to ever have one. 

(I have a love/hate relationship with the Internet. Dave had the guys at IT Warehouse build and configure an incredible system for me, for Christmas, and between them, Microsquash and Adobe and so forth would take turns screwing it up with live updates, if they were allowed to. No way. No modem in the chassis!! Mind you, I just found out about "tethering," using my new phone. Do you know about this, folks? You can plug your Android phone into your computer with a USB cable, and suddenly it's online. Turns out, the new Samsung Galaxies are routers -- not modems, mind you, but routers. Now, would that work with my machine, which deliberately doesn't have a modem? Gotta find out. Don't think so, actually. But I digress...)

So far I've (only) spent about six hours or so wading around in the ocean of Poser, but I can tell you this already: it's a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you have Poser with its incredible Face Room, where you can feed it photos of Orlando Bloom or Andy Lau or Jason Momoa, and render him into a threedee model (ouch!); and the Cloth Room, where you can make clothing waft in the breeze and fold naturally around a figure; and the Firefly render engine, which is going to give me the luminous renders of my dreams ... on the other hand, you have the interface from hell, a content library system that is utterly brain-dead, and a series of pre-installed stock human figures which are surprisingly ticky-tacky.

It's not any astonishment that as of Poser 4 (or 5?), SmithMicro stopped trying to design their own figures, and embraced Michael 4 and Victoria 4.2 from DAZ! Now, Poser Pro 2010 is the Pro version of Poser 8,while Pro 2012 is the Pro version of Poser 9, so I'm one skinny generation behind state-of-the-art. (Will catch up at mid-year, when they've worked the bugs out of Pro 2012). As of Pro 2010, the stock Poser figures are really not what you want and need. The male one is called Ryan, and he's about as lifelike as a tailor's dummy!

So -- next chore: get back to DAZ and download the installers for the Poser versions of Michael and Victoria, and the dangly bits for Michael. Get them installed ... work out the directory structure to get some skinmaps and face/body morphs installed to get them up and running. (And while I'm there ... makes note to self! ... have them reactivate the download link for Bryce 7 Pro 7.1.0.whatever, so I can get some sense out of Bryce, which is crashing every 34.2 seconds when I try to do anything other than the most basic work with terrains).

How does Poser stack up against DAZ? It's not for the novice, or for the easily confused. DAZ may have the render engine which ain't so hot, but ye gods, for Studio 3 they designed a clean, easy, intuitive interface where you can work like greased lightning. Poser is stuffed with features and power, tools and all, giving you probably three times the control over every little detail, which DAZ doesn't give you (at least until you get to the top-end version of Studio 4 ... which costs $499 and has a cartoon interface from a cartoon hell ... not going there, guys!!). But the downside to Poser is its workspace and workflow. It's weirdly cumbersome, and doing anything takes a lot longer. Even simple jobs, like moving figures around, takes longer, due to the way the program does things. I'll get used to it, obviously -- God knows, you can get used to having a wooden leg or a glass eye. But in an instant I can see the downside to Poser as well as the upsides -- and there are more upsides than you can shake a stick at.

Poke around in the menus and the "rooms," and you instantly start literally falling over the features. What SmithMicro needed to do was streamline the workflow -- the interface is the absolute best feature about DAZ Studio 3: it's fast, smart, clean. They wrecked all that with Studio 4, of course, so this is all academic now. But having said that, if you can hang onto your sanity for long enough to wrap your head around Poser's often counter-intuitive way of working, you'll be able to worm your way into the gajillion and one features -- and I can see this at a glance, too!

How far away am I from getting a proper, useful scene to show you? Couple of days. I figured out how to import objects, set the lights, move stuff around, control shadows and cameras and so forth. Am now figuring out how to slap textures on things. Let me get the directory structure down, and get some useful content imported. They do indeed give you a couple of gigs of free content, but it's cartoon stuff; little is useful, if you're looking for serious artwork --

Luckily, I've been shopping at Renderosity for years now, and in almost every instance, when you buy something from Renderosity, they give you all the files, Poser and Daz, in a zip archive. By contrast, when you shop at DAZ, they give you the choice of the DAZ installer as an executable, or the Poser installer as an executable. Now, I didn't bother downloading the Poser installers -- why would I? -- so now I have to go back to DAZ and get them to reactivate all the dead links, a bunch at a time, to get the Poser versions of the models I bought up to 28 months ago ... download over a Gig, and run 100 installers. Bliss. Uh, yes, I much prefer to get the zip archives with everything  onboard at the one time. 

At this moment I have no clue how to do mapping (displacement, bump, opacity, reflection, whatever) in the new interface, but I know one thing for a fact: everything James Cameron would have wanted when setting up Avatar is in there. I just have to 1) find it, and 2) have patience with the cumbersome, slow, somewhat muddled interface. Give me a few days, guys.

Meanwhile, Dave is going gangbusters in Vue ... importing objects, importing terrain maps, having fun with the ecosystem builder, which will "populate" a terrain for you, with anything from grass to skyscrapers. Am twisting his arm, trying to get him to do a guest post here about it.

And now -- back to work, with about another six hours ahead of me, today, to stay on pace. Keep the coffee coming, right? Right. 

Jade, February 14 -- Valentine's Day

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