Poser Pro Pack
at a Glance

Maker: Curious Labs
Price: $149 (requires Poser 4, not included)
Platforms: Macintosh and Windows
Demo Available: No
URL: http://www.curiouslabs
.com

Overall Impression: The Pro Pack, like Poser 4 itself, has a slick interface that makes working in it a snap. The features are robust, though support for models with very high polygon counts isn't really there. Nevertheless, this is a great tool for graphic designers who need to create animations in Flash (or other formats).

Key Benefits: The Pro Pack expands Poser 4 well beyond its previous role as a ... well, pose maker for predefined 3D characters into the realm of versatile 3D animation tools. Its "Setup Room" allows you to add bones to models created in just about any 3D program with extreme ease and lets you export to a broad variety of formats, including Flash. These exports can be rendered in a number of styles, from cartoon shading to texture-mapped images.

Disappointments: I was put off a bit by the slowness I encountered when working with my own 3D model that had a very high polygon count. I didn't expect it to be speedy, but working with my model in the Setup Room proved to be seriously time-consuming. With lower-count models, including the ones that come with Poser 4 and the Pro Pack, the process is quite quick.

Recommendation: Strong Buy

 

REVIEW MAY 15 , 2001

Curious Labs Poser Pro Pack
[Page 2 of 3]

This brings us to the second significant feature of the Pro Pack—the ability to import models and give them a bone structure for posing and animation. If you build a model in, say, Electric Image's Amorphium Pro, you can export your model and bring it into Poser for building up a bone system and animating the model.


The Setup Room in the Poser Pro pack allows you to add bones to a model.
Click image for larger view. (The bones are the white triangles.)

Poser accepts such a wide range of models that it would be almost impossible to work in a 3D modeler that can't output at least one of the formats supported, including LightWave, 3D Studio Max (3ds max), etc. This process is incredibly simple. You simply draw the bones and then select areas of the model that the bones will influence. You can even skip the second step by clicking on a button called "Autogroup," which automatically assigns areas to the bones.

The Pro Pack also gives you more advanced options for inverse kinematics, assigning spherical dropoff zones, etc. But even with the advanced options, the process is fairly straightforward, even for inexperienced users. If you do get tripped up, there's a help window that automatically appears any time you enter the Setup Room, which will guide you through the process step by step.

If you work in LightWave or 3ds max and don't like to export your models into foreign applications, the Pro Pack also includes plugins for these two applications that will let you work with Poser files (including animation) directly within them.

Other enhancements the ship with the Pro Pack include:

  • Ability to export to Viewpoint format for creating interactive 3D characters for the Web;
  • Python scripting, which allows you to work with your data via a programming interface, including across different platforms;
  • Multiple camera view panes;
  • 2D motion blur;
  • Animatable texture parameters.

Workflow, performance and output
I like the way Poser 4 and the Pro Pack work together. The interface of Poser itself is actually pretty nice to work in. You can drag any interface element around the screen for convenient positioning, and you can resize many elements, including the main view window. One of the Pro Pack interface elements, the Group Editor, has a little trouble redrawing itself, but, on the whole, the workflow is smooth and straightforward.

For the most part, the speed of Poser is also pretty impressive, both in terms of the interface and output. If you import your own models with high polygons, however, you will see some serious slowdown, regardless of the type of display you're using (wireframe, cartoon, shaded, etc.). This is my only gripe about the Pro Pack because one of its big selling points is that you can bring in your own models and add bones to them; but, if you bring in detailed models, the process can become cumbersome. The program can even become bogged down in screen redraw, which can cause bones to be placed in the wrong area.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of the Creative Mac, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion and Synthetik Studio Artist WWUGs; and executive producer of Creative Mac, Digital Media Designer, Digital Pro Sound, Digital Webcast, Plug-in Central, Presentation Master, ProAudio.net and Video Systems sites. All are part of the Digital Media Net family of online industry hubs.
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