Posing 101: Getting Started

Poser allows you to quickly and easily pose and animate people (and animals!)- but getting started can be just a bit tricky. This tutorial will describe how to use Poser's tools, Library and cameras to set up and render a scene.

Requirements: Poser 7 is required.

When you launch Poser, you'll see the default James character, standing on a gridwork of lines. By default, James looks like he's made of light-grey plastic; this is normal, but you can change it if you like by using the Document Display Style tool. It's down at the bottom left of the screen-

Figure 1

To see James in his full texture-mapped glory, click the rightmost of the little globes- this displays the scene in Texture Shaded mode. Certain elements- like that gridwork that is the ground- are set specifically to show up as wireframes, so don't worry if not everything gets textured.

Now, let's give James a prop to use. Open up the Library Palette on the right of the Poser screen and click the Props panel. You should see a list of folders- scroll down and double-click the Primitives folder. In the Primitives folder you'll see simple shapes like boxes, cones and spheres; there's also a cane- double-click it to bring it into the scene.

Once you bring the cane into the scene, you'll want to move it over and put it next to James's hand, so he can use it. Refer back to Figure 1- you'll want to use the Parameter dials, in the Parameters and Properties palette, to move the cane over and shrink it a bit.

Poser is a 3D program, and everything that shows up in a Poser scene exists in 3D space- each item has a position on the X-axis (side-to-side), the Y-axis (up-and-down) and the Z-axis (front-to-back). Poser's Parameter palette has dials that let you move things around, side-to-side (using the xTranslate dial), up-and-down (using the yTranslate dial) and front-to-back (using the zTranslate dial.) Click on the dial to select it, then click-and-drag slowly across the dial to adjust it. Use the xTranslate dial to move the cane over to James's right, and the yTranslate dial to move it down a bit.

This cane is a bit big for James, though- while you can also scale things in any dimension individually, we'll just use the Scale dial in the Parameters palette to make the cane a bit smaller.

Figure 2

Now that the cane is sized and positioned properly, we can fine-tune its position, and set up James's right hand to "hold" the cane. We could use the main camera, as we have been doing, and zoom in on James's hand, but there's an easier way to go. From the Camera Controls tool, click the little triangle next to the title, "Camera Controls", and select the Right Hand Camera.

Figure 3

Now we're looking at a close-up of James's right hand. The cane is going to take a bit of adjusting to fit comfortably into the hand, so we can select the cane again (if need be) and use the Parameter dials to do a little fine-tuning. Use the yRotate dial to rotate the cane around the Y-axis (this turns it as if it were on a lazy Susan.)

Figure 4

We can also use the Camera Controls to move the camera around- this won't change anything in the scene except the camera. Click and drag sideways across the pink trackball (see Figure 3 and figure 5 below) to make the camera fly around the hand.

Figure 5

Now, let's get James's hand to grasp the cane. In the Parameters palette, there's a drop-down menu at the top that will let you select James's body parts- select Right Hand. You'll see the dials in the Parameters Palette change a bit, since the hand can do more then the cane could. Specifically, you'll see a dial appear labeled "Grasp"- adjust this dial and watch James's hand close around the cane. Don't overdo it- turning Grasp all the way up will have James making a fist, which is not what we want here.

Figure 6

If we need to, we can do a little more fine-tuning on the cane's position and rotation now that James's hand is in its gripping position. You'll notice however that if we move James's arm, the cane goes right through his hand. We'd like the cane to follow the hand and move with it, as if James were actually holding the cane in the real world. To do this, we need to tell Poser that James's hand should be the parent of the cane. To do this, select the cane (using the menu in the Parameters palette, or by clicking on it) and then click the Properties tab of the Parameters palette.

In the Properties tab, you'll see a button labeled Set Parent. Click this button, and a window will appear that displays all the parts of the Poser scene- all the figures, lights, cameras, props, everything- displayed in a hierarchical format as shown below. This is the Hierarchy dialog and it will show up in various Poser operations (exporting, adding items to the Library, etc.) For the moment, we're using it to select the body part that should be the parent of the cane- so click on the Right Hand entry as shown, and it'll turn white-

Figure 7

Now the cane should follow James's hand realistically. Let's explore the posing tools and make sure it worked. Once you get into using these tools, it sometimes will happen that you'll get your figure twisted into a totally unacceptable pose. Don't panic- there's an easy cure for this. From Poser's Edit menu, select Restore > Figure as shown in Figure 10 below to completely reset the figure to its default pose. You can also restore individual body parts or props, even cameras and lights.

The first posing tool that we'll use is the Rotate tool. The Rotate tool can rotate props around their centers to get them positioned quickly, but more importantly we can use the Rotate tool to bend the joints of a Poser figure. Click the tool to select it, then click and drag on the body part you want to move- the tool bends the joint in between that body part and the rest of the body (thus, if you click and drag on the forearm, the elbow joint rotates.) We can bend James's right elbow to make him lift the cane up, as shown-

Figure 8

The next two tools are the Twist tool and the Move/Translate tool. The Twist tool rotates the selected body part around its main axis; twisting the forearm doesn't move the elbow, it just twists the forearm. Like the Rotate tool, this can get you into some trouble if you take it too far, but let's try twisting James's arm just a bit, to get comfortable with the tool.

The Move/Translate tool drags body parts around, rotating and twisting the joints as needed to position the part. This tool is more useful for positioning props than for working with figures- but there's one situation in which the Move/Translate tool works wonderfully. Look back at Figure 7, in particular the Hierarchy window. Poser orders everything in the scene into a hierarchy, and in particular the body parts of a figure are all ordered hierarchically, with a parent-child relationship defined for each part. "Child" parts move with their "parents"- so as you bend the elbow to move the forearm, the hand moves with it (this is why the cane comes along as well.) The hips of the figure are set up as the parent for the rest of the body- so using the Move/Translate tool on the hips lets you pose James with his legs bent, while keeping his upper body posed properly as shown-

Figure 9

Now, why don't his feet move when we drag his hips down? After all, the hip is the parent to the legs, which are parents to the feet, so the feet should move when the hip moves. The reason they don't is because of Poser's inverse kinematics, or IK. Inverse kinematics let the person building a Poser figure set up a sort of reverse parent-child relationship in which the feet act as parents to the legs- so with inverse kinematics turned on for the legs, the feet will stay put as the rest of the body moves. You can move the feet individually with the Move/Translate tool, and the legs will bend appropriately, but if you want to turn inverse kinematics off (suppose you want James to be sitting or lying down- it's inconvenient to have to move the foot every time you want to change the way his leg is posed) you can do that from the Figure menu as shown below. Also note the Restore options in the Edit menu, discussed above-

Figure 10

We can leave IK on for the moment; once James is in an acceptable pose with his cane, we can go ahead and render out an image from our scene. Poser has already been creating images using its preview render engine- this is what we have been seeing as we have worked with James. However, Poser can also render out more-realistic images with its Firefly render engine, or it can make images with a hand-drawn look using its Sketch render engine. Rendering is just the process of taking all this 3D information about things in the scene and turning it into an image (or video clip) that we can use somewhere else. We can tell Poser how big an image we'd like to create by selecting Render Dimensions from the Render menu; to set up the other details of the render, we'll select Render Settings as shown below.

Figure 11

By default, we see the settings for the Firefly engine. For this image, we can use the default settings; they provide good image quality without using a lot of memory or taking a lot of time to render. Depending on how detailed and complex your scenes are, you may want to adjust these settings; see Chapter 7 in the Poser Tutorial Manual, or this tutorial for details. To actually render the scene, click the Render Now (Firefly) button as shown- or click Save Settings, then click the little camera button in the upper border of the Preview pane, as shown in Figure 1.

Figure 12

- and the result should look like this-

Figure 13

Choose Export > Image from the File menu to save your picture out to a file, and you're done- you've just rendered out your first Poser scene!

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