Smith Micro has released Poser 8, the next generation of the 3D figure design and animation solution. Poser 8 enables artists to create and digitally shape humans, animals and entire scenes in 3D. Purchasers also will be invited to the Poser Pro 2010 beta program in the coming months.

Poser 8 allows artists to work many types of 3D characters, from giant ogres to talking chipmunks. Poser 8 acts as a virtual stage, offering eight new, ready-to-pose, fully-textured humans of different ethnicities and body types to give artists a starting point in designing their characters. The new Poser content library provides more than 2.5GB of human and animal figures accompanied by a wide range of accessories including hair, clothing, sets and real-world props and elements such as lights and cameras to produce complete scenes.

Smith Micro says that the redesigned and streamlined interface of Poser 8 maximizes screen real estate and provides an intuitive workflow, and includes a new search-enabled library that helps artists easily browse and organize their content. New professional-quality tools and features are included in Poser 8 such as a dependent parameter editor that lets users 'teach' objects in a scene to interact with each other, simplifying complex body movement.

The new Cross-Body part morph tool enables artists to easily create effects such as muscle bulges, scales, bumps, horns, veins, wounds and surface details across multiple body parts. A content management system allows easier access to content collections with the ability to search a library's content by category and keyword, providing a hierarchy list view and more detailed pop-up expanding previews.

With the ability to combine indirect diffuse illumination with improved irradiance caching and path tracing, Poser 8 renders images with global illumination qualities that Smith Micro says can create images so realistic that they can fool an untrained eye.

Other lighting improvements include physically correct light falloff, which features control spot and point lights to more closely reproduce realistic light falloff from full bright to dark. Tone mapping and exposure helps artists control bright or dark areas within an image to produce higher-quality, final renderings with better contrast. Normal Mapping allows users to transform object surfaces, making them appear more intricate without the added computational overhead from additional polygonal detail.

With an improved Falloff Zone rigging system, users can rig problem areas -- such as hips and shoulders -- with more precision, resulting in more realistic bending figures. OpenGL preview improvements allows users to preview engine improvements to select each light that they wish to illuminate in the scene preview. This feature aids in viewing larger textures and offers more complete scene previewing when setting up lights.

The Wardrobe Wizard allows artists to re-use existing clothing assets by fitting them to the new Poser 8 character set.

Poser 8 costs US$249.99 (around £149) with upgrades from previous versions priced at $129.99 (£77).

Beyond the news that Poser Pro users upgrading to Poser 8 will be invited to the Poser Pro 2010 beta program in the coming months, no other details of that software were released.