Company: Daz 3D
Pros: New render engine, library and comparisons, new SSS shader settings, better selection and posing, more rigging facilities, content libraries getting smarter and easier to use, new content installer is worth having.
Cons: Content still installs all over the place, lighting and cameras are weak, system can stretch textures, plenty of work required to get the best out of the engine.
At one time DAZ3D offered the standard version of DAZ Studio for free and charged for the Pro version. In these tough times it’s good to see that you can still get something for nothing, because now the Pro version is free as well. This is the update to version 4.6 and comes along with the recently launched DAZ content installer. As tends to be the case with DAZ there are conflicting messages about what is bundled, but rest assured you do get Genesis Starter Essentials which is a large content bundle included characters, clothing, scenes and props. There are also a number of accessories in the content creator kit that includes a weight brush map, transfer rigging utility, figure setup, joint editor, Poser format exporter, mass property editor, morph loader, and a couple of bridges for ZBrush and Photoshop.
Into the actual app then and the content library, as well as being visual, also helps by sticking appropriate words to the thumbnails, such as actor for the models and materials for… well you get the idea. Unfortunately the problem that has plagued DAZ Studio since time immemorial is still there to confound and confuse. Using a dedicated installer app to load in content might make you think that it would appear in the default directories but no, content is installed in a variety of places. Identifying everything is much easier, finding it is just as frustrating. There is a general helping hand being offered though, with more and more tips, lessons and guides at each stage.
The most significant improvement on this release comes when you take some time to look into the settings. There’s a new render engine and subsurface scattering is supported. With some tweaking there and of the bump map parameters you can create more realistic skin and surfaces. Textures can still look stretched in places. There’s more ability to select things, with hierarchal selection for groups and a much more lively item selector. The benefits from having the new Genesis figures remains as well. It’s considerably easier to pose figures, and now multiple figures can be posed at once, and items are a lot easier to fit to the figures. Interestingly, when saving scenes you can also save just about every other setting you may have used from characters and poses to cameras and lights.
Rendering is still very nippy, unless you start to add a few lights and switch them on to ray tracing, at which point it isn’t. This is a weak area of Studio, but then most people using it tend to not bother with clever lighting anyway, or simply export their Studio figure to another app for rendering. Once completed there’s a Render Editor to compare and blend results. Also, there are colour and brightness adjustments and some basic filters that can be applied before saving. An interesting addition is the use of a Render Library so saved images can be viewed.
There’s no doubt that DAZ Studio is being improved and from an utterly chaotic interface, there’s now a sense of order emerging. This needs to continue while more work needs to go on lighting but for the core users, the package is friendlier than ever and the results possible keep getting better all the time. Even if you don’t render in Studio, it’s worth having to create and pose figures to export to a package with better facilities.