Pros: Animated scene integration into 3D apps; Normal Mapping; HDRI export; Collada export; background rendering; network rendering; gamma correction.
Cons: Vista-related gripes; much faster on Mac OS X than Windows; expensive for everyday users.
Now owned by Smith Micro, Poser Pro is built on the Poser 7 character-animation solution and comes with that version’s Generation 2 family of fully rigged figures, SydneyG2 and SimonG2.
You can download the Poser 6 and Poser7 Legacy Content collections with the application’s serial number. However, the main improvements in this Pro version have more to do with rendering and extending the reach of the main application.
Normal mapping has been introduced to the Material Room, allowing you to use 2D image textures to create the appearance of complex surface detail on 3D objects. It’s useful for adding intricate detail quickly without the huge polygonal overheads that a 3D solution would incur. Poser Pro also offers gamma correction on the Texture Manager, allowing you to specify gamma values per texture. This gives you the ability to exclude certain textures from scene-wide gamma correction, and comes in handy when dealing with displacement or normal maps.
Normal mapping is a resource-efficient technique to add the appearance of complexity and surface detail to 3D objects. The above image has normal mapping applied, the top one doesn't.
Although computers are continually getting faster, rendering still eats up processing power. Smith Micro has adopted the approach taken by the likes of Autodesk by allowing users to spread the load across networked computers to render complex scenes and lengthy animations. The QueueManager is slightly tricky to set up, but you can install it on client machines on your network and send a job to it directly from within Poser.
Still with the focus on rendering, Poser Pro includes both 64- and 32-bit versions of the Firefly render engine. Depending on what system you are running on, Poser Pro will select the most powerful engine. The 64-bit engine can be used on 64-bit versions of Windows XP and Vista, as well as Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard). When we tested it, rendering time was significantly sliced on an Intel MacBook running Leopard compared to both a Dual G5 running Mac OS X 10.4 and a Vista powered PC.
The application also ran faster all round on the Leopard system. You do need a lot of system memory and disk space is a premium for complex animations, but with a well-specified 64-bit machine you’re likely to see performance increases when rendering such large files.
One welcome feature is that both versions of the Firefly engine also let you render in the background, allowing you to open and close other scene files, save your project, and continue working while it gets on with rendering in another of the window tabs.
Poser Pro takes the application to studio level. To this end, Poser Pro includes the PoserFusion Hosting Plug-ins, which allow you to open and host Poser scene files and 3D content within production environment applications such as 3DS Max, Maya and Cinema 4D. Unfortunately, it doesn’t seem to be compatible with 3DS Max Design 2009 yet. However, Poser Pro can also handle data exchange with other applications that support the Collada format, including Photoshop.
Poser Pro is expensive for non-professional users, but with TV and commercial budgets getting squeezed all the time, it’s a relatively low-cost solution for getting decent-quality character animation into a professional 3D pipeline.