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Once part of the MetaCreations stable of software that was put up for auction last year, Poser had the good fortune to be bought by Curious Labs, a new company made up of Poser’s original engineering and development team. This was a great relief for the thousands of fans of this 3D-figure posing and animation software, who feared its demise. Curious Labs started its dominion by mending some minor issues, updating the application to version 4.0.3, and now it’s hit us with Poser Pro Pack – a highly robust enhancement application that enables the hosting of Poser scene files inside of 3D Studio Max and LightWave, and also allows, at long last, the export of Poser content as 2D Flash animation. Web-deployable 3D characterization is also featured via Viewpoint Media Player, a 3D plug-in for the popular browsers. Installing the plug-in to work with Poser 4 was easy. It’s important to note however, that you’ll need Poser 4, either Curious Labs 4.0.3 or the MetaCreations original for it to work. Room for more So far so good. After installing and restarting, my copy of Poser 4 was slightly ‘redecorated’ with some new features. Among the new features of Poser Pro Pack is the Setup Room. This allows you to graphically and interactively create custom Poser figures from imported props or through modifying the figures from your library. This feature works in tune with the old way of creating and editing your figures. The difference is that instead of posing a figure, it lets you define a ‘bone’ structure for the figure to which you attach bones to specific parts of the figure’s geometry (such as a leg bone to a thigh). This can dramatically decrease the time it takes to create or modify figures. Other significant features are the ability to add Motion Blur to your Poser animations, multiple camera view panes, animated material parameters, compressed content and library files, and Python-scripting support. The Motion Blur feature is really great for adding realism to your animation, especially when applied to models running to a path. For example, as the right arm of your model moves up and down alongside the body in silhouette, you can apply the 2D Motion Blur feature to make the running appear more realistic. With the Multiple Camera View Panes, you can now see the scene from up to four cameras simultaneously, in 3D style. A change made to a scene will be reflected in all views in real-time. The new animated material parameters, as the name implies, allow you to animate material parameters and attributes. From a Macromedia Flash user perspective, the export to Flash addition brings great news. Before, owners of Poser 4 had to depend on exporting their models to 3D Studio Max for manipulation and then re-export as Flash via David Gould’s Illustrate or Ideaworks Vecta 3D plug-ins. More tools and solutions (stand-alone and plug-ins) for exporting 3D contents in Flash’s popular vector 2D format are now rapidly surfacing. Poser Pro Pack’s approach will certainly come in handy for many designers wanting vivid 3D character animations of humans, animals and other objects for their multimedia, broadcast and print projects. In a Flash Flash designers can now export models from Poser Pro to Flash 5, ready for object-oriented ActionScript commands. This means huge timesavings spent in 3D applications, modelling objects from the ground up. However, my humble tests with the Flash-rendering capabilities of Poser Pro Pack, in comparison with Vecta 3D’s and other similar plug-ins I have experimented with, left me less than enthusiastic. No matter how hard I tried I could not achieve nicely-cut wireframe, hidden line type export of my Mech Warrior Poser model. The output performed by Poser Pro seem to be of a more cluttered combination of wireframe and fill output. Needless to say, the output is not as WYSIWYG as I hoped – the Flash output doesn’t come close to the quality of the Poser Pro internal render. That said, you can still achieve creative wonders with this tool. Poser Pro Pack also lets you export 3D content using Viewpoint Experience Technology, www.viewpoint.com, to deliver photo-realistic 3D content on the Web. Due to its scalable performance, amazingly, it allows users with a wide variety of computers and Internet speeds to view your 3D content. Aside from exporting features to Flash and Viewpoint Experience, Poser Pro also includes the capability to export Poser files in NewTek LightWave LWO format to join the already present export to high-end package Discreet 3D Studio Max 3DS and even DXF. Hosting applications When exporting using this feature, you access the Poser geometry in the LightWave modeller. This is achieved by selecting File>Export>LightWave LWO. Moreover, it’s important to note that Poser Pro Pack also includes both LightWave and 3D Studio Max plug-ins. The latter will let you open and host Poser files within these applications. When you use export/import alternative, data gets translated from one format to another – which admittedly sounds more laborious. However, when you use the plug-in feature, you greatly increase speed and ease of use since the Poser Pro plug-in serves as a liaison between the host application and the Poser files, systematically accessing the Poser files directly within the new host application. Neat. Best of all, Poser files hosted in these 3D applications maintain the editability of all their materials, articulation, textures, walks, figures and props and other data, since they’re treated as primitives like any other object. With Poser Pro Pack, Curious Labs has added some powerful capabilities and export options, which (in the case of Flash export) when polished will certainly take users’ creativity to the next level. Diehard fans will wonder how they managed without the Multiple Camera View Panes and the Setup Room. Novice users will get nicely introduced to the 3D world without the pain of manipulating 3D primitives and objects from the ground up.