Review of Poser 5 - Windows Version

I am going to start this review a little differently than I usually do. I was lucky to have been able to interview Steve Cooper, the President of Curious Labs, at Siggraph 2002 and get a Sneak Peek at Poser 5. I saw many exciting things in Poser 5 and remember his telling me about the new programming necessary for the wholesale changes that appear in this version. I saw him demonstrate some of these changes such as the creation of dynamic hair. Of course, when he did it, it looked easy. The first time I tried it, I wondered how long it would take me to get competent at it. And then I considered what I would have had to learn were I to try to accomplish this in a 3D modeling programs such as Cinema 4D or any other of the sophisticated ones. Instead, most of the difficult work has been removed, and all I need to learn to do is to set parameters and learn how to work the various dials. Considering what I would have had to do, this is a snap. Considering what Curious Labs has done, it is a huge amount. And I am only speaking of one small new aspect of the program. I will deal to various degrees with all of the new additions to the program within the body of this review.

If you are new to Poser and you are wondering what it is, Poser is, at the simplest level, a 3D character design program composed of manipulatable and morphable figures as well as animals, props, and scenery that can be combined as a still scene or an animated one. One can "Pose" a figure or use ready created poses. One can download a lot of "free stuff" as well as textures, hair, poses, props, etc. from a number of websites. This will be discussed later in the review. Thus, initially, a novice with no experience can begin to use Poser.

Poser has evolved from a program where to get the figures to look even marginally real one had to do a tremendous amount of manipulation to this version, Poser 5, where the figures are amazingly lifelike and all parts of their anatomy can be manipulated.

The requirements for Poser 5 are:

  • Windows 98, 2000, ME, or XP
  • 500MHz pentium class or compatible (700MHz or greater is recommended)
  • 128 MB system RAM (256 MB or greater recommended)
  • 24-bit color display, 1024 x 768 resolution
  • 500 MB free hard disk space
  • Internet connection required for Content Paradise

A reference manual of over 350 pages as well as a content CD packed with a lot of goodies. Poser has become very popular in the past few years and has a huge following. This is especially wonderful for newbies because a tremendous amount of help is available online as well as free merchandise. Curious Labs has links to many of these sites. Curious Labs website is: . Also, included is a Quick Reference Card.

Even though the interface of Poser 5 has not changed a lot from Poser 4, the content of Poser 5 has undergone radical changes. Poser now has been divided into rooms. Each room deals with a specific aspect of character development: These rooms are in brief:

Material Room This room lets the user create materials using shaders. These consist of nodes each of which controls an aspect of the final material. Each shader has one or more nodes.

Face Room This room allows the user to create a face from a frontal and side photograph. All facial changes occur in this room.

Hair Room Hair is created in this room by means of a skull cap. The cap is divided into sections and hair is actually grown and styled. Once created, it can reflect properties such as wind, gravity, animation, etc.

Cloth Room In this room, an object can be changed into a piece of cloth that is fully dynamic. It can interact with figures and other objects or forces in a scene such as a gust of wind.

Setup Room New custom Poser figures with different bone structures and geometries can be created in this room. Geometries can be imported or Poser geometries modified.

Content Room This room hosts Content Paradise which has been set up as a gateway to various marketplaces on the web for Poser content and materials. These, then, can be downloaded directly into Poser 5.

These are all the new or modified rooms in Poser 5. However, much more has been added. Poser 5 boasts of a new Rendering Engine called FireFly™. It supports both raytracing and shader trees created in the Materials Room.

Poser 5 introduces a new tool called Morph Putty. This tool is used to sculpt morph targets visually. Targets can be included or excluded and object vertices can be "pinned" once positioned so that they do not move. This allows for much more control.

Collision Detection is an area that was on many wish lists. Poser 5 allows three levels of Collision detection: Collision Detection prevents objects from colliding, Show Collisions allows collisions to happen unimpeded, Allow Collisions disables collision detection. Each object can or not have a different level of collisions detection.

Python Script Support is a programming language. PoserPython scripts allow the user to directly communicate with Poser's internals through a Python API.

Direct Manipulation which allows the user to visually adjust an objects position, orientation, and scale.

Some other new features include:

  • Hierarchical Libraries for ease in downloaded content
  • Updated Hierarchical Parameter's Palette
  • Updated Properties Palette allowing each objects properties to be centrally available.
  • Real World units along with Poser Grid Unit.
  • Motion Blur for animation
  • Animations Sets for use when exporting Viewpoint Experience Technology animations.
  • Compressed file support
  • View Magnifier allowing one to zoom in and out of a scene without changing cameras
  • Redesigned Group Editor palette

I like to state my orientation in using a program when I review it. While I do create some animations, I am basically a non-animation artists and I will leave the in depth animation reviewing to those more skilled in that area.

To review the program I decided to highlight a few of the new rooms. I started in the Hair Room because I have always wanted to be able to control my own wigs. While the learning process was not easy, I am very excited about it and feel confident in it. I am extremely impressed with what Curious Labs has been able to do. To me, if this was the only new feature, the upgrade would have been worth it. The following are just a few of the developmental screenshots of my first tries as well as some of the hair tools and settings.

Growth and Styling Controls
Guide Hairs
Test Default Render

I didn't do anything but set up the initial controls through the use of the Guide Hairs which are placed in the sections of the skull cap selected by the user. Since I was doing this on the road on my lap top without an internet connection, I wished that the book or CD-ROM had contained tutorials because I did find that some of the initial and basic steps confusing. To make sure that I was doing it correctly, I analyzed some of the Poser 5 dynamic wigs.

Once, I was satisfied with the basic hair controls, I could have styled it from the styling editor. The Orange circle is the selection circle and all the rest designate certain procedures such as a "Curl Hairs tool." I did do some styling although I did not reproduce it here.

Once all of these stages have been established, the hair becomes an object in the scene with its own shader tree. This, then, is controlled from the material room.

Another new room is the Face Room. In the face room, one can design a custom face from two photographs. I have seen this done successfully. While as far as I know, the ability to design a custom face from photographs has only been able to be done in much more expensive programs, this is not the only feature of the face room. The Face Shaping Tool, I found to be a big time saver because I could control it directly with my mouse or digitizing pen. All one needs to do is touch the tip of the pointing device to the portion of the face to be moved, and one can move the features of the face as if they were made from putty.

The Cloth Room gives cloth the dynamics it has always lacked. I have screen captured the basic steps in the following table.

Simulation Settings
Object to Clothify
Cloth Groups
Dynamic Controls

Creating maps is sometimes very confusing for beginners. It is often hard for even seasoned 3D users to understand texture maps, bump maps, etc. The Poser manual does a very nice job explaining these maps and templates. They also describe briefly, transparency maps, reflection maps, and displacement maps. An understanding of these terms is extremely helpful in being able to work with Poser creatively.

Even though Poser 5 has been out only a short time, Curious Labs has been very quick to try to ameliorate some of the problems found to be inherent in it. A update can be found at: Once there, migrate to support>technical support>poser 5 FAQ's. There you will find the update as well as answers to other questions that have been appearing in the various forums.

As a "still" artist, I love the new Poser. It has included for me all that I need to get the results that I want. While I know it will take time to learn how to use some of the new rooms, I feel it will be time well spent. I look at the program as being very different from Poser Pro Pack. I do not see it necessarily as an update, but as a program that allows me a different type of creativity than have previous versions of Poser. Since even the update does not load over Poser Pro Pack, it gives me the ability to use both programs differently. Since I personally am looking for realism in my models, Poser 5 is fantastic. It also is extremely reasonable for what it offers and I believe this must be remembered.

A full version of Poser 5 retails for $349.

Upgrades from Poser 1, 2, 3 Mac or Win to Poser 5 Win are $209.

Upgrades from Poser 4 Mac or Win to Poser 5 Win are $179.

Upgrades from Poser 4 + Pro Pack Mac or Win to Poser 5 Win are $129.