I am currently trying to create some illustrational videos for the Roller Days 2009 Documentation. Those videos are supposed to serve as tutorial, explaining how the competition works and explaining the rules. Now, everyone who worked with 3D Animation may agree that Character Animation is the supreme discipline in the field, or at least it’s in the top tier. I then remembered that I’ve heard about programs like Poser before and decided to look at it again. When I looked at Poser 4 or 5 years ago, it was essentially low quality models mainly used to create 3d porn. Well, the year is 2009 now, and while Poser is still used to create 3d porn, the figures increased in quality to the point where they are really usable for serious stuff, and there is a huge Third Party market selling Add-Ons for them.
The only problem is that this super high level of customization leads to unclear and confusing terminology – how is someone supposed to know what a Morph does, how a Magnet works and which requirements there are actually. So after spending 3 days to dig through the whole topic, I’ve decided to make a little posting describing what this actually is. Keep in mind that I am not an expert and that this is to the best of my knowledge, but I claim the right to be slightly wrong in some places.
There are many vendors, but I’ve decided to stay with DAZ 3D to begin with. I just want to point out that I am not affiliated with DAZ 3D or any other vendor that I am linking here to. All the links are for explanatory reasons, I don’t get anything if you buy stuff through these links.
The starting Point: A Figure
Okay, the first thing that you need is a Figure. This is essentially a 3D Model of a Person (or animal) that has everything set up for Animation. Essentially, you load a Figure and then you can take i.e. the Arm and move it, which will automatically adjust the shoulder, chest, hip etc. If you look at the various online stores, it may look like there are hundreds of figures, but in reality there is only a handful – most “Figures” are really just addons to an existing Figure (more on that later).
In the Example of DAZ 3D, Figures would be Victoria 4.2 (or V4 or V4.2 for short), Michael 4 or Stephanie Petite 3.0. In the case of DAZ 3D, you may wonder what the weird Version numbers mean, and if you browse the store, you may see that there is also a Victoria 3.0 and wonder how they relate. Well, the second question is easy: They are not related at all. They are completely different figures. DAZ 3D created Victoria years and years ago, and as time moved on, they decided that they needed a better 3D Model (PCs got faster, so they could do more). So they took Victoria and created a more Modern Version of it. When it came to naming, they decided to just call her Victoria 2.0, because of the popularity that the Brand achieved. Then came Victoria 3.0, Victoria 4.0 and two updates to 4.1 and 4.2. Other companies decided instead to rename their figures with every generation, and there is a small Overview of the various Poser Figures on Wikipedia.
- There are relatively few Figures, and you need one to start with
- Figures are usually incompatible with each other, so when you buy addons like clothing or skin textures, make sure that it’s compatible with your figure
- Try to find out if there is a common abbreviation for your Figure. In the Case of Victoria 4.0, it’s usually V4. That helps to decipher stuff like “HighBoots2 For A4 V4 V4Elite“
Customizing the shape of a Figure: Morphs
If you clicked the link to Victoria 4.2 in the previous paragraph, you may have seen that this is called “Victoria 4.2 Base” and is available for free. When you install it into Poser or DAZ Studio, you may understand why: The Base Figure is not very customizable. First off, it only has a relatively low-res texture, no hair and you cannot easily change her body shape, i.e. to turn her into a body builder or into an obese person. You can customize the expression in her face a bit, but that’s it.
Customizations to the Body shape are called “Morphs”. Essentially a Morph hooks into the Figure and changes the underlying 3D Model. Morphs are essential to create different people from the same Figure. So when you browse the store, you may see Morphs for sale that allow you to fine-tune a certain part of the figure. For Victoria, there is an essential product called Victoria 4.2 Morphs++ which allows you to manipulate almost any part of the figure easily. In the full list you can see that there are options to manipulate the full body, i.e. “BodyBuilder” or “PearFigure”. But there are also a lot of fine tune options, like NeckThickness or FeetArch.
There are more morph packages available, but just keep in mind that a) Morphs change the underlying 3D Model and are thus very essential to create variety and b) Morphs are usually sold separately but c) The base character usually contains at least some morphs already.
Pre-Made Customizations: Character Presets
As said, there are only relatively few Figures, but many different characters. Now that you know that a Figure is the 3D Model and that Morphs are manipulations to them, you can possibly imagine how those Character presets work: They are fine-tuned packages of Morph Settings for the body and face. Usually they contain a lot of other Add-Ons, but the main feature is really that they customize Victoria through morphs. Take a look at Aiko 4.0, which is a character for Victoria 4.2. Aiko is really a character with her own personality and style, yet it’s not a figure because she builds on top of Victoria.
Make sure to check the Requirements of a Character Preset! Aiko only requires Victoria 4.2 Base, but for example ZhangXi requires Aiko 4 Base, the Morphs++ Package for Victoria 4.2, and then even another pack of Morphs, the Elite Body Shapes. So if you buy the ZhangXi character, you may see that she is not usable because you need to purchase another product as well. And again, let me remember you that figures are not compatible, so a Character Preset for Victoria 3.0 will not work on Victoria 4.x (well, actually I think there is some way to make them at least somewhat compatible, but that is more like a pro topic).
Character Presets include more than just Morph Presets though, they may include any or all of the features listed next.
Skin Textures and Makeup
When you load Victoria, you may see that her skin does not look really detailed. After all, the base only comes with a low-res texture pack. This is where Texture Packs come into play. Texture packs are Skin Textures that can be applied to the model, and nowadays you usually get high res textures (4000×4000 Pixels, although 2000×2000 and 3500×3500 are also common) that also include bump and specular maps to have realistic lights and shadows. Skin Textures are extremely important, because they make your Figure look realistic, or cartoony, or whatever you want. They also add the variation – for example, there is Maya, an Asian skin texture, or there is a special Wet Texture if you want to create pool scenes.
Skin Maps (that’s the official name) are usually not sold separately, they usually come with the Character Presets. For example, if you look at the Bianca preset, you can look in the “What’s Included & Features” Section to see which Textures are delivered.
There is a special addition, and that’s makeup. Usually, the Skin Textures are completely natural, to offer the best base for customizations. Sometimes, Skin Maps and Character Presets come with Make Up Options, which are essentially just another set of skin maps, but with makeup applied. You can of course also grab your favorite graphic program, load in the skin map of your choice and apply makeup yourself (hence many users prefer to have a completely natural base skin map), but Make Up skin maps already did the work for you.
Skin Maps are usually compatible to morphing and should always stay in a proper shape (that is: If you change the size of the navel, the texture of the navel usually gets resized properly as well), but there are times when skin map creators decided to violate the boundaries to create more interesting skin textures, but they may look weird when morphing. That’s a rare case though.
Hair and Clothing
Okay, so Victoria 4.2 Base is essentially a bald girl in a Bikini. Enough to start with, but you won’t get very far. Unless you want to do love stories that is, but that’s another subject. Anyway, you now need hair and clothing. They work essentially the same, and it’s important to differentiate between a base product and an extension.
Let’s start with Hair. Hair is usually a 3D Model, some Hair-Morphs to control things like length and number of Hair, and some Textures. For example, the Natsumy Hair for V4 comes with Morphs to control the position of the two bangs, and there is several colors delivered with it. When buying Hair, make sure that you are actually buying the actual Hair Model. For example, there is also an add on called Real Hair Textures for Natsumy Hair, which are just textures – a nice addition, but if you don’t have the Natsumy Hair to start with, they are useless.
Clothes work the same way. For example, there is the Tiffany Dress which is the 3D Model and some Textures, and then there are some extra textures available for purchase, for example the Breakfast for Tiffany Dress. For Clothing, it is very common to sometimes have 3 or 4 additional Texture sets available for the more popular ones.
There are two Gotchas with Clothing and to a lesser extent with Hair. The first one is that the “Requirements” in the Daz Shop are sometimes showing too many items. For example, the Verona Hair lists Aiko 3, Aiko 4, Victoria 3.0 and Victoria 4.0 under Requirements. This does not mean that you have to have all 4 figures. It merely means that the Hair is compatible to those Figures. If you only have Victoria 4.2 you are obviously not able to use the version of the hairstyle for Aiko 3, but there will be a style for Victoria 4.2. In doubt, check the What’s Included and Features panel.
The second point is a bit of a bigger problems: Clothing is not automatically compatible with all Morphs! What this means is that when you Morph the Character, the clothing may not fit anymore and the skin of the Character will poke out. This is one of the biggest and most common problems. Usually, you can check if the Clothing contains Morphs. For example, on the Tiffany dress, you can see a list of Morphs (FBM or PBM, which is short for Full/Partial Body Morph). For example, there is a Morph called FBMPearFigure, which means that the dress will still fit if you decide to change the Pear Figure Morph on Victoria. Sometimes, there are morphs for clothing to make them compatible with other Morphs. For example, there is an Elite Upgrade which makes the Dress compatible with the Elite Body Shapes Morph, or there is an upgrade to make it compatible with the Aiko 4 character (Remember: Aiko 4 is just a Character Preset on top of Victoria V4.2).
You don’t have to buy additional Morphs – you can usually finetune the clothing to make them look good even on a non-supported morph. Just keep in mind that a) this usually only works on still images since you may have to cut some corners to have the dress look good from the given camera angles and b) that this is very tedious if you have to do it more than once.
Magnets – not only to fit clothing
As said before, Clothing may not always work with a morphed figure. Changing the rotation and scale may work often, but is not always the best choice. There is another feature, called Magnets. I can’t say too much about them because they are an advanced topic and I do not have much experience with them, so I will just link to the Fitting clothes with Magnets tutorial and then to the Using Magnet Sets for Clothing fits one. Magnets essentially something to be attached to something else, i.e. a piece of clothing to a figure. If you have a set of Magnets, you are theoretically able to fit any type of incompatible clothes. There are Magnet Sets available, i.e. for Victoria 4, but as said, that is an advanced topic that I have no experience with.
To me, it seems like Magnets are the cheap way if you don’t want to buy an upgrade or if there is no upgrade available, and they seem to be quite labor-intensive, but they give you all the flexibility to customize any piece of clothing.
The other big topic are Poses. When you load a figure, it will stand with the arms extended and look a bit like the vitruvian man painting of Da Vinci. You can now grab the Arms and twist and bend the Figure to bring it into the Pose that you like. When you do that, you will notice that it’s actually quite a bit of work to get the character exactly into the desired pose, without anything looking awkward (and believe me, you will eventually discover more about the human body than you ever wanted when you try to find out how the stomach should bend when you try to jump or one other complicated poses).
Poses are presets than can just be applied to a figure. You twist the figure like you want, save it as a pose, and when you need it next time, you just apply the pose and you are done. Needless to say, there are pre-made poses for sale, for example the Yard and Pool Poses, and sometimes character presets come with poses.
Okay, let’s just summarize:
- A Figure is the base 3D Object
- A Morph is something that allows you to easily manipulate the 3D Object through settings
- Character Presets are Add-Ons for Figures which contain pre-made settings and accessories
- A Skin Map is a Texture that applies to the Figure’s skin. This gives you various ethnicities, tattoos, make up etc.
- Hair and Clothing allow you to render more than just nude, bald figures, but may not be compatible to all morphs
- Magnets can be used to fit clothes to incompatible morphs
- Poses save you from having to twist the limbs of the character manually every time
So if you look at the Victoria 4.2 base again and then at one of the Bundles (i.e. Victoria 4.2 Complete), you should be able to understand what the differences are, and why the free Base package is not really that free, because there is no clothing, no hair, and only a low res skin texture. The huge third party market allow you to get anything you may want or need, but of course, it can get very expensive very fast. If you want a recommendation, I’ll recommend starting with the Victoria 4.2 Complete or Pro Bundles, the free DAZ Studio, and then just ignoring any other offers and start modeling until you get a feel for how the parts and components interact. That allows you to make better estimates on what you can and cannot do, and which additional products you may want to buy.
But quality-wise, I am seriously impressed with what is possible nowadays, the textures became really photo-realistic and with proper lights and a good background, you can build so much more than just 3d erotica.