Tips Tricks and Techniques

Posermocap, Daz|Studio, and Octane Muzzle Flash Effects video

We decided to put together a short animated clip showing the workflow of animating in Daz|Studio and rendering through OTOY’s Octane Render plugin. We used our own mocap files and Daz3d’s Genesis figure to create the following animated clip. Octane produces some very attractive images at amazing speed. Bringing Octane into the workflow required a few small tweaks to how we did things, but things worked very well when we did the finishing in Adobe After Effects. Have a look below:

Here are some observations about the process:

1. Octane fits very easily into the production workflow, although as an unbiased renderer, it gives more of a temptation to do everything “in camera” as opposed to rendering in layers and bringing it all together in compositing software.

2. It does take some pre-planning, but rendering out illumination from each light source separately gives a lot more flexibility in applying effects. The primary illumination was done using an HDR image. Illumination for the muzzle flash was done by first creating a muzzle flash prop as an OBJ file and parenting that to the rifle’s muzzle. Then, this was turned into a light emitter and the frames where the shot happens were rendered out with the emitter opacity set to zero. This gave the illumination without the emitter being visible in the scene. By rendering out only those frames where a gunshot occurs and compositing those with the main footage in After Effects, I was able to create the “flash” without burning any more render time than needed.

3. Any motion blur was done in After Effects using the Re-Vision FX Reelsmart Motion Blur plugin. No suprises – it does play nicely with Octane footage.

Here’s the assets that were used in the shot:

Michael 5 – We used Genesis with the Michael 5 morph to create the figure. The face was custom generated in Facegen.

Cody Hair for M6 – This is a Fibermesh hair that worked very well with custom Octane hair shaders to give a very realistic look under Octane’s Pathtracing kernel. It took a little bit of adjustment to get it to fit with Genesis, but once in place, it was just fine.

Unshaven Beard for Genesis – Again, a Fibermesh hair product that adjusted well to the custom facial morph and took the octane hair shaders as well.

War Dog for Genesis – The War Dog outfit by Luthbel is a great set of clothing for military and paramilitary characters. The straps and other accessories were turned off, and the pants had a custom color map created.

ICE Pack Three – We grabbed the rifle and eyewear from this set of military accessories for M4. This is an outstanding set that can give your figures some great-looking modern military gear.

Car Ranger – The vehicle Genesis uses for cover in this shot is the Car Ranger. A great-looking modern SUV. Octane also comes with custom car paint shaders that you can drag and drop onto the prop to get that perfect new car look right out of the box.

Behind the Neighborhood – Daz Studio artist DzFire did an amazing job on this environment. The brick buildings combine to give a dirty and grungy feel of a decaying urban alleyway –  the perfect place for a shootout.


Tips for Poser Animators: The Best Free Film School

When we’re starting out with character animation, we tend to rejoice when we finish a single render. But for every animator, there is the desire to do more, to actually combine the individual renders into a single, cohesive story. The problem is that for many of us, it’s a whole new level of complexity when we start looking at going beyond an animated clip and into the realm of film. Film is a new language to learn, and while there are many very reputable film schools scattered around the world, there are several free film schools available to those who seek them out.

Now, we’re going to talk a lot about the craft of filmmaking in this article, and everywhere you read filmmaking just substitute it with Poser Animation. For our purposes, the two are indistinguishable. The techniques may be different, but the language of film is the same as the language of animating with Poser or Daz|Studio.

So, what are these film schools? They are the Public Library, Film Festivals, and the Internet.

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Tips for Poser Animators: Average Shot Length

When you are starting an animation in Poser or Daz|Studio, it is good to keep Average Shot Length (ASL) in mind. ASL has been dropping in since the start of film as editing techniques have become more advanced, allowing for more kinetic storytelling that draws the audience in to the story.

It’s amazing to see that the ASL in 1903 was 35.6 seconds and yet in 2009, it had dropped to 2.9 seconds. For years–from 1914 to 1985–the ASL tended to hover in the five to fifteen second range and then in 1986, the ASL started its steady drop to its present very short situation.

While it’s tough to generalize across movies as a whole, there are certain tips that can be gleaned from the ever-shortening ASL.

First, the greater the action on the screen, the shorter the shot length needs to be. In almost any action sequence, the shots last little more than a second in many cases, with longer shots allowing the audience a chance to catch their breaths along with the characters, before demanding all of their concentration for the next sequence of one-second cuts.

Second, even in slower-paced scenes, the camera rarely stays in one place for long–a conversation will have lots of shots of relatively short length cut together to allow the whole. Shots of the speaker will be intercut with reaction shots of the listener, and even wider shots showing the surroundings as they speak.

Third, use the very long shots for majestic moments where you want the audience to be filled with awe at the images on screen and where you want to give them a chance to see and appreciate every single detail. Seeing a giant starship as it crawls past the screen, a slow majestic flight across mist-shrouded hills, or even a slow camera move across the form of an attractive actor/actress are all meant to signal to the audience–hey, you should be impressed by this!

Setting the wrong shot length is also the second biggest mistake that many starting animators make.

The biggest is whipping the camera around the with no relation to real-world physics and trying to really show off the “3-D” nature of their scene–either that or putting so much jitter in recreating a hand-held shaky-cam look that you can’t see anything on screen. But that’s another topic.

We have all seen animations of fight scenes that look like the participants are involved in a real knock-down, drag-out battle, but because the shot length doesn’t match the intensity of the moment, the life gets sucked out of the fight. Instead, we’re treated to shots that last 30 seconds or more. It’s even worse if the camera remains static.

Exception to the rule: If the scene has its own pacing, and you are willing to continually shift the camera’s point of interest, then you can get away with a very long shot. Director John Woo, in his movie Hard Boiled had a continuous shot that followed the two heroes shooting their way through one corridor, getting in an elevator and having a short, intense conversation, and then getting out of the elevator to shoot their way through another hallway–the shot lasts a stunning two minutes and forty-two seconds and is an amazing piece of choreography. Likewise, Orson Welles opens his movie Touch of Evil in a continuous tracking shot lasting three and a half minutes where Welles seamlessly moves from one vignette to the next.

By keeping shot length in mind, you can affect your audience’s mood–shorter clips get the audience more excited, longer clips let them breathe, and really long clips let them appreciate what you’ve done.

Tutorial: Compositing Using Depth Maps in Photoshop

Poser has been used primarily to generate still images rather than animations.  A lot of Poser users are able to produce absolutely outstanding still images that can, and have been, used as illustrations in books, magazines, and other media.

One of the techniques that has been used by Poser artists is compositing images in Photoshop.  By combining still images of different elements such as backgrounds, characters, and special effects, the artists are able to create a combined or composited image that goes far beyond what could be done in camera in Poser.  This tutorial describes a technique for compositing still images generated by E-on software’s Vue.  By the end of this tutorial, you’ll be able to insert a character into a Vue scene and have them blend seamlessly, even to the point of having their feet nestled in the grass.

We are going to use depth maps in order to cut out the sections of the foreground that will appear in front of the character we want to insert.  A depth map is simply a grayscale map that colors objects black closest to the camera and white furthest from the camera.  Using this information we can insert a character as deep into the image as we want, and ensure that elements in the image that are closer to the camera to the character will appear in front of the character in the final still.

We have uploaded a set of still images and their corresponding depth maps into our downloads section, and you can use these to work your way through the tutorial.

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Tutorial: Setting up Multiple External Runtimes

One of the things that we want to do with is to go beyond simply providing motion capture files for use in Poser. We want to be able to turn this site into a resource for Poser animators, thus unleashing this powerful piece of software and enabling people to create their own animated short films and projects.

If you read through the articles in the site you’ll see that we’ve already taken steps to do this.  We’re hoping to provide our readers with the inspiration and resources they need to help them learn to animate within Poser. Starting with this article, we’re adding a new section to this page for tips, tricks, and techniques. This section will be an ongoing collection of articles that will provide shortcuts, tutorials, and interesting tricks to use when animating with Poser.

We’re going to be starting this off with a tutorial on how to create multiple external Runtimes in order to show one way to help people organize Runtimes and migrate their contents into multiple external Runtimes quickly and easily.

Just about every Poser user has experienced the problem of Runtime bloat.  Because there is such a wealth of low-cost and even free content available to Poser users online, it becomes very easy for Runtimes to approach several Gigabytes in size.  Of course as the Runtimes grow (and because of the file dependencies between Poser figures, props, poses, and textures) they tend to become confused messes that are both difficult to navigate and reduce productivity to a crawl.  The solution then, is to look at the employing a multiple, organized Runtimes in order to create a logical and easy-to-navigate file structure.

Migrating Poser assets into multiple Runtimes can be a daunting and mind-numbing task of re-installing each and every asset by hand. Given Poser’s system of file dependencies among its assets, re-installation is the only way that migration works. Simply trying to move assets within the Runtime or even move the assets to an external Runtime stands an excellent chance of breaking the file dependencies and making the asset unusable. Trust us on this.

By using multiple external Runtimes, we can organize the content in a way that makes sense to us as users.  Fortunately, this is a relatively easy process. And with the right tools, a bit of planning, and a bit of know-how, anybody can end up adding Runtimes reaching up into the hundreds of gigabytes with very little difficulty.

Let’s get started.

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