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From Sketch To Posing- Creating a Simple Figure using Shade and Poser

For use with Shade 7 or 8 and Poser 5, 6 or 7

People sometimes inquire, 'How can I make my own Poser figure?' This tutorial shows how to build a simple Poser figure using nothing beyond a recent version of Poser, any version of Shade 7 or 8, and some careful work.

It begins with a mesh generated in Shade's MagicalSketch tool and covers the workflow and major issues involved in using Poser's Grouping Tool, Setup Room and Joint Editor to set up a figure with joints and bone structure. The first step in making a figure is to create its basic mesh. To begin, we launch Shade and, from the Tools menu, choose Create>MagicalSketch, as shown below.

In the MagicalSketch tool, we draw the outline of a cactus (for this example, we'll make a poseable saguaro.)

Use the Undo option as needed; when the saguaro looks right, we click OK to bring it into Shade-

- where we select the polygon mesh in Shade's Browser, as shown, and choose File>Export>Wavefront OBJ, which in turn brings up the Export Options dialog; we'll select the proper file-encoding for the operating system we're using, and choose No Subdivision to keep the mesh as it is. We'll name the OBJ file and choose where to save it, then click Save, and the Export Options dialog appears-

- which allows us to choose various details about the file we're saving. The default settings should work well. Once the file has been saved, we can quit out of Shade and launch Poser.

In Poser, we delete any figure(s) that may already be in our scene, and choose Import>Wavefront OBJ from the File menu as shown-

We navigate to the file we just saved and click Open. Using the default settings brings in a human-sized cactus. We can use the Paint Bucket tool to give it some color-

- and then we'll proceed to tackle the complex part of the tutorial- setting our prop up with a working joint structure. Before we do that, though, we come up against the first really 'technical' aspect of figure creation- grouping.

Poser's method of setting up a 'poseable' figure is to create a virtual bone structure, with joints between the bones and with each bone controlling a group of the polygons that make up the figure. Each bone controls a group which is named identically to that bone- so the first step once we have our figure's mesh in Poser is to set up the right groups.

To begin with, we should probably delete any existing polygon groups in the figure. This makes it easier to check and ensure that we have the figure properly grouped for rigging, with each polygon belonging to just one body part group. First, we select the Grouping Tool. This tool is meant strictly to edit polygon groups on a figure or prop- it has nothing to do with grouping different objects together.

We see that there's already at least one polygon group set up on the cactus- the entire cactus is red, indicating that all its polygons belong to a group. Clicking the Delete Group button should remove that group and free up those polygons- we can do it more than once if there are additional groups on the cactus.

Once we have deleted any existing groups, the cactus should be a dark charcoal grey, indicating that none of its polygons are selected by any group. Since we'll be creating new groups that will have polygons on all sides of the cactus, we might do well to switch over to Wireframe display mode, so we can see 'through' the cactus. Click the Wireframe icon in the Document Display Style tool, down at the bottom left of the Poser workspace (it's the tool that looks like a line of little globes.)

Now, the cactus is ready- we'll want to create one new group for each body part, so that we'll be able to easily create the bones for the figure and have them work properly. We'll start by creating a group for the base of the cactus- we'll call it 'Base'. Click the New Group button, then make sure the Select Polygons tool is selected (the button with the dotted rectangle containing a plus symbol should be yellow.) Now just click and drag over the polygons you want to add to the group- you'll see them turn red as they're selected. You want to end up with a group that looks like the one in the image below; if extra polygons get selected by mistake, you can switch to the Deselect Polygons tool (with the minus sign) to remove them from the group.

Once the Base group is set up, we can create a new group for the base of each arm of the cactus, and another for the tip of each arm as shown-

- and finally a group for the top of the cactus. Two additional options on the Grouping Tool help to make sure everything is set up properly- clicking the Show Non-grouped Faces checkbox reveals any polygons we might have missed, while clicking the Show Multigrouped Faces box shows any polygons that accidentally wound up in more than one group. The final result should be a cactus in which each polygon belongs to just one group, and in which the groups are set up more or less like this-

- such that there isn't any place where three or more groups come together. This is important; Poser's joints depend on having only two groups- a parent and a child- touching in any place; if three groups come together the mesh will 'tear' when the figure bends, like this-

So we avoid this by carefully setting up our groups to make sure each polygon's edge or corner is shared by at most two groups. Remember to make sure that every polygon belongs to exactly one group!

Now that the grouping is done, we are ready for the next-to-last step. Click the Setup tab to take our cactus prop into the Setup Room, where it'll be turned into a fully poseable figure.

The main tool to use in the Setup Room is the Bone Creation Tool- as you might expect, this tool lets you set up bones. The trick when creating bones is to ensure that each bone is named exactly the same as the group to which it applies- this tells Poser that this bone controls that group. Edit the name in the Name field first, then in the Internal name field; use the Grouping tool if you need to, to check and make sure the names match.

The other thing to remember is that the last bone selected will be the parent of the next bone created- so be careful when creating limbs; it's easy to forget and wind up with the neck parented to the arm. If necessary (and it occasionally will be), use one of the other tools to select the bone that you want to use as the parent of the bone you're going to create next, then switch to the Bone Creation tool and actually make the bone.

For this cactus, we'll create the Base as the parent to all the other bones, then create a Top bone with the Base bone as its parent, then create a LeftArmBase and RightArmBase, both also using the Base bone as their parent, and finally a LeftArmTop and RightArmTop bone, each using the appropriate ArmBase bone as its parent, to match our groups.

We do want to be careful and make sure our bones are all the way 'inside' our figure- best to make sure with a side view as well-

With our bones in place and named to match our grouping, we can click the Pose tab to exit the Setup Room. If a warning pops up that not all polygons are grouped to a bone, we'll need to (a) make sure our bones are properly named, and (b) check that grouping one more time to ensure that we didn't miss anything.

In the Pose Room, we can see how our joints work by using the Rotate and Twist tools on the body parts of our new figure. Chances are it'll look a little odd- if we've done our grouping right nothing should tear but some limbs may not bend the way we expect. If the figure gets too contorted, use the Restore>Figure option in the Edit menu to reset the pose.

The way to fix bad joint behavior is to use Poser's Joint Editor. While a comprehensive description of the Joint Editor's functions would be a tutorial in itself (see Chapter 24 in the Poser Reference Manual), briefly put, each joint can bend on the X, Y or Z axis; typically the joint will primarily bend on two of these three (the exception would be a ball-and-socket joint); the Joint Order for each joint should be set such that the axis of least rotation, the axis around which the joint would twist, should be listed first in the joint order; the axis of most rotation on which the joint most often bends, or bends most greatly, should be listed last.

The 'quick and dirty' way to adjust joints once joint order has been set is to use Spherical Falloff Zones for a graphic representation of how the joint affects the local polygons. As shown in the image below, all polygons contained within the green innerMatSphere, also known as the inclusion zone, will be fully affected by the joint's bending- they'll make up the 'limb'; polygons outside of the outerMatSphere, also known as the exclusion zone, won't be affected at all by the joint bends; polygons between the zones will be warped and bulged by the joint's bending.

To adjust the spherical falloff zones, check the 'Use Spherical Falloff Zones' box in the Joint Editor for the given joint, then select either the innerMatSphere or the outerMatSphere in the Parameters Palette; use the dials to adjust its size and position as shown. In our example, the lower arm joint twists along the X (side-to-side) axis, and bends most on the Z (front-to-back) axis.

One further point- it's a good idea, when editing joints, to work from the outside in- in this cactus, we'd edit the various Top joints first, then proceed to the Base parts, saving the main Base part for last.

When the joints are set up in the Joint Editor, we can use the Parameters palette to apply a name to our figure (choose the Body, and enter the name in the Properties tab), and to name the dials and set limits for the joints. Double-click the dials for the x-rotate, y-rotate and z-rotate parameters and use the Edit Parameter Dial dialog to give them more intuitive names like Twist, Bend, Front-Back, Side-Side, etc. (if you want.) You can set maximum and minimum value limits here as well, so that you can turn on Use Limits to keep the joints acting reasonably.

Once the zones and joint orders are all set up, we can go back to the Pose Room and use the editing tools to test out our figure- if it works properly, we can open the appropriate Library folder in the Figures category and add our figure to the Library for use in other scenes, by clicking the Add to Library button, with the plus symbol on it. And there it is!