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Transferring Files from Shade to Poser

For use with Shade 7 or 8 and Poser versions 5 through 7

The wealth of ready-made content for Shade brings up the question, 'How do I get all this into Poser?'

The process is not too difficult and the results can be excellent if you are prepared to set the file up properly before exporting. Read on...Bringing items from Shade into Poser is fairly straightforward- Shade will export items as Wavefront OBJ files, which Poser will happily import- but for much of the Shade content there's a bit of prep work to be done in Shade, prior to exporting.

Shade files can have very complex structures, and simply exporting the entire object as an OBJ without first intelligently converting it to a polygon mesh can result in several problems with the mesh that Shade generates- flipped normals, poor material assignments, and excess or missing geometry have all come up as issues when taking a Shade file directly to OBJ.

Let's look at an example. The Shade sushi platter (free to Passport members, $3.99 otherwise) is a fairly simple assembly of shapes and parts. Exporting it directly to OBJ gives us a file which we can import to Poser, but when we take a look in Poser we can see that a number of items- the bowl and several of the pieces of sushi- appear 'inside-out'.

For those who might want to use Poser's Grouping Tool to flip the surfaces, a second issue appears immediately- the object is not broken down into intelligible parts, rather its polygons are grouped into four oddly-named groups whose contents seem to have been chosen at random. These are just the kind of problems that arise from exporting without first preparing the file.

To fix these problems we'll need to go back into Shade and do a little work, preparatory to exporting the file again. In this case we'll want to generate meshes, check the surface normals of the resulting items and reassign textures as needed before re-exporting the file.

1. Grouping

A look at the original Shade file reveals quite a bit of internal structure to the file, most of which was lost when we exported to OBJ.

Leaving aside issues of translation and naming, we'll probably want to group similar items into single parts before converting them to meshes- for example, all the egg surfaces share a common material and should probably be grouped together into one mesh for simplicity. To do this, we'll drop all the existing Egg parts into a new part called 'Tamago' for simplicity, and after ensuring that the surfaces are correctly set up (see Section 2 below) we'll turn the egg parts into a single polygonal mesh.

The same process can then be used for the other components of the sushi platter.

2. Normals

One vital step before converting items to polygon meshes, particularly in Shade 7, is to ensure that their surfaces are right-side-out. This can be accomplished by selecting the object, entering Modify Mode, and choosing Show Normals from the Modify menu. The normals appear as little red 'hairs' that should radiate outwards to show the direction in which the surface is defined. If the normals instead point inwards, then the surface is inside-out and needs to be reversed.

We can also set Shade's perspective view to show our surfaces in single-sided mode; this can also help to reveal 'inside-out' geometry.

To flip the normals before converting the surface to polygons, we can select the 'inside-out' surface and, in the Browser, click the Flip Face check-box. Note how the surface and normals change in the screenshot below. In Shade 8, we can also correct inverted normals after converting to polygons, using Shade 8's Mesh tools.

3. Meshes

After ensuring that the surfaces are all right-side-out, we can go ahead and convert them to polygon meshes by selecting the proper Curved Surface or Parts in the Browser and choosing Tools>Convert>Convert to Polygon Mesh, and selecting the fineness of the mesh. For most objects, Normal or even Coarse should be sufficient; for surfaces which will need to be deformed or will be seen close-up, Fine or Very Fine should be used.

In this example, I've gathered all the egg surfaces into a single Part, titled 'Tamago', which I'll convert to a single mesh object.

In Shade 7, multiple Curved Surfaces, Extruded or Rotated solid objects cannot be converted all at once even if they are grouped into a single Part. To combine multiple objects into a single mesh, first convert the individual components, then place the resulting mesh items into a Part and convert the entire Part into a mesh. Since in this situation the items in the Part would all be meshes already we would choose No Subdivision when converting, to keep things simple. Shade 8 allows one-step meshing of Parts containing multiple Curved Surfaces.

4. Surface Attributes

Now, when the items are converted to mesh objects, particularly when multiple meshes are combined, they often lose their surface characteristics and appear with the default white or grey surface- as shown below. Assigning surface characteristics to them in Shade will allow us to more easily apply textures in Poser.

If the maker of the Shade item set up Master Surface settings, then we'll be able to use those for at least some of our surfaces. In this case there's a master Egg surface that we'll use for the Tamago mesh object. We bring up the Aggregate palette and click the paintbrush icon to use the Surface palette. We select the Tamago object and, from the meu titled Use we choose the entry for Egg, applying the Egg master surface to our object.

If no Master Surfaces have been defined, the task is a bit harder- in that case we'll use the Surface palette to set up surface characteristics for our item, then (particularly if we'll want to apply these settings to more than one part of the exported file) we register the settings as a new Master Surface, by clicking the Register button and naming our surface.

Repeat this process- group, check and correct normals, convert to mesh, apply surface characteristics- for the other objects in the file until all components have been converted to optimized polygon meshes which have surface attributes assigned.

5. Export as OBJ and import to Poser

Now that the parts of the Shade file have been grouped, corrected, converted and textured, it's time to actually export a new OBJ file from Shade.

To do this, we'll select the item(s) that we wish to export and choose File>Export>Wavefront OBJ. In the dialog that pops up, we'll choose Selected Items and set the Surface Subdivision to No Subdivision (since we've already converted all the items into meshes.) In the OBJ Export Settings dialog, we'll choose settings as shown below (Mac users can choose either Mac or DOS-Win, it doesn't make any practical difference.)

Shade now exports a correctly-set-up OBJ file, and we can then import it to Poser using the File>Import>Wavefront OBJ menu option, then adjust its scale and material settings.

Note that Shade's export routine unfortunately does not retain the names of the Master Surfaces used to apply surface settings; although the settings themselves are retained, material groups in the exported OBJ are titled 'mtl_001', 'mtl_002', etc. This can be changed if desired by editing the OBJ and corresponding MTL file by hand in a text editor.

Additionally, saving multiple objects to the same directory may result in image map files being overwritten or replaced, as the exported image maps are titled 'mtl_001.diff.jpg', 'mtl_001.bmp.jpg', etc., regardless of the name of the surface to which they apply. Thus we recommend either renaming your image maps as you export (and remember to update their listings in the appropriate MTL file as well), or exporting each new item into a separate folder, to preserve all its image maps.