Making Posable Models in Poser5 or Poser4 Pro Pack

Carl E. Schou

April 30, 2003

ConeDogs at Play


For this month's foray into the digital domain, we are going to bring a model into Poser and make it posable.  The techniques described here will work with Poser5 or with Poser4 Pro Pack.  The whole process will probably take more than a single session at the computer, and it is recommended that you save your work as you go.


Posing Strategy

(1) Beg, Borrow, or Build the model you are going to make posable.

(2) Determine how the model will be split into groups.  Name these groups and use the same names for the Bones when they are created.

(3) Import the model into Poser.

(4) Split the model into groups using the Grouping Tool and give the groups the names determined in step 2.

(5) Spawn Props, export the model, apply UV Mapping if desired, then re-import the model to Poser and turn it into a figure.

(6) Build the skeleton by adding one Bone for each Group.  Each Bone has the same name as its given Group.

(7) Adjust the hierarchy so the Bones are arranged in a logical order.

(8) Adjust the Blend Zones and Joint Orders to get natural looking bends between body parts.


The Model

For the examples in this tutorial, I'll be referring to the model of a ConeDog, which was built in Organica out of deformed cone metashapes.  The model in Organica is shown in the screen shot below.  The colors are the defaults for the various metashapes.  The final mesh that was used for the model is visible in the upper right window of the screenshot.  This mesh was exported from Organica as a DXF file.  It was imported into Amorphium3 to correct the normals, then it was exported as an OBJ file before sending it to Poser.

If you are going to be using a complex model such as a realistic human figure, it is recommended that all of the body parts be oriented along the X, Y, or Z axis to minimize distortion in some poses.  This is why the 'natural pose' of most Poser figures looks like they are getting ready for gym class.



Determine the Group and Bone Names

You can save yourself a lot of grief later on if you decide on the group and bone names early on, before you even import the model into Poser.  If you are not familiar with the Poser naming convention, it would be worth your while to examine some of the models that are included with Poser.  Start with the more basic models like the snake and dolphin, then work up to the more complicated models like the dog and the human figure.  This is also a great way to see how the models are split into groups, how blend zones are set up, and how the model parts are arranged in a hierarchy.

For the ConeDog project, we are keeping things simple.  The root body part is the Hip.  If the Hip group moves, everything else moves with it.  Attached to the Hip are the left rear leg and right rear leg groups.  These will be called lrleg and rrleg.  Also attached to the hip is the Chest group to which the left front leg and right front leg (lfleg and rfleg) are attached.  From the Chest group, we go the Jaw group, and from there we go to the Head group.  For the tail we have three groups.  Tail1 is attached to the Hip group, Tail2 is attached to Tail1, and Tail3 is attached to Tail2.  When we do the actual grouping, there will be some illustrations that should make this a lot clearer.

The reason for the lower case letters in the leg names is that Poser will recognize these names as being left and right body parts.  This lets you use the Symmetry functions to save a lot of work when setting up the model.


Import the Model into Poser

To begin, we will start up Poser and delete the default Poser figure to clear the Pose room.  Now click on File > Import > Wavefront OBJ > and select your model.  In the dialogue that opens, select "place on ground" and accept the rest of the settings.

Note that you can import other model formats, but you will need to have the model in the Wavefront Object format if you plan on passing it through UVMapper so that texture maps can be applied later on.  Even if you don't apply the mapping, UVMapper is also very handy for fixing problems like out of range coordinates which can cause massive headaches when you try to import the models into programs like Bryce. 


Group the Model

Now we are going to enter the Setup room and use the Grouping Tool to create new groups in the model.  We will then assign parts of the model to the different groups.

With the model selected, click on the tab to leave the Pose room and enter the Setup room.  Click on the square icon to open the Grouping Tool as shown below.  Click on New Group and type Hip into the pop-up window that opens asking for the new group's name.  Now left click and drag across the area you want to include in the Hip group.  If you select too much of the mesh, then hold the Control key while left dragging to deselect it from the group.  Note that you can change the Document Display Style to control whether you select both sides of your selection area, or only the visible polygons.  When you are done with the Hip group, you should have something like the image below.  Repeat this process to create groups called Head, Jaw, Chest, Tail1, Tail2, Tail3.  The left and right front legs will be called lfleg and rfleg.  The left and right rear legs will be called lrleg and rrleg.  The arrangement of all of the groups is illustrated in the next section.



To illustrate how the model was split into groups, a different color was assigned to each group to produce the image shown below.



Spawn Props and Export the Model

Next we re going to remove all parts of the model except for the new groups that were just created, then we are going to incorporate these groups into a new Poser figure.  At this point, you should have every part of the mesh assigned to one of the groups that you just created.  No parts of the mesh should belong to more than one of the new groups.  Everything will still belong to the original group, but this group will be deleted so it doesn't matter.  If you are ready, then save your work in case you need to return to this point later on.

In the Group Editor, select all of the old groups that you did not create yourself in Poser and delete them.  Press the Spawn Props button once, then return to the Pose room.  If you look in the Props drop-down menu under the main working window, you will see all of the groups you just created listed as props.  To turn this collection of props into a grouped model, we will export it as an OBJ file, then re-import it back into Poser.  

Click on File > Export > Wavefront OBJ, and select "single frame".  In the Hierarchy Selection window, select just the groups you created.  Next, use the browser that opens to give a new name to the file you are about to create.  Finally, in the export options box, check "include body part names in polygon groups" and "weld body part seams".  Click OK and you are done with the exporting.

If you are planning on UV Mapping the model so that textures can be applied later, this is an excellent time to do it.


Re-Import the Model and Add the Bones

Next we are going to re-import the grouped OBJ file, turn it into a figure by entering the Setup room, then add a bone to control each group.  

Clear the Pose room by deleting any figures, then re-import the OBJ file you exported in the last step.  With the model selected, enter the Setup room.  Switch to a top view and click on the Bone Tool.  Now left click and drag from the rear of the Hip group to the front of that group.  Switch to a side view and click on the Move Tool to move the Hip bone into the proper position.  Go back to the Bone Tool and continue adding bones as shown in the top and side views below. 

You can save a lot of work by taking advantage of the symmetry function under the Figure menu.  Just concentrate on getting the bones on one side of the body positioned exactly.  After you have named the bones, apply Symmetry to get the two sides to match.



Arrange the Hierarchy and Name the Bones

Click on Window > Hierarchy Editor and a pop-up window should open similar to the one shown below.  A single click on a bone will select that bone.   A double click will open the Element Properties window.  Using this window, set the bone's name and internal name to be the same as the group's name.  Also make sure that the Bend box is checked.  Repeat this process for each bone until your Hierarchy Window looks like the image below.



Adjust the Blend Zones

Click on Window > Joint Editor.  In the pop-up window that opens, make sure that the Display Deformer box is checked.  In the first image below, the Tail2 bone is selected and the xRotate deformer is being displayed.  The mesh between the red and green handles will deform when the bone is moved.  Do the adjustment of the Blend Zones in the Setup room, then switch over to the Pose room to see how moving the bone affects the mesh.  You will also want to check the other rotations from different views to ensure smooth and natural bending for all of the poses you might give the model.

Spherical Falloff Zones were applied to all four legs.  The left rear leg was selected in the second image below.  Again, check all rotations from all viewpoints to avoid any nasty surprises.



Checking Things Out

Once you've gotten everything adjusted, start trying to pose the model in every position you can think of.  You are sure to find things that still need adjusting, and some problems won't be apparent until you've gotten some use out of the model.


The Rest of the Picture

The picture at the top of this tutorial, "ConeDogs at Play", was rendered in Bryce 5 using the same  model that was covered here.  The ConeDog textures were painted using Deep Paint 3D.  The landscape is a Bryce terrain generated using an image of animal hide, and the plants in the distance were created using XFrog.




Copyright 2003, Carl E Schou, All Rights Reserved