Software review: Daz Studio 4 Pro
With a plethora of handy features, the figure posing and animating tool aims to unleash the artist within – but does it? Cirstyn Bech-Yagher finds out…
Pro: $430 / Advanced: $230 / Studio: $50
UPDATE: 6 Feb 2012
Grab Daz Studio Pro, Bryce Pro and Hexagon for nothing, for a limited period
DEVELOPER DAZ 3D
PLATFORM Windows / Mac
- Genesis figure library
- New CMS
- Poser 2012 compatible
DAZ 3D has come a long way since its beginning in 2001. After splitting from initial Poser figure creator Zygote Media Group, it’s grown from a small concern into a software house, and one of the biggest prosumer brokerages on the net. During this time, it’s seemingly made every effort to provide its clients the means to create fast and easy 3D figure and render content. DAZ 3D’s latest offering, Daz Studio 4 – its flagship prosumer product – is no exception.
Coming two years after version 3, and heavily upgraded and updated, the current release ships in three flavours: Daz Studio 4, for hobbyists and beginners; Daz Studio 4 Advanced, tooled for intermediates and illustrators, focusing on shader-building and figure utilisation; and Pro, aimed at content creators.
The latter two now ship with many of the standalone plug-ins that are available in the store baked into the application. Advanced comes with the Auto-Fit tool, allowing for current Generation 4 items to be used on the coming Genesis-based Generation 5 figures; Progressive Rendering for draft-quality renders followed by a series of better images on subsequent passes; and a Multi-Layered Image Editor that enables image layer creation for decal or tattoo generation. Daz Studio 4 Pro ships with everything in the Advanced version, in addition to Photoshop and ZBrush bridges, the Content Creator Toolkit for figure set-up and rigging, and game-content export tools, such as an FBX exporter and a Texture Atlas utility.
The Auto-Fit tool fits Millennium figure Generation 4 outfits to Genesis figures by loading the mesh, conforming it to a Genesis figure, and then adding morphs
The Genesis framework
Common to all flavours is the inclusion of DAZ’s new award-winning Genesis content framework. Based on a single, androgynous biped capable of taking morphs of all shapes and sizes, this fifth series of DAZ’s figure range bends and poses significantly better than its predecessors.
As you can see, the Genesis figure on the right bends more smoothly than the Generation 4 Victoria figure on the left
DAZ 3D has finally moved away from the canonical Poser figure set-up, and has added new and additional rigging into the figure, using its TriAx Weight-map System, which weight-maps per axis joint. Facilitating content creation for the new figure, the stand-out feature in Daz Studio Pro is without a doubt the incorporated Content Creator Toolkit.
The content creation tools that ship with the Pro edition of Daz Studio 4, and which are also available as a separate plug-in, add a lot of ease and functionality to Daz figure garment creation
Similar to the Poser Cloth Room in function, but different in implementation and functionality, the content creation tools add a lot more ease and flexibility to conforming garment creation, once you’re over the learning curve. With the Transfer Utility, there’s no more need to import and zero the figure, stripping and tweaking a conformer CR2; or to cut groups manually to make the garment conform and bend right, following ye olde Poser way of doing things. (You may still want to do this though, to preserve Poser‑backwards compatibility.)
Instead, you import your garment mesh, use the Transfer Utility to define source and target figure, specify options, and then tweak with the joint and weight-mapping tools. You can further refine your mesh by using a meshsmooth-modifier and the new collision detection tools. The figures will automatically take the dialled up Genesis morphs, which is handy because it gives a baseline for export into modellers for morph-tweaking, as clothing often requires better drape, fitting and wrinkle morphs than the Genesis morphs can provide alone. Easy to use, the Daz 3D GoZ ZBrush bridge has been included in the release with this and figure morphing in mind, enabling you to switch back and forth quickly between the apps when working with these.
Another export function in Daz Studio Pro is the reduced game-content exporter kit. While you can still triangulate a mesh, you can’t decimate it any more – which may be just as well, as the tool never provided retopologising functionality. However, you can still export in any binary or ASCIII FBX format from 2008 to 2012, and it also ships with Daz 3.0’s Texture Atlas plug-in by default.
The Texture Atlas function, found in the City Limits workspace style layout, helps simplify texture export into other apps
Daz Studio Pro comes with a plethora of great little touches and featurettes under the hood – if you know where to find them. As with Bryce 7 and Carrara, this is yet another release from DAZ 3D without a full set of documentation for any version, which is a nuisance – especially for beginners. It’s in the works, but that doesn’t excuse shipping yet another major release without a comprehensible set of documentation. The user forums and a handful of videos from previous versions, no matter how good, only go so far.
Ever since it was in beta, one of the biggest gripes about Daz Studio has been the messiness of its content management system. Despite some great new features, such as Smart Content (which lists what content is compatible with the item you’ve just loaded, but which depends entirely on added metadata), dividing the content database into Daz Studio- and Poser-native stuff, and alphabetical listings and search filters, this release is no different.
Arch-rival Poser has a fairly rigid structure in its runtime (even though it’s loosened up a little now), which has over time facilitated ease of navigation and a semblance of order. This means that no matter how merchants name their stuff, you know where to look for it, because if the directory structure isn’t followed, you risk your content not working. By comparison, Daz Studio’s content management system is riddled with duplicates and folder clutter for many, exacerbated by previous Daz installer directory inconsistencies and naming conventions. To make the most of the system, your best bet is to consolidate: one big runtime for the Poser stuff and throwing all your Daz content into the My Library folder. Even then, you may run into duplicates, because a lot of installers also install a runtime folder in the Daz content directory, which you may want to weed out if the item doesn’t call on the runtime. Despite the excellent underlying concepts, they could benefit from some harder structural tightening and better system support from the Daz content installers.
So, how does Daz Studio measure up to its rival, Poser? It really boils down to taste: both Pro versions currently ship with similar features and toolsets, and are inter-compatible, most recently with Daz opening up its DSF file format to Smith Micro to facilitate Genesis compatibility. Where Daz Studio beats Poser hands down, however, is in innovation, scalability and a willingness to try new things (even though they may not always work out). So if you’re a prosumer, or work with prosumer content generation, Daz Studio 4 Pro is definitely worth a try.
- Ease of use
- Content creation tools
- Very little documentation
- Messy CMS
- Sometimes UI stops responding to mouse
- 3Dlight renderer can be slow/li>
With a plethora of handy features, Daz Studio 4 Pro eases old and new users into 3D image and content generation
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cirstyn Bech-Yagher is a long-time freelancing all-rounder, doing anything from project management to modelling, rigging and texturing.
UPDATE: 16 January 2012
DAZ Studio 184.108.40.206 beta is available
The latest beta version of DAZ Studio 4 has been released with much needed improvements to the CR2 Exporter. This enhanced functionality makes it easier to export objects, primarily Genesis figures, from Daz Studio into Poser.
For information about changes and bug fixes in DAZ Studio 220.127.116.11 follow the forum thread at DAZ 3D
UPDATE: 6 Feb 2012
Grab Daz Studio Pro, Bryce Pro and Hexagon for nothing
on Saturday, January 14th, 2012 at 9:16 pm under Applications, Reviews.
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Tags: 3D content, 3D image, Animation, Auto-Fit, Daz 3d, Daz Studio 4 Pro, figure design, genesis, Poser 2012, Texture Atlas