Sep 04

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Check Out DAZ Studio 4.5 Pro

This blog is not about 3D modeling.  Nor do most writers have either access to or experience with professional 3D modeling and production tools.  But for those who do, they can be a powerful means to produce book covers, or even more ambitiously, book trailers.

For those of you who are into this sort of thing, or have an interest anyway, or have at least enough tolerance to listen, let me lay a little background.  I’ve been using 3ds Max for 10 years or so, and given inanimate objects I can do a fairly realistic job.  It’s creatures that have always scared me, especially human ones. The facts are clear: I can’t draw worth a damned, and so if I try to manually create a 3-dimensional mesh that looks anything remotely like a human face … well, let’s not even go there.  So my only choice was to create a mesh in something else and import it into Max.

Well, I’ve tried Poser, and between you and me, it sucks.  DAZ Studio is a lot easier to use, and I think creates more realistic people.  The problem has been getting them from DAZ into Max.  There is supposed to be a COLLADAMAX plugin for 3ds Max that imports Collada format, which you’re supposed to be able to export from DAZ.  Unfortunately, I could never get the plugin on the Max side, nor the export on the DAZ side to work.  The best I could do was export the mesh into Lightwave format and import that, but then all I could get was the mesh.

Well, you ask, isn’t that what I wanted?  Well, that’s part of the problem, and the mesh would be fine if you wanted all your characters to look like they’re made of alabaster.  There are the diffuse maps that give color to skin and eyes, bump maps that give physical texture, opacity maps for degrees of transparency, and to link all of these to the mesh requires what are call UV maps.  I once tried for hours to make the DAZ maps match anything in Max, but doing that by hand is really no easier than making them all from scratch.  I gave up.

If only DAZ would export to FBX format, which is becoming an industry standard.

Lo, and behold, it does!  You can buy a plugin, but while researching this, I discovered that DAZ is offering the professional version of Studio 4.5 for the unbeatable price of $0.00.

It turns out that this was supposed to be a special offer that would end on Februrary 29, 2012, but for some reason they continued it.  I don’t know how long they will continue to continue it, but if you have any interest at all, get it now.  The professional version includes, along with several other cool things, FBX export!

I need a thug.  So I made one in DAZ.  He’s not finished.  He needs some scars and pockmarks, some rotten teeth, unkept beard, and maybe a hairy mole, but I’ll do all that in Max.  I did give him a crooked nose, however.  Here is how he rendered out in DAZ Studio with default lighting:

Notice the crooked nose?  At this point, I exported to FBX and imported into Max, and this is what I got:

Yeah, the camera and lighting are different, but who cares?  Notice that I even got the bloodshot eyes.  There was one glitch: his eyelashes were 100 times too long and poked through his cheeks, but that might have been my fault for not checking the scaling.

But the really cool part?  I noticed that it had imported morphs as well as everything else.  I had already bought all the face, body, and emotion morphs for DAZ and they worked right away in version 4.5.  I was only using one for this figure: Angry.  I figured I’d have to export a separate angry mesh and do the morphing manually, but no, there it was automatically.  Once I figured out how to just export just the morph I wanted, it showed up properly in the 3ds Max hierarchy like magic.  Just move up the slider in Max and he looks like this:

See!  Teeth far too nice for a thug!

So, in maybe half an hour, learning as I went, I accomplished what would have taken me a couple weeks without this cooperative export/import ability between the two programs.

As I said at the beginning, this post is slightly off topic.  On the other hand, if you’re like me and get a perverse enjoyment at rolling your own covers and trailers, you might want to check this out.  Even if you don’t have access to 3ds Max or Maya, DAZ Studio itself can do some good rendering; it just doesn’t have the overall power for complicated systems and special effects.  Blender is another free modeling and rendering program that you might find useful.

Want the link?  http://www.daz3d.com/shop/daz-studio-4-pro


Permanent link to this article: http://www.duanevore.com/check-out-daz-studio-4-5-pro/

1 comment

  1. Duane

    It’s time to add an addendum. When I first tried this, I lucked out and happened to pick a base figure that worked. After that time, I made the rather unpleasant discovery that many don’t. Oh, they appear to at first. Max recognizes the FBX and imports it, but after that it just goes crazy, eating up 100% of CPU time and thrashing the disk, sometimes with tens or hundreds of megabytes per second. Forever, and ever, and ever. It’s quite a nuisance to have to call up Process Explorer (I replaced Task Manager years ago) and kill it ruthlessly.

    I played around for quite a while until preparations for a forum inquiry about it lead me in the right direction. It seems that if you import just the problematic files, without the texture maps, Max runs OK. But it’s not any particular map. Each one slows things down a little bit until once you have 16 or 20, it’s all but hopeless. You might as well be running on a 16MHz 286.

    I do have a theory, and that is that it has something to do with the UV mapping scheme, not the images themselves. I do know from tinkering around with DAZ Studio that different base models use different mapping schemes. With that in mind, I went though the different base figures to see what worked well and what didn’t. Here are the results, keeping in mind, of course, that I don’t have every DAZ figure ever made.

    These work: Genesis Basic Male, Genesis Basic Female, Michael 3, Victoria 4.

    These don’t: Genesis Basic Child, TheKids 4, Victoria 5.

    Incidentally, Shigi hair messes it up, too.

    I don’t have time, really, to parse through the FBX files and mapping coordinates to try to figure out exactly what is making Max choke on its own format. I have a work-around, for the most part: stick with figures that work. You can start with Basic Male, for example, tweak up the child morph, and still get a child. Often, too, you can export in .obj format and get the basic mesh and textures (you will probably have to add search paths during the import for the texture maps) and might have to reverse normals, but it’s workable for pretty much anything except animated figures. I don’t think you can get unbaked morphs that way, either.

    Still, despite the problems, DAZ Studio 4.5 does make going from DAZ to Max a lot easier than it was just a couple months ago.

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