Getting animated about animation

I’ve had a hankering to animate again recently, geeking out designing characters and writing short, stupid, improbable storylines to entertain myself with.
I’ve dabbled in animation ever since Deluxe Paint 3 on the Amiga.
I briefly played around with machinima and Moho but this time I wanted to move away from comedy shorts and create something a little more serious in tone.

The last animation that I put together was episode 3 in a badly put together series of 6 episodes

That was 5 years ago, then the external hard drive that held all of my files died and couldn’t be resuscitated. A shame since the episode that I’d been working on was shaping up to be more that just a series of talking heads. Anyway, it put me off of animation for a while…
Until the other day, when I decided to invest in a copy of Poser 10

Poser 10



If you’re not familiar with Poser, it’s basically 3D character software. It doesn’t allow you to create unique 3D characters but it comes with a load of pre-made content that you can pose, light and animate. A similar program is Daz3D which is free but you need to buy the models and clothing separately.
Both products have a great user community behind them and a lot of people produce models, clothing, sets and props for free. The models can usually be used in both programs too but I chose Poser as it’s interface felt more familiar to me.

First I looked at the models that came with the program. There are a lot of so-called ‘legacy’ characters from previous versions of Poser that look kinda plastic and are low resolution, but still useful for characters that you want in the background of your scene as they don’t take much processing power to render.

The newer characters, in both Poser and Daz3D, all have names and I’ve included a few of the male characters here.

The Simon and James characters have the most interesting faces for me. Marcus, Diego and Tomo are all variations of the Ryan character. I’ve also included the free Genesis character from Daz3D, the skin looks a little waxy to me but that could be due to the Sub Surface Scattering that I might have applied incorrectly.
Ryan has the most clothes and accessories, and also the most morphs. A morph is a set of parameters that can be changed to affect the characters appearance. You can age the character, make them fattter, thinner or more muscular for example.
At some point, I want to look into generating unique characters in MakeHuman and then rigging them in Poser, but for now I’m going to modify the existing Poser characters to get them to look as unique as possible.
I also want to side-step the costly alternative of buying premade ‘actors’ that seems to be a popular alternative for many.

I’m still learning the basics of the software at the moment, and resisting the urge to dive straight into animating. It’s tempting since, the long render times of making CG animation is offset by the ease with which you can change the camera lense or relight the scene to bring a totally different look to it. Compared to my dabbling with 2D animation, where a different camera angle meant redrawing the entire character from scratch, this feels a lot freer.

So back to the boring basics it is, below are a few renders showing how a simple shot of mannequins can be altered with a few lighting / camera effects.