Poser through the years

Oct 07, 2020 at 01:00 pm by Michelle Willard

Poser 12: Better. Faster. Stronger

Each new major release of Poser has added either to the features or performance of the software. Poser 12 will be no different.

As addressed in a previous post, Poser 12 represents the next step in the revitalization of the Poser software brand. So we'd like to take this opportunity to look back at how the software has grown over the years.

Where did Poser start

Larry Weinberg created Poser to be a better mannequin for artists to use as a reference. Weinberg started his work as an illustrator with a small wooden mannequin from an art store, but it wasn't quite right for what he wanted to do. Then inspiration struck, and he decided to create a digital mannequin. He turned the experience and knowledge he had gained at his day job as a programmer and animator in Hollywood to build the first version of Poser. 

Fractal Design released the first version in 1995 as a simple visualization tool for artists to quickly and easily create poses (hence the name Poser) to use as a human simulation.

"I knew Poser could be a useful tool but the response was overwhelming and the art it helped create was mind-blowing," Weinberg said.

In 1996, Poser 2 was released with the ability to add props to scenes, create animation and introduced high-resolution models.

How Poser became Poser

Over the course of a few years, Poser added many of the features that became the core of the software and became the Poser we know and love. As Poser's fan base grew, so did its uses. The program has been used in scientific, medical, architectural, CAD, theatrical, and dance-based applications, along with 3D modeling, digital art and computer graphics. The program evolved with a friendlier interface, more rendering powers, new content, and many new features.

The evolution started in 1998 when Poser's interface was redesigned by MetaCreations' Phil Clevenger for release as Poser 3, which has serves as the basis for all subsequent versions, including Poser 12. Poser 3 also added facial posing and animation and human figures with jointed figures.

A year later, Poser 4 was released and the software grew exponentially. This version included the ability to sculpt figures with deformers, added a transparent mode for textures and conforming clothes, which conformed to the shape and pose of the Poser figure.

At this point, clothing became separate from the humanoid figure. Early versions of Poser were bundled with fully clothed humanoid figures specifically designed for the software. As the program evolved, add-on packages of human figures were sold by the manufacturer of Poser, and eventually, third-party companies, like Renderosity began to fill the need for additional content.

In 2000, an add-on pack called Pro. The Pro pack implemented Python scripting, custom figure rigging, and support for 3ds Max, Lightwave and Cinema 4D.

As the program grew in complexity, the releases slowed from the quick pace of the early years. The next major release was in 2003 with Poser 5, which added FireFly, dynamic hair and cloth, collision detection, and the morph putty tool.

The FireFly render engine is a Reyes-based render engine, which supports nodes for the creation of complex materials. Reyes rendering was the gold-standard for rendering photo-realistic images. It was developed in the mid-1980s by Lucasfilm's Computer Graphics Research Group (now Pixar) and was first used for the Genesis effect sequence in the movie Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan. Reyes rendering allows for fast high-quality rendering of complex images. The engine has been and is still used in many 3D programs, like Poser, RenderMan for Maya, and Bakery Relight.

In 2005, Poser 6 featured OpenGL hardware acceleration, image-based lighting, cartoon outline rendering, inclusion of "Primitives" Zygote props, binary morphs, and the inclusion of male and female genitalia.

Released in 2007, Poser 7 included new motion capture data; light sets, poses and materials; Talk Designer; multiple undo/redo; multi-thread rendering; high dynamic range imaging; brush morphing; animation layers; universal poses; and universal binary.

The Smith Micro Years

The first version released after its acquisition by Smith Micro Software, Poser Pro was formally introduced as its own software in 2008. The new Pro version contained all the same features, but added COLLADA support and plug-in support for Cinema 4D and Maya.

In 2008, Poser 8 came with new characters, a slightly redesigned UI and new content management system; a cross body morph tool; global illumination; improved OpenGL, Wardrobe Wizard; and improved Python support.

While Poser 2010 enhanced the UI and added professional art and animation tools, Poser 9's 2011 release included a host of new features: subsurface scattering, vertex weight map rigging, expanded menus, mutli-select drag-and-drop, grouping objects, rotate object/frame object, camera controls, pre-render texture caching, and Python 2.7.

Poser 2012 improved with vertex weight map creation tools; Poser Fusion plug-ins for Lightwave, Cinema 4D, Autodesk Maya and Autodesk 3ds Max; COLLADA import and export; and import full body morph.

In 2013, Poser 10 included all new features in Poser 9 and added magnet and deformer weight map painting tools, Pixar subdivision surfaces, bullet physics for rigid and soft body and hair dynamics, cartoon preview, magnet and deformer weight maps, material compound nodes, ray-tracing preview pane, and new human figures.

Between Poser 10 and Poser 11 in 2015, Smith Micro released Poser Pro 2014 and Poser Pro Game Dev. These version added features for advanced uses and updated content distribution licensing to allow for use in and distribution in video games.

The most current version of Poser was released in November 2015. Poser 11 updated the render engine with SuperFly Render, which is based on Cycles, as well as updating Pixar Subdivision Surfaces, multi-resolution morphs for subdivided meshes, user adaptable rigging, smooth linear transformation, body control props and cartoon mode control panel.

"The Poser artists and modelers of the world have pushed far beyond anything I thought possible. Poser has been used in award-winning character animations, as design for huge sculptures, for comic books, for medical illustration and instruction, for legal reconstruction, and for unleashing the kind of astounding images that, well, move us all," Weinberg said.

What's planned for Poser 12?

Poser 12 will update several core technologies that have evolved significantly over the five years since the last major release. This includes the Cycles 2 (Superfly) render engine and the Python3 embedded scripting language.

Other new features will include Post Render Effects to speed or embellish renders for single frame or animation renders; Integrated Download Manager for Included Content; Improved Download Manager for Purchased Content; Material Room overhaul with material assignment power tools; and more.

Most of the new features are now complete and in beta testing.