The 3D Figure Community: Everybody Hates Daz3D

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As I reported a few months ago, the 3D graphics community consisted of a friendly rivalry between Poser users and DAZ Studio users, which did not really matter that much until the newest DAZ 3D released content dubbed Genesis 3 was incompatible with Poser and could only be used on DAZ Studio software.

In the few months since then much has happened. New versions of both programs, DAZ Studio 4.9 and Poser 11 were released, and then DAZ started something that has made everybody mad: encrypted content.  There is a lot to cover.

Beautiful Fake People

Let’s get to what this is all about, it is creating pictures of beautiful fake people. There is some commercial applications to this, like illustration, animation and game development, but it is also a growing hobby.

The best 3D models come from DAZ 3D and they can generate the most realistic pictures like the one above. Each new figure they have released has been more realistic than the last. You can usually tell Genesis 3 figures from their realistic hands like in the one above.

Except that the picture above is not Genesis 3. It’s not even DAZ 3D. In fact there is not a single figure or prop in the picture from DAZ 3D. It is the Dawn model from Hivewire3D, specifically Elisa character with enhanced realistic hands. It was rendered in Poser 11 Pro.

My point is that you do not need DAZ products and software to create incredible images.

Poser 11 Pro Review

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A Superfly Render (click for full size)

Back in November Smith Micro released Poser 11 and Poser 11 Pro.  It continues to be the best software for this kind of work. Poser 11 adds a physics renderer called Superfly which is comparable to IRay or LUX Renderer but the materials can be built in the materials room like the Firefly renderer. My own experiments have been mixed.  The biggest flaw in Superfly is that the results don’t come anywhere close to the preview, but the same thing can be said about IRay.

Among the other new features not found in DAZ Studio is “Subdivision surface morphing” which allows a better control of the face (or other parts) for the purposes of animation.  There is also a new tool for adaptable figure weighting making it much easier to create new figures, and an easier way to share new morphs.

Poser continues to add tools to support import export to Maya, Blender, and other 3rd party software making it more desirable for professionals.

That’s why it costs $400, but the cost is the reason most hobbyists are going to DAZ Studio instead.

DAZ Studio 4.9

Meanwhile, DAZ Studio has released a new version 4.9 which except for some minor improvements is basically 4.8 with “DAZ Connect“.

What is DAZ Connect? It enables searching for products, purchasing, and installation of DAZ3D content directly in DS, without ever leaving DAZ Studio. What it really is is a DRM system to encrypt future products.

This has the whole community up in arms, both Poser users and DAZ Studio users. DRM will restrict the use of content. Despite the fact that they are no longer compatible, people still move between DAZ Studio and Poser, adapting and creating content for both. DRM destroys that.  This last month DAZ released their first “freebie” for DAZ Studio users that is only available in DAZ Connect. This has become the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back for a lot of people.

If DAZ3D continues down this road, it could kill all compatibility between DAZ and other 3rd party software and 3rd party content resources.  Many people have attempted to make this point on the DAZ forums only to have their posts removed.

DAZ3D is currently saying that all their previous content will continue to be available as non-encrypted and they have no plans to make new content connect-only. They have also stated that all encrypted content will be released after 1 year as unencrypted. This has calmed some upset users, but there is a worry that they will change their minds in the future.  Why have it if you are not going to use it?

The problems with DRM in an open community

Meanwhile, Charles Taylor the lead programmer of Poser, let his opinion of DRM be known in an interview with Renderosity.

The problem with DRM is that it is indiscriminate. It doesn’t know a legitimate user from a pirate. All too frequently legitimate users are prevented from using the product they have a valid license to use. Also, every DRM system is eventually hacked, so the only piracy it truly prevents is casual piracy.

Yes, it prevents some piracy. Would these people have purchased the content any way? We may never know that answer.

Ultimately DRM is no more effective than a padlock. It will keep the honest people honest. Anyone with a big enough hammer will steal it any way. The question that remains is, “Do you make your customers deal with the padlock every time they want to use the content they paid for just to keep the honest ones honest?”

At this time, we at Poser have no intent to introduce DRM to content. We think our customers are already honest.

DRM has its place. I don’t think 3D content is one of those places. Especially given the myriad of available export options in most 3D programs. With a click of the mouse, Poser content can be exported to something like FBX. DRM is so easily broken, it’s going to prevent very little piracy. It’s not worth the trouble for the company, the vendors or the customers.

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NVIATWAS

Here is my own feeling on DRM in the 3D art community. I have been doing Poser since Poser 2 in the late 90’s. It takes a while to learn this hobby and get good at it. It can also be an expensive hobby.

Irregardless of what tools you use, there is a learning curve in this hobby that requires some practice. “Free” DAZ Studio has brought a lot of new people into this hobby and that is a good thing. New people are just getting their feet wet and are not interested in spending lots of money.

NVIATWAS is what we sometimes call new amateurs, it’s an anagram of “Naked Vicky In A Temple With A Sword” which is the biggest cliché in the field. But it is a phase everyone goes through until they get good.

It is at this amateur level where you desire as much free content as possible whether it is DRM protected freebies or stolen “warez” which is what DRM is designed to protect, you want it all.

I went through my NVIATWAS phase, too. The above pic is not mine, its actually good, my own are not. I’ve never actually downloaded/used stolen 3D models (mostly because when I was in this phase there wasn’t enough interest to share them). My thing was using screenshots from video games as backgrounds, examples which you can see on the Date Ariane Wiki. It may not be as bad as theft, but it is still passing off others art as my own.

Eventually, you get good and want to do something more commercial, maybe even potentially sell. I reached that point about 5 years ago when I decided using video game screenshots in Date Ariane was amateurish.

I wanted to start creating stuff I could sell and that required purchasing new content and paying attention to licenses to make sure renders of models could be used commercially. Every prop and figure and texture in the current downloadable versions of Date Ariane and Something’s In The Air, that I did not make myself, was legally purchased.

I didn’t need DRM to keep me honest, it was the desire to keep things legal that kept me honest. DRM would make things more difficult because in some cases I had to go in and change some textures and figures on some of my purchased models and props to fit my needs.

In summary, amateurs don’t care about DRM and its existence or non existence will not get them to buy more, while the professionals who actually do make a lot of purchases are actually harmed with DRM and are unlikely to buy DRM protected models.

So, in this community, DRM really has no place in it.

DAZ3D Buys RuntimeDNA

In the latest bit of drama, the largest 3D product website just bought out the third largest, Runtime DNA.  This has of course created a lot of mixed reactions, especially by the independent artists that broker products at RDNA. Some are happy for the change, thinking DAZ3D will bring in eyeballs and more sales.

Others, for reasons I explained above want no part of DAZ and are looking to move their products somewhere else. There does not seem to be a shortage of places: YUR Digital and CG Bytes seem to be advertising themselves to former RDNA artists, though Renderosity, Hivewire3D, and Content Paradise are better known.

Just more drama for the 3D Community to get over.

What A Difference A Year Makes

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Over the past year, and especially the last month or two, I have been tinkering with the looks of the characters in the sequel.  Since we are in the new year, I thought I’d compare and contrast some of the models as they looked in 2011 to how they look today in 2013.

First up is Ariane, who has undergone quite a few model changes over the last year and a half. To the left is what she looked like in Date Ariane, and to the right is how she currently looks in SITA.  Quite a dramatic difference, and this is mostly due to a change from the old Victoria 3 model to the new Victoria 4 model.  There is now a Victoria 5, but it is not a significant improvement over Victoria 4.  It takes advantage of Daz Studio’s Genesis technology which makes models more versatile, but as of yet there is not much third party support for Genesis figures.

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I was going to leave Rebecca alone, especially since she is such a minor character, but after all the things I learned doing Ariane’s transformation, I could not help doing a new version of Rebecca too.  I used the elite “Sylph” shape for her body.  Rebecca has always been skinny, but now she is almost cartoonishly so, which is fine since she is a bit of a character to begin with.

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Since I decided to do this expansive visual novel with a lot of characters, I decided to make life simple and just used pre-built characters. One of the characters is sort of a “bad girl” type, and “Angel” from DAZ seemed like the perfect fit for the character.  The character is obviously based off of Angelina Jolie, which is fine, because I could see her playing the character.  The problem is that the face is more of a caricature of Jolie than a real look alike, and was hard to work with.  The thing was that the tattooed skin was perfect, but not the face.  So I changed the Angelina Jolie inspired head with a Meghan Fox inspired head.

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As I said, I’m cool prebuilt characters.  Here is a case where I swapped one for another.  This is Wendy, who I have not introduced yet. She is very athletic, and works as a fitness coach at the gym where part of SITA is set.  The original draft gave her a big role, then I decided to lop off her story, then I decided to put part of it back.  I originally picked Gabrielle, because she had an athletic body.  But about the time I decided to put Wendy’s character back in the game, I found Sirena, and had to use her in the game somewhere.  So I gave her some muscles and she became the new Wendy.

paulanew

Paula is a character that has been problematic from the get go. Her primary character traits are that she is smart, ginger, wears very little makeup, and purposely low maintenance hair.  She is not into fashion or beauty, but she kinda needs to be attractive.  Finding that fine line has been difficult.  I originally went for a freckled skin with a Natalie Portman shaped head, but then when tinkering with celebrity lookalike models, I found that Evangelina Lily’s head shape combined with Cate Blanchette’s skin tone gave me a really good face that would be perfect for Paula.

I’ve tinkered with other characters. Bonnie the bartender got a new hair style and color, when I realized I had too many black haired characters.  I tinkered with others not worth mentioning.  But let me leave you with one more you Date Ariane fans will find interesting:waitressnew

After changing Ariane and Rebecca, I thought I would get rid of the last Victoria 3 based characters to appear in both games, and create a new version of the Drive-N-Dine waitress.

My resolution for the new year is to finish this game and get it out in 2013.

The 3D Content Community

As you know I have been spending a lot of time working on my Visual Novel rather than writing in this blog, which is a good thing, because I want to get it done just as much as some of you want to play it.  Part of doing this project faster and better involves extensive use of the 3D Content Community.  I have never really talked about it much, it is kind of an odd subculture, so I thought I’d give it a shot.

One reason some of you might be interested in learning about the 3D Content Community is that getting into this hobby has never been cheaper.  Daz 3D has released 3 programs for free during the month of February, including Daz Studio Pro 4, Poser’s main competition.  Why would they give away $800 worth of software for free?  Well Hexagon and Bryce are easy to explain, they are minor 3D programs with lots of competition.  The “professional” community primarily uses Autodesk’s 3D Studio Max and Maya, these are the “Photoshop” programs in 3D and if you want to do this stuff professionally, it is what you need to know.  The cheaper and easier alternative is another Daz 3D owned property Carrara. It’s the “Paintshop Pro” of 3D, and gets a lot of support online. Not only it is easy to learn, it can open and save 3DMax files.  The free open source option is Blender, and its the GIMP of 3D.  Blender was the first to export SL “Sculpties”, making it popular in the Second Life community.  Left out in the cold is Hexagon (a 3D object builder) and Bryce (a 3D scene building program specializing in terrain building and atmosphere effects).  Making them available for free builds up their market share.

Daz 3D Studio Pro is becoming more and more popular.  For figure animation and rendering it is in second place behind Poser, and growing in popularity as it is now equal in capabilities.  Why would they give away a program that it already selling fairly well?  That answer is easy.  In the 3D community, the money is not in the software sales, it is in the content sales.  Getting more people interested in buying 3D content is the name of the game.  Daz (formerly Zygote) is the most popular provider of 3D content.  They make the “Millenium” models, the most popular is Victoria and Michael.  Victoria 4 and Michael 4 have been out for about 4 years now and far and away the largest amount of support, especially when it comes to vitally important accessories, like clothes, hair, textures, shapes, poses, and sets.  Recently Daz 3D introduced the “Genesis” model, which is a higher resolution version of Millenium, and Victoria 5 is the premiere product on this platform.

The problem with Victoria 5, is the same problem for all new models: Very little content.  That will change in time as the model gets more popular, but for now Victoria 4 is the queen of content, and the difference between V4 and V5 is not big enough for people with large V4 inventories to switch.  Hence Daz 3D needs new users, and giving away Daz 3D Studio Pro, will hopefully make that happen.  You can also get the base model Victoria 5 for the cost of a magazine.

Now that I have shown you how to get into 3D art, the next question is “why?”  The answer varies from person to person.  Mostly it is some creative outlet.  Renderosity was built on being a showcase for budding 3D artists to show their work.  Now that deviantART and Flickr have taken over that role, Renderosity has become the largest content provider.  A lot of us got into it by doing interesting stills.  I myself have taken some photography classes, and I have used the things I have learned in photography to help my 3D stills work.  What drove me was an interest in animation, which proved to be a lot of work, so I took an in between route and  learned to tell stories with pictures.  This has proven to be an awesome creative outlet, not too difficult or expensive, and lots of fun.  I am finding 3D story telling communities popping up, and I find it rewarding how many quote my dating sim as an influence.

There are dozens of websites that specialize in 3D models, mostly for the professional Autodesk users for commercial renders and animation.  Since my program of choice is Poser, I limit myself to sites that specialize in Poser content. The above mentioned Daz 3D and Renderosity are the two most popular, rounding out the top 3 is Content Paradise which is owned by Smith Micro, the makers of Poser.  Their library is more extensive than the other two, but the quality control is not as tight, I use it for stuff I cant find anywhere else.

As usual, there is also the “free” content sites, the largest is ShareCG.  I have managed to find some good quality stuff there, but a lot of it is unusable.  Be careful with the licensing on that site too, a lot is “non-commercial” only.  The guitars and drums in the picture up top came from this site by a 3D artist Music2u4u.  I wish these props were more animate-able, but they are great quality for “free” models.

In a future post I should like to discuss the differences between the 3D content community and the Second Life content community, and how they could learn from each other.  Meanwhile, I got some new toys to play with.