This is the sixth of a series of weekly posts that covers my efforts to learn and create with Smith-Micro's Poser application. I'll share the information I learn, any tricks or tips I come across, and my thoughts on Poser as a creative tool. My goal will be to follow my interests as I become more familiar with the program.
In this sixth week, I'll be working in the Poser “Face Room” trying to re-created a classic photographic self-portrait by the Russian artist Rodchenko.
Before we begin, I want to clarify that I am using Poser Pro 11.1. Smith-Micro created two versions of Poser: Poser 11 and Poser Pro 11. The difference is that Poser Pro provides advanced rendering, a fitting room for clothes and more. The price for Poser Pro 11.1 is $349. Updgrade from Poser 11 is $110. Full details at this link.
The Face Room
Poser's division of the program into various rooms is a good organizing principle and helps make your workflow move efficiently. This week I'm working in the Poser “Face Room” which is where users create new faces and textures for their Poser characters. This room is set up so that you import a front and a side photograph of the person you want to shape your Poser face to. It's pretty clear in the interface of the Face Room how this works. Once you've imported you have the ability to apply the texture from the photo to your Poser figure and to change the various part of the face to conform to the shape of your face in the photograph. In my case, I'm using a photo of Rodchenko that is a 3/4 side pose and that's it. I tried for an hour to see if I could fit the Rodchenko photo into a side pose in the Face Room, but was unsuccessful. Oh, well, the texture is not that important as I can fix it up in Photoshop after I get the final render.
Now it's on to changing the facial morphs in the Face Room to fit the Rodchenko portrait. I found a good Poser figure in my stock inventory that has the general shape of my photograph. That's the Paul Poser figure. I loaded him into the scene, switched to a face camera (icons on the left of the interface) and then clicked on the Face Room. From there I split my screen so that I could look at the photo on the right side and the Poser Face Room interface on the left. After nearly two hours of micro-adjusting things like brow, forehead, nose, chin, cheeks and ears, I got a version of Rodchenko that I was happy with.
I was confused a bit by the choice boxes you have under the main Poser face screen. They are “Apply to Figure”, “Spawn Morph Target”, “Apply Shape Only”, and “Apply Texture Only”, so I chose “Apply to Figure” and hoped that would work. It did because when I switched back to the Pose Room my Paul figure had the new Rodchenko face. I'm going to have to do some research to understand my other possibilities. I'm wondering if this means that my Paul figure now has a permanent Rodchenko face?
Lighting and Rendering Rodchenko
Lighting is very strange in Poser. That doesn't necessarily mean that it's harder it's just that Poser goes about lighting in a way that is very different from the majority of 3D programs. In the lower left corner of the main Poser interface you have a sphere surrounded with balls that represent lights in the scene. You can move them around and watch how the lighting changes in real time in your scene. When you click on one of the light dots you can then go to the properties of that light and adjust the kind of of light, color, shape and more.
I struggled a bit with the default lighting setup until I just deleted them all and started with one light. The Rodchenko portrait has a strong side light with a little bit of fill on the left side. I added one light and then tried various positions and light types until I ended up with something I felt I could work within Photoshop. Later, I realized that the Poser library comes with many default lighting setups (including single light scene). I was never quite satisfied with the lighting, but I didn't want to slow down the process so I picked the best one and moved on.
Rendering was a better experience, but without a good skin material, it was hit or miss. I went over rendering in Poser in last weeks article, so I won't go into detail here. I finally ended up using a pre-set render setting in the medium range. This gave me a simple, but usable render image that I can take to Photoshop and adjust.
Photoshop and Post-Processing
I immediately removed the color from the Rodchenko render and adjusted settings to get the right shadow look for parts of the face. I had to do some clone stamp selections on parts of the face to remove highlights I didn't want. And, finally, I applied some special skin brushes from Pixelstains (free, see link at bottom) which helped out a lot.
Lastly, I added a field blur in order to create depth of field which added a lot to the final render below.
Clearly, I have a ways to go with this Rodchenko portrait. Ideally, I'd go back and do some tweaking on the face morphs and re-render using a finer render. I'd also spend more time getting the background lighting right (it's too dark in my version above). It would also be great to get a shirt, tie and jacket on him to fit the photo. Overall, I think I got the general look and mood of the portrait which is what I think is most important.