The 3DCheapskate's Brief Guide To Toy-Box Software
This is perhaps the most fun sort of 3D software for a beginner. You have a library of ready-made 3D models: people, animals, clothing, buildings, trees, vehicles, etc. Put clothes on the figures, load up some scenery, place and pose the figures appropriately, put things in their hands, add some lighting, set up a camera and take your virtual photo. Add a timeline and move the figures around and you can make you're own animated movie! Software I've put into this category is DAZ Studio and Poser. And just in case you'd forgotten what you can do with these programs here are the relevant showcase galleries again...
But let's start with some generic concepts common to 'toy-box' software.
A Generic Overview Of 'Toy-Box' Software
As usual the user interfaces (UIs) look very different at first glance. Take a quick look at the screenshots below (click on them to see larger images) - they're the UIs for DAZ Studio 4.5 (left) and Poser 9 (right). (Note:DAZ Studio allows you to select from several different UIs.)
Get To Grips With The Basic UI Controls
To create your masterpiece you'll need to start by adding various items to the scene. Then you'll need to move them around within the scene, and if they're human figures or animals you'll want to pose them. You'll want to look at your scene from different viewpoints, e.g. camera view, top view, front view, side view. You can often adjust each view independently by panning, zooming, rotating, orbiting, etc.
Unfortunately there's no universal rule across different software for which action has which result. It's just something you have to learn. But here are a few general pointers.
- Adding items is often done by clicking a button/icon.
- You can often select an item that's already in the scene by clicking it.
- Adjusting an item is often done by a click-and-drag with the mouse.
- (Left-)click, double-click, and right-click usually do different things.
- The scroll wheel is often used as well.
- Holding the Control, Shift, or Alt key down while clicking or dragging often does something different.
You might be able to work it out for yourself by just playing. Some software provides a sheet you can print out listing all the common functions and the keys you press to get at them (if your software doesn't, then it's well worth creating one yourself!). Otherwise you'll have to check the manuals and tutorials.
The Basic Elements Of Toybox Software
You'll probably use all of these when you're setting up your scene:
- Lights: Without any lights you won't see anything. Some software automatically applies a light if you don't have one.
- Cameras: You need a camera to take your virtual photograph of your imaginary scene
- Props: Everything you add to the scene that hasn't got 'joints', i.e. things that don't bend and twist. Buildings, vehicles, trees, furniture, etc. (This definition isn't quite true, but it gives you the broad idea)
- Figures: These are the things with joints that can bend and twist. People and creatures mainly. But clothing as well. And hairstyles, sometimes (although they're a sort of special case). And other things may be figures too.
- Poses: You don't actually add these to your scene, you apply them to a figure. There are often special types of poses for faces and for hands.
- Materials: You can change the colour, pattern, and texture of most things you have
One thing appears to be missing - skies and backgrounds. This is often handled by using a 'backdrop' or 'set' within the scene and applying a photographic image of ssky and horizon to give the impression of a background. Skydomes and terrains can also be used. But you don't need any form of background - when you do your render all the bits that would be background can just be made transparent, so you can easily combine a render of a dragon with a real life photo using a bit of postwork.
DAZ Studio 4.5 Pro (Free [for a limited time]'Toy-box' software)
DAZ 3D don't seem to have a showcase gallery any more, so check out Renderosity's DAZ Studio gallery.
DAZ Studio 4.5 Pro from DAZ 3D says it's "the most powerful collection of 3D software available for FREE for a limited time". There are versions for MAC and Windows, and they've stated that the 'Pro' version will only be free for a limited period - after that the 'standard' version might still be free. The older version (DAZ Studio 3) is no longer available for download from any legitimate source, which is a shame since the newer version requires a fairly new computer. Unless you've got at least a dual core Windows PC (or the MAC equivalent) it's probably going to run really slowly, maybe too slowly to be useable. But it's free (for a limited period) and if you download, install and register it you won't be kicking yourself when you do get hold of a faster computer only to find it's no longer free. There's a pretty good user manual included when you download. I think you need to create a user account at DAZ 3D in order to download. You need an email address and some personal details (I vaguely recall that they ask for some payment method, but you can skip this since you're ordering a free item).
The picture here was created from scratch in about 10-15 minutes. All I really did was to place a few bits of ready-made scenery, put some clothes on a doll, pose her, sit her in the scene, set up a couple of lights, and take a photo.
Poser (Paid 'Toy-box' software)
What can you do with Poser? Take a look at Smith Micro's Poser galleries.
Poser from Smith Micro (no, their main site doesn't mention it!) says it's "a virtual photo or film studio". It's available for both MAC and Windows. There have never (to my knowledge) been free versions. Poser is available in three versions: Poser Debut (Around $50), Poser 'standard' (currently Poser 9, around $300), and Poser Pro (currently Poser Pro 2012, around $500).
The picture here was created from scratch in about 10-15 minutes. Same method as DAZ Studio - place a few bits of ready-made scenery, put some clothes on a doll, pose her, sit her in the scene, set up a couple of lights, and take a photo.
If you're thinking of buying Poser, but you're not in a hurry, then it's worth getting yourself on the mailing lists for a few 3D websites (I'd suggest Content Paradise, Renderosity, and Runtime DNA for starters). Once or twice a year there are usually short-lived heavy-discount offers - e.g. in October 2012 Poser 9 was available for abot $70, and in March 2013 Poser 9 was available for $70 again and Poser Pro 2012 for $250. Also it's sometimes possible to find legal copies of older versions (e.g. Poser 7, Poser 8) for sale on the internet, but it's a case of 'buyer beware'. Only buy from reputable companies, or reputable vendors. Check the forums on 3D sites like Renderosity for more information.