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'Poser 8 Revealed': Creating and Applying Materials - Part 1

Kelly L. Murdock begins the discussion of creating and applying materials from Poser 8 Revealed.

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Do you remember when television went from black and white to color? How about when computers went from black and white to color? What about PDAs? Adding colors and materials to objects adds an entire new dimension to the scene and the same is true with Poser figures.

After loading and posing a figure, you can add many details to the scene using materials. Materials are coverings used for the various elements in the scene. They can be as simple as a color, or as complex as a full texture with bumps and highlights.

You can load Poser materials, like many other facets of Poser, from the Library palette or create them by hand using the controls found in the Material Room. Within the Material Room is the Shader Window, which includes two different interface panels. The Simple panel includes only basic material properties such as Diffuse Color, Highlights, Ambient, Reflection, Bump, and Transparency. The Advanced panel includes an interface for compositing nodes to create multi-layer materials.

[Tools You’ll Use] Texture map, Bump Map, Object List, Material List, Room help, Pop-up menu

Advanced materials are created using sets of values called nodes, which are combined in such a way that one node controls the value of a connected node. Every node includes a Value Input and a Value Output icon that can be connected, forming a chain of values. You can create several categories of nodes, including a set for performing mathematical functions, a category to control different lighting models, and several 2D and 3D textures that can be manipulated using values.

You can enable several specific material properties such as subsurface scattering and refraction using the scripts found in the Wacros palette.

You also can smooth or facet adjacent polygons by setting the global or local Crease Angle value. Smoothing groups can also be established using the Group Editor to define which polygons are smoothed together. To apply materials to certain sections of a figure, you can create custom material groups using the Grouping Tool and the Group Editor.

You can use the Material Room to access several scene materials such as lights, backgrounds, and atmospheric effects. Effects such as depth cueing and volume fog can add to the ambience of a scene.

[Figure 8-1] Material Room interface


You open the Material Room by clicking the Material tab at the top of the Poser interface or by selecting the Render, Materials (Ctrl/Command+U) menu command. This opens an interface setup that is different from the Pose Room, as shown in Figure 8-1, although it includes all of the same controls as the Pose Room, including the Document Window, the Camera and Light controls, the Document Display Style and Editing Tools button sets. The main interface found in the Material Room is the Shader Window.

When the Material Room is opened, you can load materials from the Library. Chapter 2, “Using the Poser Library,” covers using the Library palette.

Some third-party vendors combine several material definitions into a single MAT file. These MAT files have been replaced by the newer MC6 and MCZ formats in Poser 6, but if you change the extension of a MAT file to MC6, it can be opened in Poser 8.

[Figure 8-2] Shader Window

Using the Shader Window

The Shader Window, shown in Figure 8-2, is a large interface for creating and editing materials. The material displayed in the Shader Window is applied to the material group listed in the Material List at the top of the Shader Window. The Material List includes all the material groups for the object selected in the Object List. The Object List lets you select from the scene props, lights, the current figure, or the background or atmosphere. The top of the Shader Window also includes a help icon that opens the Room Help and a pop-up menu.

Using the Group Tool and the Group Editor palette, you can create your own material groups. This is covered later in the chapter.

Selecting Material Groups with the Material Select Tool

In addition to the Material List located at the top of the Shader Window, you can also select material groups using the Material Select Tool (which looks like an eyedropper) found among the Editing Tools buttons. When you drag this tool over the figure in the Document Window, the cursor looks like an eyedropper. Any material group that is selected automatically appears in the Material List and its material is displayed in the Shader Window.

[Figure 8-3] Advanced Material panel

Using the Simple Material Panel

The Shader Window is divided into two separate panels, each opened with the corresponding tab. The Simple Material panel includes the most basic materials and offers a quick and easy way to build and apply materials. The materials included on the Simple Material panel include Diffuse Color, Ambient, Highlight, Reflection, Bump, and Transparency along with all the controls to define and edit these properties. The panel also includes a Material Preview pane, which displays a rendered example of the designated material.

For some loaded materials viewed in the Simple panel, a small exclamation point icon is visible in the upper-right corner of the various properties. This icon indicates that some additional parameter values are available for this property that can only be accessed from within the Advanced panel.

Using the Advanced Material Panel The Advanced Material panel, shown in Figure 8-3, includes panels known as nodes. Each node has many material properties and you can connect multiple nodes to create unique and diverse material types. In the top-right corner of each node are two icons that you can use to show or hide the material values and the preview pane.

[Figure 8-4] Wacros palette

Accessing the Wacros Palette

To the right side of the Shader Window is a side window control bar. Clicking this bar opens the Wacros palette, as shown in Figure 8-4. Wacros are scripted actions that you can access to help automate the building of advanced materials such as adding refraction and reflection to the current material and setting up toon rendering. Using the User Defined button, you can access custom created wacros. You create custom wacros by using PoserPython, a scripting language available within Poser. More on creating custom wacros is covered in Chapter 18, “Writing Python Scripts.”

Previewing Materials

If you have selected the OpenGL Display option for the Document Window, you can preview actual shader nodes within the preview window. This is a huge help because it lets you see your advanced materials without waiting for the image to be rendered. Some effects such as Bump Maps cannot be previewed.

[Figure 8-5] Preview panel of the Render Settings dialog box

The availability of this feature depends on the video hardware included on your computer. To check the compatibility of your hardware card and to enable shader display in the Document Window, open the Render Settings dialog box using the Render, Render Settings (Ctrl/Command+Y) menu. Then select the Preview panel, as shown in Figure 8-5.

If your video card supports hardware shading, a note will be listed in this panel and an option to Enable Hardware Shading will be available. There is also an option to Optimize Simple Materials. If this option is selected, shaders aren’t created for any simple materials in the scene. You can also set the resolution of the Preview Texture up to 4096, depending on what your graphics processor can handle.

All texture maps are square so a single value is used to specify their size. A setting of 512 creates a texture map that is 512 pixels by 512 pixels.

[Figure 8-6] Simple yellow shorts

Access the Shader Window 1.       Load the Aiko model from the Library palette or any other figure with clothes.

2.       Click the Material tab to access the Material Room.

A new interface appears including the same controls available in the Pose Room.

3.       Select the Figure 1 object from the Object List at the top of the Shader Window.

The Select Material Tool is selected by default when the Material Room is opened.

4.       Click the figure’s thigh element in the Document Window.

The SkinHip material group is automatically selected in the Material List at the top of the Shader Window.

5.       Click the color swatch beneath the Diffuse Color title in the Simple panel of the Shader Window and select a yellow color from the pop-up color palette.

The Aiko figure shown in the Document Window is displayed with yellow-colored shorts, as shown in Figure 8-6.

6.   Select File, Save As and save the file as Yellow shorts.pz3.

[Figure 8-7] Material loaded from the Library

Load Material from the Library 1.       Open Poser with the default mannequin figure loaded.

2.       Click the Material tab to access the Material Room.

A new interface appears including the same controls available in the Pose Room.

3.       Select the Andy figure from the Object list at the top of the Shader Window and the Body element from the Material list.

4.       Open the Library palette with the Window, Material menu and select the Andy Cyber material from the Poser 8/Mannequin folder in the Material category and click the Apply Library Preset button.

The library material is loaded into the Shader Window and displayed on the mannequin figure, as shown in Figure 8-7.

5.   Select File, Save As and save the file as Library material.pz3.

[Figure 8-8] Pop-up color palette


The Simple Material panel of the Shader Window only includes six simple material properties, but you can create an amazing variety of materials from these simple properties.

Changing Color

Directly underneath the Diffuse Color, Highlight, Ambient, and Reflection material property titles in the Simple Material panel is a color swatch that sets the color for the respective property. You can change the current color by clicking this color swatch and selecting a new color from the pop-up color palette, shown in Figure 8-8. To open the standard color selector dialog box, click the icon in the upper-right corner of the pop-up color palette.

If you simply need to change the color of a material group, a quicker way to do this is with the Color Tool found in the Editing Tools.

[Figure 8-9] Texture Manager dialog box

Adding Texture Maps

The open space underneath the color swatches is to hold a texture map that is loaded from the hard disk. To load a texture map, simply click the open space and the Texture Manager dialog box, shown in Figure 8-9, opens. This dialog box includes a preview of the selected image, a drop-down list containing recently loaded images, and a Browse button where you can locate new images to load. Once a texture map is loaded, you can change its brightness using the Map Strength dial. Each property that can use a texture map has a Map Strength parameter dial. This value sets how strong the texture map is. For example, a Map Strength value of 100 will cause the full texture map to be used and a Map Strength value of 0 will turn off the texture map.

[Figure 8-10] Material with highlights

Adding Highlights

Highlights are surface areas where the reflected light is most intense. The color brightness determines the intensity of the highlights and you can also set the size of the highlights using the Highlight Size dial. Smooth shiny surfaces will have smaller, brighter highlights and rougher surfaces will have larger, fuzzier highlights because the reflected light is scattered more. If the Apply Texture to Highlight option is enabled for the Diffuse Color property, the texture map for the Diffuse Color is copied to the Highlight property and only the bright areas of the texture image receive the highlights. Figure 8-10 shows a material with a highlight.

For realistic scenes, make sure the highlight color is the same as the main light color.

Using Diffuse and Ambient Colors

The Diffuse Color property sets the surface color of the material and the Ambient property sets the color of the indirect light in the scene. These two colors are combined when used together. For example, a material with a red Diffuse Color and a blue Ambient color would appear purple.

The Diffuse Color will tint any texture map that is applied to the Diffuse Color property. To avoid tinting the texture map, set the Diffuse Color to white.

[Figure 8-11] Choose a reflection


Enabling Reflections

You can use reflections to reflect an environment image off the current surface. When you click the texture map area, a selection dialog box, shown in Figure 8-11, enables you to apply the reflected texture image as a spherical map or a raytrace reflection. A spherical map reflects the texture image about the selected object as if it were inside a large sphere. A raytrace reflection uses a special rendering technique to follow each light ray as it bounces about the scene to create perfect reflections. More on ray tracing is covered in the Chapter 16, “Rendering Scenes.”

[Figure 8-12] Reflective material on a sphere

Of these two methods, the Spherical Map method renders much quicker, but the Ray Trace Reflection method results in higher quality reflections. You can multiply the reflected image with the Lights and the Object Color by enabling the options under the Reflection texture image. These options will tint the reflected image with the object color and dim the reflected image due to the direct lighting applied to the reflection. Figure 8-12 shows a rendering of a simple ball object that has a reflected material applied to it.

Reflection maps aren’t visible in the Preview panel of the Document Window. You can see them only after rendering the scene.

[Figure 8-13] Bump material

Adding Bump Maps

A Bump Map texture image adds a relief to the surface of the material. This is accomplished by making the light areas of the bump appear to be raised from the surface and the darker areas to be indented. You can use the Amount dial to set the depth of the bumps. Regardless of the Amount value, Bump Maps are simulated only on the object’s surface without altering the actual geometry. To have a Bump Map change the object’s geometry, you can use a displacement map. Figure 8-13 shows a simple material with a bump texture applied. Bump Maps, like reflections, are only visible when rendered and not in the Preview panel.

The Amount value is measured in real-world units based on the type of units set in the Preferences dialog box. If the units are set to meters or feet, this value will be fairly small.

Early versions of Poser applied Bump Maps using a gradient image format with the BUM extension. You can use the BUM files if you add an Image Map node with the BUM file loaded and connect it to the Gradient attribute.

[Figure 8-14] Positive and negative displacement map

Using Displacement Maps

You can also enable the Displacement option within the Bump attribute, which applies the texture as a displacement map. A displacement map is different from a bump in that it actually changes the geometry of the object to include the affected bumps. You can see this geometry change along the edges of the object surface, as shown in Figure 8-14, which shows a positive displacement map on the left and a negative displacement map on the right. Displacement maps are preferred if any shadows cross the mapped object because shadows are accurately displayed for displacement maps. Bump and displacement maps are not visible until the scene is rendered. Displacement maps are covered in more detail in Chapter 16, “Rendering Scenes.”

You can set the Amount value to a negative number to make the lighter areas of the Bump Map indented and the darker areas raised.

Even though the Displacement option is enabled, the displacement map won’t be rendered unless the Use Displacement Maps option in the Render Settings dialog box is enabled.

[Figure 8-15] Transparent material

Using Transparency

You can use the Transparency value to make your entire material transparent. Transparency means that you can see through the material, like glass, to the objects behind it. The Edge value sets how transparent the edges of the material are and the Falloff value causes the areas closer to the edges to become less transparent. You can also select a texture map to define the areas where the material is transparent with light areas being transparent and dark areas, opaque (or non-transparent). Figure 8-15 shows a transparent material applied to the skin material group of a figure. This creates an eerie invisible man effect. Notice how you can see the interior objects like the eyes and teeth through the semi-transparent skin.

Setting the Transparency value to 100% will not make the object invisible unless the Falloff value is also set to 0.

Within the Poser 8 Library are skeleton models that exactly fit the Ryan and Alyson models. These skeleton models are available for medical visualization by making the outer skin semi-transparent.

[Figure 8-16] Simple green materials on a frog figure

Apply Simple Materials 1.       Open the Poser Library and locate the Frog figure in the Animals folder.

2.       Click on the Material tab to open the Material Room.

3.       Click on the frog’s skin with the Material Select Tool.

The frog’s default skin textures are displayed in the Simple material panel.

4.       Click on the texture under the Diffuse Color attribute and select the None option from the Texture Manager dialog box. Then click on the Diffuse Color color swatch and choose a green color.

5.       Click on the Highlight color and set it to white and set the Highlight Size to 15.

6.       Click on the Bump texture and replace it with the Cells.tif texture file or another texture file. Set the Map Strength to 50% and the Amount to 0.007.

7.       Select the Eyeball group from the Material List at the top of the Simple panel. Replace the texture with the None option in the Texture Manager and choose a bright yellow color. Then set the Transparency to 25.

8.       In the Document Window, click on the Render button to see the resulting materials.

The rendered frog with various simple materials is shown in Figure 8-16.

9.   Select File, Save As and save the file as Green bumpy frog.pz3.

[Figure 8-17] Skeleton under semi-transparent skin

Show Skeleton Beneath Skin 1.       Open Poser with the default Ryan figure loaded.

2.       Click on the Material tab to open the Material Room.

3.       Open the Library palette and locate the Ryan Skeleton figure in the Poser 8/Additional Figures/Skeletons folder and click on the Create New Figure button.

The skeleton model that matches the Ryan figure is loaded.

4.       Select the Skeleton figure from the Figure List and select the Figure, Conform To menu command. In the Conform To dialog box, select the Ryan figure.

The skeleton is now conformed to the Ryan figure so that posing the Ryan figure makes the skeleton follow along.

5.       Open the Material Room and click on Ryan’s skin to select its material. Then drag the Transparency dial to 75%.

By making the skin material semi-transparent, the skeleton underneath becomes visible.

6.       Select the Head objects and set its Transparency also to 75%.

7.       Pose the Ryan figure and focus in on the shoulder bones.

The skeleton is seen beneath the semi-transparent skin, as shown in Figure 8-17.

8.   Select File, Save As and save the file as Skeleton under skin.pz3.

Kelly L. Murdock has more than 15 years experience in the computer graphics arena, especially in the area of 3D graphics. Included in the experience is a variety of tasks from high-end CAD product design and architectural pre-visualization to virtual reality and games. Kelly is best known for his international best-selling books on graphics including the 3ds max Bible, Illustrator Bible and Naked Maya. He also is the author of Poser 6 Revealed and Poser 7 Revealed as well as Edgeloop Character Modeling for 3D Professionals. Kelly currently works as a freelance designer for Logical Paradox Design, a company that he founded with his brother.