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'Poser 8 Revealed': Editing and Posing Figures - Part 3

Kelly L. Murdock concludes his overview of editing and posing figures in Poser 8 in this excerpt from Poser 8 Revealed.

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For more precise changes to a pose, you can use the parameter dials found in the Parameter/Properties palette, shown in Figure 3-27. You can open this palette by selecting Window, Parameter Dials. The parameter dials affect the selected element that is listed at the top of the palette.

The available dials are different depending on the item and figure that is selected.

Changing Dial Values

To the right of each parameter dial is its value. To change this value, click and drag the dial to the right to increase its value or to the left to decrease its value. If you click the value itself, the value is selected within a text field where you can type a new value using the keyboard.

[Figure 3-27] Parameter/Properties


Resetting Dial ValuesTo the right of each parameter dial is an arrow icon that opens a pop-up menu of options. If you select the Reset option, the value changes to its last memorized value. You can set the memorized value for a figure, element, light, or camera using the Edit, Memorize menu command.

You can also reset a parameter value by clicking the parameter dial with the Alt/Option key held down.

[Figure 3-28] Edit Parameter Dial dialog box

Changing Parameter Settings

Double-clicking the parameter dial or selecting the Settings option from the pop-up menu opens the Edit Parameter Dial dialog box, shown in Figure 3-28. Using this dialog box, you can change the current value, Minimum and Maximum Limit values, the Parameter Name, and its Sensitivity. Lower sensitivity values require a larger mouse drag to change the parameter value.

The parameter pop-up menu also includes options for creating master and dependent parameters.

Understanding Unique Morph Parameters

Most of the parameter dials relate directly to the Editing tools such as Taper, Scale, Twist, and Translate, but several of the dials found in the Parameters palette are unique. These unique parameters are actually morph targets and you can alter them by changing the parameter’s values. Some example morph targets include the following:

• Side-Side, Bend, Up-Down, Front-Back. Causes elements to be rotated in a specific direction based on the element. For example, the Side-Side parameter rotates the torso and feet to the side, the Bend parameter rotates the torso forward and backwards and the feet up and down, and the Front-Back parameter moves the arms forward and backward.

• Eye Dilate. When an eye element is selected, a unique parameter called Dilate is available for changing the size of the pupil and iris.

• Face Morphs. If the head element is selected, a number of face morph parameters are available for changing the brows, eyes, nose, and so on. These parameters can be used to create unique expressions and are covered in Chapter 9, “Creating a Face and Facial Expressions.”

[Figure 3-29] Different body shapes

• Hand Controls. When hand objects are selected, the Parameters palette includes dials for actions such as clenching the hand into a fist, bending the thumbs, and spreading the fingers apart.

• Body Controls. When a figure is selected, the Parameters palette includes a set of Advanced Body Controls parameters. These parameters let you work with the upper body, arms, and legs. There are also custom parameters for controlling the size, thickness, and proportion of most named muscle groups.

• BodyBuilder, Emaciated, Heavy, Stocky, etc.. These morph parameters define the body shape and include multiple different body types. An Emaciated body shape is thin, a Heavy body shape is bulky, and the BodyBuilder body type is muscular, as shown in Figure 3-29.

[Figure 3-30] Custom parameter group

Creating Parameter Groups

Custom figures can have many parameters. For example, many animal figures include custom parameters for controlling the curve of their tails. To handle figures with a large number of parameters, you can create a parameter group using the pop-up menu located at the top of the Parameter/Properties palette. Selecting the Create New Group option from the pop-up menu opens a simple dialog box where you can name the new parameter group. This group name then appears in the Parameters palette.

To add parameters to the group, simply drag the parameter title and drop it on the new group name. Clicking the plus or minus icon to the left of the group name lets you expand and contract the parameter group. Figure 3-30 shows a new group named NewGroup added to the Parameters/Properties palette. You can delete selected groups by selecting the Delete Selected Group option in the pop-up menu.

The order of the parameters in the new group follows the order that they were dropped into the group, but parameters can be rearranged by dragging and dropping parameters above or below other parameters.

If you want to view the parameters without groups, you can select the Display as Ordered List option from the palette pop-up menu. This displays the entire list of parameters in the alphabetical order of the groups without the group titles.

[Figure 3-31] Pointed toe pose

The figure’s torso bends to the right and its left foot is pointed away from the body, as shown in Figure 3-31.

Use the Parameter Dials 1.       Open Poser with the Ryan figure visible.

2.       Select Window, Parameter Dials to make the Parameters/Properties palette visible, if necessary.

3.       Select the abdomen element in the Document Window and drag the Side-Side parameter dialto the right to 45 degrees.

4.       Select the left foot element and click the xTran parameter, and then type the value 1.790.

5.   Select File, Save As and save the file as Pointed toe.pz3.

Change Unique Parameters 1.       Open Poser with the Ryan figure visible.

2.       Select Window, Parameter Dials to make the Parameters/Properties palette visible, if necessary.

3.       Under the FBM/Full Body group, select the BodyBuilder dial and increase its value to 2.0.

[Figure 3-32] Bodybuilder

Changing the custom BodyBuilder parameter results in a muscle man, as shown in Figure 3-32.

4.   Select File, Save As and save the file as Bodybuilder.pz3.

Create a Parameter Group 1.       Open Poser with the default mannequin visible.

2.       Select Window, Parameter Dials to make the Parameters/Properties palette visible, if necessary.

3.       Select the hip element in the Document Window.

4.       Select the Create New Group option from the pop-up menu at the top of the Parameters/Properties palette.

5.       In the New Group Name dialog box that opens, name the group X-axis parameters.

6.       Select and drag the xTran, xRotate, and xScale parameters and drop them on the new group name.

7.       Repeat steps 4-6 to create groups for the Y-axis and Z-axis parameters.

[Figure 3-33] Custom parameter groups

After expanding each of the new groups, the Parameters palette looks like the one shown in Figure 3-33.

8.   Select File, Save As and save the file as Custom parameter groups.pz3.


Human figures have a wonderful symmetry that you can use to your advantage. If you work to get the right arm in a perfect position, you can use the Figure, Symmetry menu command to copy this pose to the left arm. Two other common properties that you can mimic using commands found in the Figure menu are limiting the movement of the various body parts to be realistic and having Poser compute the center of mass to have the figure maintain its balance.

[Figure 3-34] Left and right side symmetry

Using Symmetry to Copy Settings Between Sides

If the pose you are trying to realize is symmetrical, you can make it perfectly symmetrical by copying all parameter values applied to the left side of the figure to the right side and vice versa. Simply select the Figure, Symmetry, Left to Right, or Right to Left menu commands. This causes a dialog box to appear asking if you want to copy the joint zone’s setup also. Figure 3-34 shows a simple figure whose left arm and foot were moved and its poses copied to the opposite side.

Copying and Pasting Arm and Leg Poses

To copy the assumed pose of just an arm or a leg to the opposite arm or leg, select Figure, Symmetry. The options include Left Arm to Right Arm, Right Arm to Left Arm, Left Leg to Right Leg, and Right Leg to Left Leg.

Swapping Sides

If you’ve spent some time posing a figure only to realize that you’ve got the right side confused with the left side, you can use Figure, Symmetry, Swap Right and Left to fix the problem. This command symmetrically swaps all poses on either side of the figure’s midline. There are also options to swap right and left arms and legs.

Straightening the Torso

As you pull on a hand or an arm to position the arm, you’ll often find that the torso will follow. To straighten the torso, select Figure, Symmetry, Straighten Torso. This option leaves the arm and leg poses in place, but straightens the torso.

[Figure 3-35] Using Limits prevents unnatural poses

Using Limits

Poser is aware of exactly how far each body part can actually bend in order to maintain a realistic pose, but you can also disable this option to allow body parts to move through one another. The Figure, Use Limits option is a toggle that you can enable or disable. When enabled, Poser restricts the movement of the body parts to realistic positions. For example, when dragging a figure’s arm straight up with the Use Limits option enabled, Poser prevents the arm from moving farther than the head, as shown in Figure 3-35. Limits also prevent the head from rotating all the way around.

You can set and edit limits by using the Parameter Settings dialog box. You can access this dialog box by clicking on the pop-up menu to the right of any parameter dial.

[Figure 3-36] Auto Balance center-balances figures

Using Auto Balance

Another helpful setting that can aid you in creating realistic poses is the Figure, Auto Balance option. This option, like Use Limits, is also a toggle button. When enabled, counter body parts are moved in order to maintain the centered weight of the figure. The pose, shown in Figure 3-36, was created by moving the right foot with the Auto Balance option enabled. Poser moved the top half of the figure to the right to counter the foot’s position.

Enabling Inverse Kinematics

Normally when you pose body parts, you position the objects by moving the parent object and having all its children follow. The children can then be moved independently. This method of positioning objects is called Forward Kinematics because it follows the hierarchy structure, but another method exists called Inverse Kinematics (IK). IK works by allowing the child object to control the position of the parent object.

You can enable or disable IK for each arm and leg using the Figure, Use Inverse Kinematics menu command. When enabled, IK lets you position a figure’s hand or foot and the rest of the body parts move to accommodate the motion.

By default, IK is enabled for the legs and disabled for the arms.

[Figure 3-37] Default chain break icons

Using the Chain Break Tool

IK chains aren’t the only elements that have control over other body parts. Actually almost all body parts are connected and can influence one another. If you drag an arm element far enough, the torso will move along with it, but you can use the Chain Break tool (L) to prevent the movement of connected elements.

If you select the Chain Break tool, several chain break icons appear on the figure in Document Window, as shown in Figure 3-37. These icons mark body parts that are prevented from moving with adjacent elements. By default, the head, hip, right, and left buttock elements have a chain break icon on them. This means that the head moves independently of the torso and the torso moves independently of the legs.

If you click an element with the Chain Break tool, you can place or remove these icons. For example, if you click the right and left collar elements, moving the arms will have no effect on the torso.

The chain break icon for the hip cannot be removed.

[Figure 3-38] Symmetrical arms

Use Symmetry 1.       Open Poser with the default mannequin visible.

2.       Enable the Figure, Use Limits option.

3.       Select the Twist tool and twist the left forearm and upper arm. Then use the Rotate tool to rotate the forearm towards the head.

4.       Select Figure, Symmetry, Left to Right. A dialog box appears asking if you want to copy the joint zone’s setup. Click Yes to accept this option.

The pose for the left arm is then copied to the right arm, as shown in Figure 3-38.

5.   Select File, Save As and save the file as Touchdown sign.pz3.

Use Inverse Kinematics

1.    Select File, Open and open the Two positioned figures.pz3 file.

2.    Select the figure on the right and drag the left foot away from the body.

[Figure 3-39] Inverse Kinematics poses

Since this figure has Inverse Kinematics enabled for the left leg, the rest of the leg follows the foot as the foot is moved.

3.    Select the figure on the left and disable the Figure, Use Inverse Kinematics, Left Leg option. Then drag the left foot element away from the figure’s body.

The figure with IK disabled moves the foot independent of the rest of the leg before finally pulling the leg with it. Figure 3-39 shows the differences between these two moves.

4.    Select File, Save As and save the file as Using Inverse Kinematics.pz3.

Use the Chain Break Tool

1.    Open Poser with the default figure visible.

2.    Select Window, Editing Tools to make the Editing Tools buttons visible, if necessary.

3.    Select and pull the right upper arm element away from the center of the figure.

Notice how the torso moves with the arm element.

4.    Select the Chain Break tool  from the Editing tools (or press the L key) and click the left collar element.

[Figure 3-40] Chain break applied to right collar

A chain break icon is placed in the center of the element, as shown in Figure 3-40.

5.    Select the Translate/Pull tool from the Editing tools (or press the T key) and drag the left upper arm.

With the chain break icon placed on the left collar element, the torso remains fixed as you move the left upper arm.

6.    Select File, Save As and save the file as Chain break figure.pz3.


A hierarchy is a list of elements ordered in such a way that the parent-child relationships between the elements are evident. These relationships are established by linking (or parenting) child objects to parent objects. When the parent object is moved, the child object follows along, thus helping to maintain the hierarchy. To see a complete hierarchy of the selected figure, you can open the Hierarchy Editor.

[Figure 3-41] Hierarchy Editor

Opening the Hierarchy Editor

You can open the Hierarchy Editor, shown in Figure 3-41, using the Window, Hierarchy Editor menu command. It includes a list of all the items that are included in the current scene indented to show the parent-child relationships of the scene items. The default figure and the Library figures all have a pre-defined hierarchy.

Selecting View Options

The options at the top of the Hierarchy Editor Window let you select which types of items to make visible, including Figures, Cameras, Parameters, All Parameters, Props, Deformers, and Lights.

To the left of each item name are three icons. The first icon is a small arrow. By clicking this icon, you can expand or collapse the children listed underneath the current item. For example, the Forearm is a child of the Shoulder element and clicking the collapse icon hides the Forearm element and all its children and changes the icon to a sideways arrow.

Hiding Items

The second icon is the Visibility icon. Clicking this icon hides the selected item in the Document Window, but not any of its children. The third icon identifies the item. For example, all body parts are identified with a hand icon, all props have a ball icon, the entire scene (called the Universe) has a world icon, the Body object has a stick figure, lights have a light bulb icon, cameras have a camera icon, deformers have a small magnet, IK chains has a chain link icon, and parameters have a wheel icon.

Selecting and Renaming Items

Selecting an item in the Hierarchy Editor automatically highlights the item and selects the same item in the Document Window. Double-clicking an item title in the Hierarchy Editor selects the item’s name in a text field where you can type a new name for the selected item. You can also delete certain items, including props and figures.

The Hierarchy Editor is also a convenient place to quickly delete multiple objects. Individual body parts, cameras, and the ground plane cannot be deleted.

[Figure 3-42] Figure Parent dialog box

Setting a Figure’s Parent

By default, all figures in the scene are children to the Universe item, which is the top (or root) item in the scene, but you can change the figure’s parent using the Figure, Set Figure Parent menu command. This command causes the Figure Parent dialog box, shown in Figure 3-42, to open. From within this dialog box, you can select a new parent for the figure. For example, you might want to parent a figure to a bicycle or an elevator prop.

You can parent figures only to the items listed in the Figure Parent dialog box, including lights, cameras, and props.

A new figure parent can also be assigned using the Hierarchy Editor. To do this, simply select and drag the Figure title to the item that you want to be its parent and the hierarchy will be reordered to show the change.

Setting an Item’s Parent

Figures aren’t the only items that can be assigned a new parent. Most items, including elements, cameras, and props, can be made children objects. To assign a new item to be the selected item’s parent, select the Object, Change Parent menu command. This causes the Choose Parent dialog box to appear, which is similar to the Figure Parent dialog box shown previously, where you can choose the item to be the parent.

You can also drag the item’s title in the Hierarchy Editor and drop it on the item that you want to be its parent. A third way to choose an item’s parent is to click the Set Parent button in the Properties palette for the selected item. This opens the Change Parent dialog box.

The Hierarchy palette is also very helpful in rigging figures and creating Inverse Kinematics chains. The buttons at the bottom of the Hierarchy palette are covered in Chapter 12, “Rigging a Figure with Bones.”

[Figure 3-43] Elements hidden using the Hierarchy Editor

Use the Hierarchy Editor to Hide Elements 1.       Open Poser with the default mannequin figure visible.

2.       Select Window, Hierarchy Editor.

[Figure 3-44] Hierarchy dialog box

The Hierarchy Editor opens.

3.       Click the Visibility icon to the left of the Hip, Abdomen, Chest, and Waist items.

The selected elements are hidden, as shown in Figure 3-43.

4.       Select File, Save As and save the file as Quickly hidden elements.pz3.

Set a Figure’s Parent 1.       Open Poser with the Ryan figure visible.

2.       Open the Library palette and select the Props category. In the Primitives folder, select and add the Ball object to the scene.

3.       From the Figure Selection drop-down list at the upper-left of the Document Window, select the Ryan option.

4.       Select Figure, Set Figure Parent.

The Figure Parent dialog box appears.

5.       In the Figure Parent dialog box, select the Ball1 object and click OK.

The default figure becomes a child of the ball item. Now if you select and move the ball object, the figure follows. You can also see in the Hierarchy palette, that the Ryan figure is located under the Ball 1 object, as shown in Figure 3-44.

6.       Select File, Save As and save the file as New figure parent.pz3.

Chapter Summary

This chapter explained how to work with figures in the Pose Room including moving figures within the scene, and changing figure parameters and properties. You can use several menu commands in the Figure menu to alter a figure’s height and style. You also learned how to select body parts in the Document Window and in the Hierarchy Editor. This chapter also showed you how figures can be edited and posed within the Pose Room using the Editing tools, the parameter dials, and several menu commands in the Figure menu, including Symmetry, Set Limits, and Auto Balance. Inverse Kinematics was also explained briefly and demonstrated.

What You Have Learned

In this chapter, you:• Selected and moved figures about the scene and aligned the current figure to the floor.

• Saved a specific pose using the Pose Dots.

• Changed a figure’s properties, including its name and visibility.

• Altered the figure’s height and style using menu commands.

• Selected various body parts using the Actor list in the Document Window.

• Moved, rotated, twisted, scaled, and tapered figure body parts using the Editing tools.

• Changed body colors using the Color tool.

• Used the View Magnifier tool to zoom in on an area in the Document Window.

• Changed a figure’s body part using the parameter dials.

• Used the Symmetry, Use Limits, and Auto Balance Figure menu commands to control a figure while being posed.

• Learned how Inverse Kinematics can be used to position parent objects by moving their children.

• Used the Chain Break tool to prevent movement beyond a specific joint.

• Used the Hierarchy Editor to select, hide, rename, and re-parent scene elements.

Key Terms from This Chapter

Actor list. A list at the top of the Document Window that lets you select a specific body part.

Body part. The defined pieces that make up a figure.

Child. The following object in a hierarchy chain. Child objects can move independently of the parent object.

Editing tools. A selection of tools used to manipulate and transform scene elements.

Element. Any scene object that can be selected, including body parts, props, cameras, and lights.

Figure. A character loaded into Poser that can be posed using the various interface controls.

Figure Circle control. A circle that surrounds the figure and enables the entire figure to be moved as one unit.

Genitalia. Male and female sex organs that can be visible or hidden.

Hierarchy. A linked chain of objects connected from parent to child.

Inverse kinematics. A unique method of calculating the motion of linked objects that enables child objects to control the position and orientation of their parent object.

Library. A collection of data that can be loaded into the scene.

Origin. A point in the scene where the X, Y, and Z coordinate values are all 0.

Parent. The controlling object in a hierarchy chain. Child objects also move along with the parent object.

Pose Dots. An interface control used to remember and recall a specific figure pose.

Rotation. The process of spinning and reorienting an object within the scene.

Scaling. The process of changing the size of an object within the scene.

Symmetry. A property that occurs when one half of an object is identical to the opposite side.

Tapering. A scaling operation that changes the size of only one end of an object.

Translation. The process of moving an object within the scene.

Z-Buffer. A portion of memory whereby each of the element’s distance from the camera view is stored.

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.