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5 reasons why I favor Daz3D software

When it comes to “computer art”, so basically the audio & video capabilities of a regular personal computer, then things sure have come a long way. Personally I think that things have gone further on the audio field than video, but even so the video capabilities of modern PC’s are amazing, especially in comparison to those around the 80’s and 90’s.

I consider myself a semi-professional when it comes to digital audio and a hobbyist within the field of 3D modeling and rendering. The first time I came into contact with 3D was during the early days of POV-Ray (ray tracer) which sounded amazing to me; the ability to create a virtual 3D world which the computer could fully calculate and set up to make things look as realistic as possible. As mentioned earlier I think that when it comes to realism then digital audio has come much closer than video (just think about the acceptance of CD’s and MP3 players) but even so… There are also some impressive developments on the 3D field.

During the years I dove head first into the world of digital audio but never really bothered that much with ray tracing. That was until I discovered a free(mium) program called Daz Studio, started playing  around and the rest is history as they say. Even though it is but a hobby to me I still managed to build up quite a collection of material to work with. So here is a summary of the 5 main reasons why I really favor working with Daz3D software (Daz Studio, Bryce and Hexagon).

Small disclaimer: obviously my article is quite biased towards those products and the Daz3D company as a whole. Knipogende emoticon I also realize that it is very well possible that some of the things which I mention in my post are also possible with other software environments. I honestly cannot say for sure because the only other “3D environment” I’m somewhat familiar with is Blender. So keep in mind that my post is also heavily opinionated as well.

5 – Honest software / company

genesis_starter

Daz Studio is described as “freemium” which means so much that although you can download the software for free you’ll (most likely) need to purchase extra contents before you can use the program to its full potential. By default it’ll provide some “starter essentials” packages which contain a nice variety of props (items to use in a scenery), poses (the way your characters will express themselves) and of course some base figures (human figures and even a dragon!), but you’ll notice the limitations as soon as you explore your character(s) wardrobe.

Even so I still think the software has a very honest approach because although it may lack on some contents it does not lack on functionality. Far from it even…

Lets begin with an obvious example: there are many websites which provide items free of charge which you can use in your own work. Ranging from props, background sceneries (or textures) to full figures. Sometimes you are limited in the way you can use those in a render (usually non-commercial) but even so the material is available free of charge. And you might have guessed it by now: there’s nothing within Daz Studio stopping you from using those freebies to your hearts desire.

And I’m not merely talking about basic tasks such as posing and such, what about re-defining the very looks of the object you’re working on? For example: how about setting up your own shaders?

Shaders

genesis_robot

Here I’ve added the default Genesis figure (the gray one), pulled up the surfaces editor and gave the head a little more “natural” look (sort off anyways). So far, so good; this is all pretty standard behavior. Even so, I do think it already gives a good impression of how easy it can be to change somewhat more advanced settings.

If you look closely at the pane on the right you’ll see that I’m working on the SkinFace surface and if you look at the top area you’ll see that it uses the “DAZ Studio Default” shader. So what is a shader?

A shader is basically a piece of code which defines how the surface of an object should look or behave. For example: a shiny metal object will normally reflect much more light than a matte (rough) plastic object. A granite object might actually have some relief or specific pattern on its surface. And so on… In 3D modeling software such as Daz Studio we can configure those properties by using a shader. But Daz Studio goes even further than that and provides us with several shader editors. One of which is the Shader Mixer: a visual aid which allows you to easily create RSL (“Renderman Shading Language”) shaders. And you don’t even have to be familiar with programming: just pointing, clicking and dragging will be enough to make all the necessary connections.

genesis_robot-shader

Above you can see the so called “Shader Mixer”. It displays all the “bricks” (components) which define the way how the objects surface (in our case that’s Genesis’ face) should look and behave. On the right side is the “surface” brick; this defines the main way how our object should look (its surface). To its left you can see the Daz Default material brick which got mentioned above. Normally these two would have been enough to set up the color which I defined above. However… In this example I went a little deeper.

I added a noise brick to generate a specific color value with plenty of “noise” (randomness). I configured the brick to generate a 2D noise color value and set up its inputs with 2 other bricks: the Carrara Marble brick which generates a “marble surface” value for the X setting. And a ‘random’ brick; it creates a (semi) random value for the Y setting. The result is a pretty specific surface for our Genesis face, so specific that it will only show when the image is rendered (this managed to confuse me many times in the beginning). Here is a (spot) render of our Genesis face with my customized shader applied:

genesis_robot-render

Notice the reddish lines in the facial area? That is all done using the shader which I set up above. And just so we’re clear: I’m still pretty new to the whole RSL specification, as well as shaders in general. So yeah, I consider this a pretty advanced feature for a program which you can simply pick up free of charge.

No pay, no data…

When you pick up Daz Studio or some of the freebies in the Daz Store (either because it’s free or because you got a coupon) then that’s that. Daz3D does require that you register on their website (I’ve been registered for 5 years now and I have yet to see an increase of spam because of it) but that is all there is to it. If you want to “purchase” a freebie then they won’t demand (or insist) that you provide them with payment data such as Paypal accounts or credit card information. Instead, when you get a freebie the website skips that part because “payment information not required”. Maybe I visited the wrong sites in the past, but I’ve experienced different behavior which I always considered highly annoying.

… and there’s still help if you need it!

Even though the software is free Daz has a whole helpdesk set up with plenty of people willing to try and help you out with any problems you might have. And not just that: the user forums provide some very extensive help as well should you need it; and the best part (in my opinion obviously) is that even Daz employees roam that place to try and help Daz users out best as they can. Not because they’re paid to do so (this is an (educated!) assumption on my part!), but because they’re just as happy with the software as we are and really like to help out others enjoy it as well.

4 – Price

No, I’m not talking about Daz Studio, that is obviously freely available, I’m talking about all the products in the Daz store which were produced by Daz3D themselves (the so called “Daz originals” for example). Have you ever (tried to) create(d) a 3D model yourself? It takes quite a bit of effort. Even something which might seem extremely simple, such as a key, can provide quite a challenge:

hexagon_key

And modeling, or shaping, is one thing, how about creating a surface texture, partly shown above? Not everything is done using shaders you know, sometimes it requires a texture (“UV map”) which is used to define the surface of an item. Its something which isn’t generated by a C-like language such as RSL but a static image which can be edited using software such as The Gimp or Photoshop.

Yet despite all that effort the Daz shop still provides a lot of material for a very decent price. And… the option to get quite some extra discount if you apply to be part of their premium program. For a monthly fee you not only get a few Daz freebies every month, you’ll also get discounts and discount coupons to be used on Daz original products.

And although I’m obviously mostly focusing my attention to Daz3D products this same philosophy seems to live amongst other artists as well. Your mileage may vary, as is the saying, but in general I really believe that most artists charge a fair price for their work.

LuxRender through Luxus

luxrender_splashBy default Daz Studio uses the (commercial) 3Delight render engine, but 3Delight isn’t the only one out there. Take for example LuxRender; an open source render engine which tries to enhance the rendering options tremendously. Is your computer not powerful enough for a specific render? Not to worry, why not use more computers to distribute the load a bit? That is some of the stuff which you can easily do while using LuxRender.

And the reason I mentioned this? Well, simple: Daz Studio can support LuxRender using the (commercial) Luxus plugin.

riley_bikini

In the example on the right I added my all time favorite Daz3D figure (Riley for Stephanie 5), dressed her in a bikini and yeah… Now I suppose we should try to create a render out of this pose and concentrate on the details. So we should use a render engine which gives us maximum control over everything it does. In other words… I want LuxRender, and the Luxus plugin provides everything you might need to start using it:

luxus_options

You can configure a lot using this render engine and it all shows when looking at the advanced options which the Luxus render plugin provides. The advantages should be obvious: because we’re using an external render engine the required resources (think memory usage) don’t necessarily affect Daz Studio. Better yet: because all rendering activity is done outside Daz Studio we also don’t have to wait for the process to end before we can do some more work on this pose or another one.

luxrender_riley

And it’s easy to use too. I basically messed around just as I normally would in Daz Studio, selected the other render engine and I could start using it right away. Easy! If you’re wondering about the end result of my render: unfortunately my impatience got the best of me and I canceled it. Rendering using LuxRender can produce some very impressive results, but it also takes quite some time to finish.

Summing up… It is another example of an author (programmer in this case) who created something for use with Daz Studio and sells it for a very decent prize.

And don’t get me started on the other two (commercial) programs Daz3D provides. In fact… Lets!

3 – Specializes in key strengths

Overspecialize, and you breed in weakness… it’s slow death.

WoodelfA quote from the Ghost in the Shell movie (the original), English dub obviously. But there is a lot of truth to that saying. In fact: it is also the de-facto concept (or ideal) for my all-time favorite operating system: Unix. Unix (in general) operates with the idea that every part should concentrate on performing a small specific task and handle that task the best it can. Then, through the Unix structure which allows the user to easily ‘chain’ commands, it can easily become part of something bigger.

We’re going a little bit offtopic but…

Lets say I want to check the amount of different files I have.

First I’d use the “ls” command to actually list the files. Then I add the “cut” command to cut the filename at the dot and only show me the second (last) part which is the extension (or file type). This is sent to a program which checks all incoming data and filters out only the amount of unique entries. Finally that output is sent to a program which will count all the incoming results. This would resort to something such as: “ls | cut –d “.” –f2 | unique | count”. The | is a pipeline command which means so much as “sent the output from the previous command to the next”.

So what does all this have to do with Daz3D? Absolutely nothing, except for the fact that I think that Daz Studio follows this strategy as well. It doesn’t try to be an all-in-one solution but focuses on specific tasks (mainly modeling) and tries to be good at it. I prefer that over software which tries to be a total solution only to end up being quite moderate (or worse) on most fronts.

The Daz3D trio

splash_horror

I just had to do this. The image (/ render) above is obviously © Daz3D and not my work; it’s the splash screen for Daz Studio 4.6. But seriously: this one also got me to invest quite a bit into Daz because… yeah. The figure behind the elven maiden is the undead fiend, the maiden herself has the LadyElf hair applied and she’s wearing the Lorella outfit. Why I know all this from mind you may wonder? Because I looked it all up (with special thanks to the awesome Daz community!) and bought all of those. This Daz Studio splash screen is truly one of my favorites. Just to be clear: it’s dated, right now Daz Studio sits at version 4.9.

Anyway, now that I got material for setting up a foreground, what about the background? Heck, what about a decent background for any scenery? Here’s something I cooked up using only the contents of the Genesis Starters Essential package:

genesis_starters

So what about the background? Or what about editing those figures themselves? Say I wanted to change the shape of the girls boots a bit? Although Daz has software which can mostly “do it all” (talking about Carrara) the software I’m specifically referring to here are Bryce and Hexagon:

bryce_splashhexagon_splash

Fun fact is that both programs weren’t initially developed by Daz but bought and then changed to the new specifications (like the Daz color scheme and the Daz Studio bridge).

The last stable release of Bryce dates from 2010 whereas Hexagon sits at 2012. So both are quite dated indeed.

Now why would one want to use software which is roughly 6 years old (referring to Bryce, at the time of writing obviously)? Heck, why could one even lose sleep over something as old like that? The answer is simple: because it works! And why change a winning formula anyway?

Bryce uses the same rendering engine as Daz Studio (3Delight) but is still quite a different program altogether. One of the things which Bryce excels at is landscape renders. It has everything it needs to simply generate realistic looking sceneries. From sky, clouds, even a rainbow and land masses. As if it were a fractal Bryce can calculate, render and create the perfect background for your renders.

bryce_render

What you see here is the material setting of the surface plane turned to rippled water, I added a gold metallic ring into it and also changed the sky where cloud density, sun color and sun position is concerned. All in all no more than a few minutes worth of tuning, and this is the end result. The render might be simple but I still think it’s impressive enough to show how easy it is to create a specific background using Bryce. So how can we use this scenery with our Daz Studio project?

Bridges

There are actually more ways to set this up. First I could render the above image, export it and then use it as a background / ‘backdrop’ in Daz Studio. It’d be very easy to do but wouldn’t provide me with the full capabilities of the 3Delight render engine. After all, it would only be a static background.

The next option are bridges. Because Daz owns and maintains these three programs (Daz Studio, Bryce and Hexagon) it has also provided for options which can take the material you’re working on from one program and send that to the other. If I wanted to I could select my scenery above and sent everything to Daz Studio. Yet that would leave me with a problem; basically the only thing I added to the scenery above is the golden ring. The shader which I applied to the ground plane is a Bryce specific feature, one which Daz wouldn’t be able to re-create that way. Fortunately for me however the other way around is also possible: sending objects from within Daz Studio right into Bryce (or Hexagon):

bryce_bridge

Now, my above example is a little bit flawed: you cannot sent grouped items to Bryce this way. So instead of selecting the group I had to make sure to select both figures and all their child entries as well. If you don’t then you might end up with some weird results, such as seeing our lovely Genesis figure now suddenly walking next to a weird looking (naked) bald guy Knipogende emoticon

Another problem is that I create(d) most of my examples ad-hoc and didn’t save everything (like the Bryce render example). And posts such as these aren’t written in one go either. So I’ll have to re-create some of the above examples. Fortunately I did save the ‘starters scenery’ in Daz Studio quite some time ago already because I planned to do some more work on that walking pose in the future.

bryce_genesis-island

I re-applied the water shader to the ground plane (so that the scenery uses a water surface as the main area) then I created a new ring but this time didn’t use gold but Chinese marble as the material. Then I used the terrain editor to create a reddish (mesa-like) island. And finally I sent the two (Genesis) figures from Daz Studio into Bryce, re-sized and positioned them and also added a spot light to see their faces a bit better. The final result can be seen here:

Genesis island

Now… I know the details don’t quite match up, the size of the rocks doesn’t quite correspond with the size of the ring or the two Genesis figures, but that’s also not the point here. I’m merely trying to show you how easy it is to use these three Daz programs together to generate some pretty interesting pictures. And although I didn’t include Hexagon in my examples (because I’m pretty new to 3D sculpting and editing) the same basically applies. If I want to edit a figure all I have to do is sent it to Hexagon.

So here I set up a pose in Daz Studio, created a (background) scenery in Bryce and then combined those two and rolled it into one picture. Of course this comes with some limitations. For example: even though Bryce uses the 3Delight render engine its version is still quite dated, while Daz Studio already supports the new Iray standard from NVidia these days.

2 – I’m in full control

In general all Daz software is pretty easy to use and it basically allows you to use it how you might want to use it. Do you prefer using your mouse to select specific options or are keyboard shortcuts more your thing? Both approaches are fully supported. And one of the most important details here, in my opinion obviously, is how Daz added several of those new standards while also preserving the “old ways” to do things. For example with the Smart contents pane versus the Content library pane:

content panes

The current way to add items (props) and figures to your set is by finding them in the smart contents pane, double click, and they’ll be immediately loaded. But that’s not all… Once you have a figure selected the smart contents pane will try and filter its contents to only match those which are relevant (or related) to the selection. For example; say I select the Genesis figure. Then the hair section in the smart contents pane will only show hair selections which are compatible with Genesis. So it wouldn’t show hair styles for Genesis 2, 3 or even other (base) figures such as Victoria or Dawn. And once you selected one of those hair styles then the magic works again: now the materials section will only show items which are compatible with the hairstyle you got selected, thus making it very easy to apply hair to a character and then adjust its color.

But what about the previous ways? Or better yet: what about contents which isn’t compatible (yet) with this way of working? In order to maintain relationships you’d need to set them up first (which is done in the Daz Studio CMS, powered by PostgreSQL). Or maybe you simply don’t like this ‘new’ approach at all and prefer to stick with the previous browser because that worked just fine for you. Well, you can..

As you can see above I’ve shown two locations for the S.A. creatures. On the left is the smart contents pane where I added them myself, but on the right I’ve located two of them in my Daz library, shown in the content library pane. And have I mentioned already that Daz Studio also natively supports the Poser format? Sukkelige emoticon

Categories

Every bit of material which is available through the smart contents pane is categorized. This allows you to easily look things up when you need them. For example, if you’re looking for a skirt or a pair of trousers you’ll probably find them under Wardrobe => Skirts or Wardrobe => Pants. So what to do when you collected varies pieces of clothing and turned it into a specific outfit of your own? Of course you could simply save the whole thing as a character preset, but that would focus more on the character and the things they’re wearing than the combination of items.

Another option is to simply assign a new category to these items. A mere right click and selecting the “Categorize…” option can do it. This is how I ended up with my ‘Genesis’ category and some of the other custom categories under the ‘Wardrobe => Outfits’ section.

Everything, including the very looks of the program, can be fully customized in Daz Studio. SO yeah, I’m in full control over things here.

Product packs

When you pick up on Daz Studio you only get the software and some basic essential starting packs (mostly providing the Genesis base figures) and as soon as you want more you’ll have to purchase product packs through the Daz store. Sure… other companies might approach this differently; they basically sell you the software and include a starters library which provides a large variety of items which you can then use in your work.

Now… Obviously I’m talking behind the facts and merely looking back on the things I did and got in the past, but doing so I can honestly say that I prefer Daz3D’s approach over the others. Because although it may have been a little difficult to get started (mostly to determine what stuff I got when purchasing something) it still puts you in full control over what you get. For example: I like anime a lot and so I ended up purchasing the Anime starters kit. As the name implies this gave me plenty of material to get me started on making Anime-based (or influenced) renders.

Another passion of mine is fantasy, I love the (original) Dragonlance series for example. So I also made sure to grab some fantasy themed goodies. The Heligator is an awesome monster which you can use, the Yosemite packs provide a lot of nature based environments; ideal for wood elves. And speaking of elves: the Lady Elf hair and the Lorella fantasy outfit are also perfect additions.

So my “starting set” basically consisted of items which actually appealed to me instead of getting a mixture of items with the added risk that plenty of stuff might not appeal to me at all.

It’s a two sided story. On one end it’s absolutely the issue of picking up a free product but having to pay for the extra material, but on the other hand it’s also a good way to start with a collection of items which really appeal to you. Or, as hinted at earlier, not to purchase anything but fully focus yourself on things which you downloaded for free or perhaps made yourself.

Total control.

1 – It’s fun!

Now this item is obviously heavily opinionated but even so… I think software such as Daz Studio, Bryce and Hexagon are doing an excellent job in providing you with everything you need to try and work out the ideas you might have in your head without confining you into a specific way of working. You want to add a figure and fully pose it before you add the next? Simple. Or do you want to split up your idea in specific sections then start working on those individually and eventually you bring it all together in one scenery? Easy! Or maybe you simply want to select a background, add figures, dress them up, then pick a nice premade pose and create new sceneries that way?

If you’re into this field of work then I think Daz Studio can provide you with a lot of fun (also plenty of frustration too of course, especially when things don’t fully work out the way you intended them). Whether you’re working on creating your own contents or if you prefer using premade contents: Daz Studio has you covered.

So what would define “fun” in this way? As said it is heavily biased on my part but I think a very important thing here is that Daz Studio allows you to expand on your knowledge and experiences in a straight and useful way. As you use the program and experiment with its settings you can discover new features, learn new tricks and it all more or less adds up to the overall experience.

As mentioned earlier: creating your render can be as easy as simply loading a pre-made scene, then playing with the cameras and angles until you got “that” perfect look. Or you can spend hours and hours on searching for the right figures and props, pose them exactly as you deem fit and then use that.

Are you into Anime and/or Manga? Then you might love working with Aiko or Hiro.

Maybe fantasy sceneries are more your thing? You can change some figures into elves with the mere drag of a slider, and Daz has plenty of creatures available to inspire. Speaking from personal experience I can say that their Millenium Dragon is truly a work of art.

Technical sceneries perhaps? Space stations, machinery and even city landscapes are a thing too.

The sky is pretty much the limit, as the saying goes. A sky obviously rendered using Bryce Knipogende emoticon

Concluding

5 reasons why I heavily favor Daz3D software. Please note that I’m not claiming that the software and everything Daz3D does is perfect and without fault. Hardly, there are also plenty of things which I don’t like about Daz Studio. Or things which I criticize such as specific new features, Daz Connect comes to mind here.

But even so I do think that working with Daz3D software is a very pleasant and nice experience in the overall and one which can get you some very impressive results.

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August 9, 2016 - Posted by | TechBlabber | , , , , , ,

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