Victoria 6 Free For (Very) Limited Time

Greetings fellow 3D enthusiasts! Some cool news out of the DAZ camp for you all today. In celebration of her first birthday this weekend (11:59 PM MST Sunday June 29th, 2014) you can pick up Victoria 6 for free. For those new to the latest generation of Genesis figures, you will have to download the Genesis 2 Female base figure (also free). The Genesis 2 base figures, female and male, are both available for download direct from your “Product Library” at DAZ 3D and via the DAZ Install Manager (DIM).

There are a lot of DAZ Studio and Poser users out there that have yet to dip their feet into the Genesis 2 pool, even as far as installing the base G2 figures, let alone grabbing either the latest Victoria and Michael incarnations. Can we hope to see a similar offer for Michael 6? Let’s hope. So, if you haven’t yet picked up the figure the time is now. Pass the word along.

The birthday giveaway announcement forum thread

DAZ 3D Michael 6 Review


M6After what feels like a decade since the release of Victoria 6 and Genesis 2 Female we finally have Michael 6 and Genesis 2 Male. Join me for the full epic review! I’d originally planned to have this review out sometime on the day of release, but I found myself wanting to know more of the technical details and the why, and why nots. So, here it is, a little later than expected, but far more epic and detailed than previously envisioned. Basically I have covered everything I would have liked to cover with the original Genesis 2 release (Victoria 6 review). But, but, but let me cut straight to the heart of the matter. Genesis 2 Male and Michael 6 are just as significant an improvement over their Genesis counterparts as V6/G2F was over theirs. This is to say that the G2 mesh, upon which M6 and V6 are based on, is head and shoulders superior to Genesis. The weight maps are better and we’ve got some interesting new bones to play with (and no, not that sort of bone you are thinking of right now).

While many DAZ Studio users have stuck with generation 4 and G1 figures (with the overwhelming majority of Poser users sticking with Victoria/Michael 4), DAZ has proclaimed that G2 is hugely successful. There has been a good deal of speculation over just how successful G2 has been, and how DAZ 3D define the word “success”. Let’s not bother with that debate any further here.

In terms of versatility Genesis (1) wins hands down. The ability to morph from female to male and use all morphs in between, textures, and apparel from either gender is much more efficient and convenient than having a split base which only shares some compatibility. However, for those looking for greater detail both in terms of geometry and articulation, then Genesis 2 can’t be beaten. Let’s explore further.

Genesis 2 Geometry Improvements

Genesis 2 (therefore M6 and V6) has only a couple of thousand more polygons than G1, but those few extras have certainly been put to good use to bolster facial details, as well as better detail in hands, knees and feet. The torso has also seen geometry tweaks, which, only having a vague understanding of organic modelling, I speculate also makes for cleaner, more detailed morphs.

It is perhaps ironic that the Genesis 2 Male and Female bases share many of their greater details with Generation 4 figures such as Michael and Victoria 4 (which are again both derived from the same base mesh). This is not to say that G2 is a mere knock-off of its predecessor. G2’s mesh is much cleaner and logically composed to make the creation of morphs easier. G1, by comparison, could achieve a nice smooth mesh, but lacked the greater detail of gen 4 figures.

Subdivision Surfaces, Weight Maps and Bones

Michael 6 3d figure rigged jaw showing weight maps.The major advantages Genesis 2 has over the older Generation 4 figures lay in technological advances. V4 and M4 both have about 68 thousand vertices, while G2 is composed of about 22 thousand. G1 contained slightly fewer than G2, but suffered somewhat as a result. G2 effectively packs into its 22k verts what gen 4 packs into almost 70k, and it does this with (what most of us are well aware of by now) subdivision surfaces – a clever algorithm that can be used to create highly detailed geometry from lower polygon models.

The rest of the advantages Genesis 2 has over all the previous generation of DAZ figures is the greater articulation of joints. Part of this is due to refinements of weight maps, which generation 4 figures don’t have at all (other than a third-party weight mapped V4 for Poser). Weight maps (assuming they are done well) allow our figures to bend realistically. A good deal of the refinement of G2 weight maps is in having separate weight maps for the male/female variants. With the original Genesis figure, for example, the V5 and M5 shared the same weight maps. This is all fine and dandy for 90% of situations but, having properly weighted breasts is very handy, especially for animation and more realistic/detailed still images.

Perhaps, more important than breasts are the other areas of articulation that Genesis 2 has over G1 such as the rigged and fully weight mapped jaw and toes. G1 does have a bone in its mouth but it doesn’t seem to have much practical use and has no weights (still talking about family friendly bones here). Why G1 never had a properly rigged and weighted jaw, I don’t know. In any case this addition to G2M/F allows for a greater flexibility in crafting expressions and other effects, such as say, taking a punch to the jaw, as well as realistic jiggly bits. DAZ also make some mention of articulation of the ears, but I haven’t come across much to do with that.

So that’s the basic figure covered. Let’s move on.

Auto-fit with Genesis 2 Male/Michael 6

Genesis 2 Female outfit auto-fited to Michael 6

Rogue Sci-Fi Suit for V6 fitted to M6.

While Genesis 2 Male/Female might have a split base, the auto fit from G2F to G2M works very well, even a couple of dresses converted reasonably well, though it does get a little rough if you want the legs to move much (or a little bit). For whatever reason DAZ didn’t see a need to include a skirt/dress template for G2M’s auto-fit. Auto-fit from Genesis seems to work equally well, but with the same glaring omission of cross-dressing shenanigans, at least as far as dresses and skirts go.

The third party M4 Shapes For Genesis 2 Male (by Slosh) is very good, fitting most M4 apparel smoothly. The biggest win M4 fits for G2 figures has is fitting boots. In these situations the refitting of boots is a huge improvement over gen 4 fits for G1, which was stunningly terrible. The auto-fitting of boots is equally and perhaps better for V4 > G2F. M4 for G2M does have some shortcomings, but I should say right now that the creator of the product is aware of the issues and is working to fix what is reasonably possible.

autofit malfunction

Waddaya mean draft?

One issue that carries over from Genesis auto-fits of M4 products shows up when G2 is posed in crouching positions. In these poses many sets of fitted M4 pants have very noticeable geometry distortion in the crotch. G1 has an extra card up its sleeve when it comes to fitting pants – the inclusion of tight and loose fitting pants templates. G2 on the other hand, without a loose fit template, items like baggy pants tend to suffer greater distortion. Even then, G1’s greater range of templates doesn’t fix all issues.

Another problem area, but less severe, and apparently fixable (in the works), is with glove items. While some apparently work fine, I tried two pairs and both had a lot of wobbly polygons. Adding a smoothing modifier and converting to subd often goes some way to fixing issues, but in my experience the hands (finger tips at least) would have to be hidden for large renders or close-ups.

What’s clear is that auto-fitting is a simplification of a complex problem. More complete solutions involve creation of custom fitting morphs and editing weight maps, something that a good many DS users wouldn’t want to touch with a really big stick.

Converting M4 Textures to G2M

Related to auto-fitting apparel we have UV and texture compatibility. Out of the box G2M and female are virtually interchangeable when it comes to applying textures – just load the material settings from the desired G2F character – simple as that. Out of the box (“box”) G2M also supports textures created for the M5 UV. Unfortunately there is no current support for any of the other Genesis based UV sets, such as Freak, David etc.

M4 Shapes For Genesis 2 Male allow refitting of M4 UV/textures to G2M. Slosh has

Squished

Squished

done (yes, another Slosh product) a great job of bridging the gap between the generations. In the vast majority of situations users will experience flawless texture fitting. I did however notice that there is some stretching around the naval, and more significantly, at the back of the neck and extending down the spine. The worst of the stretching occurs higher up, and tapers away moving further down the back.
If I hadn’t used the Lazarus texture set with its extensive tattoos, then I might never have noticed the issue. Slosh has stated that, given the complexity of the task, he would work on updating the product to fix the issue only if it caused problems for a significant portion of users. So, I’d suggest if this is an issue for you, not to dismiss the product or go for the refund (if you already own it), but to ask for a fix.

M6 Only works with M4 Materials/Textures in .duf file format? The Workaround

One slight hitch in getting the bulk of our M4 texture presets to work with Michael 6/G2M is that the process only works with material presets that are saved in the newer .duf format. None of the older formats are supported. There are a few ways around this, the slowest of which is to load all the textures manually from their location in the runtime.

The quicker approach is to load your material/character preset onto Michael 4 and save as a material preset. Here’s the basic workflow (this also applies to V6, for those wondering).

1. Load M4 > load character/textures set > navigate to the “File” menu > “Save As” > “Material Preset” > name your preset + “Ok > pressing “Ok” in the next pop-up is fine unless you only want to save specific settings for specific surfaces
2. Load M6 or Genesis 2 M > content library (tab) > DAZ Studio Formats > DAZ Studio Library > People > Presets > Materials > select your saved preset

A Brief Word On The Michael 6 Pro/Starter Bundles

As with Victoria 6 bundles, the M6 bundles come packed with additional content at a fraction of the price of purchasing the products individually. For some users this is great – no problem; throw it in the cart, but for many others the bundles contain only a couple of products of interest. For some, the issue here is that the genitals only come with the pro bundle, which means you have to fork out a pile of cash (relative pile) for content they couldn’t care less about.

The other issue is that this so called pro bundle really isn’t that pro. It contains the base figure, a few character sets, hair, props, AND GENITALS, but the M4 Shapes For Genesis 2 Male and the Genesis 2 Male Morphs are separate purchases. It is these items that are the meat and potatoes of the M6/G2M products (as were the corresponding female products for V6). With the M4 Shapes there is some argument that DAZ couldn’t swing the deal to get the third party product into the bundle, but their very own morphs set…? Without the morphs bundle (head and body) your ability to customise and morph M6 and G2M are somewhat limited, especially for those not savvy with modelling software.

The M6 Pro Bundle, like its V6 counterpart, is all shiny stocking filler and little actual utility, and utility is what pro is meant to be all about, right? So really DAZ have it all wrong. Their pro bundles are enthusiast bundles, but then a lot of enthusiasts won’t be happy either because the included content won’t fit their particular tastes. Never the less, pro bundles sell like… I don’t know. Crack? Good enough? V6 and M6 Crack Bundles.

The only real reason to buy the bundles is if you like the included content and can see yourself using them. This is not to say the included content is bad. Everything I have tested in the M6 bundle is of a very good quality. Having the texture sets, hair, poses and apparel can be a great asset, but only if you are reasonably sure you need (or want) them. And then there are the GENITALS. If you need these then you have little choice but to go PRO.

So what does Jim actually suggest after the analysis?

  • 1. Unless you need the extra detail (geometry, weights and rigging), or like to stay current and up to date with content, then there really is no need to move to G2 at all. I, like many, happen to like new toys and extra details.
  • 2. Don’t buy bundles unless you would otherwise buy enough of the included content as separate items that would it would exceed the value of the bundle (economics 101). Or might need GENITALS.
  • 3. Unless you are a Hexagon or Zbrush ninja you will likely find yourself in need of products like DAZ’s Male Morphs Bundle.
  • 4. If you buy the above I can’t stress the value of Zevo’s products like Shape Shift enough – his products really bring a new level of customisation to G2 (and G1).
  • 5. If you have a large collection of Michael 4 content then picking up Michael 4 Shapes for Genesis 2 Male is a great way to get more value out of old content while filling out the content wardrobe. So in that sense even new users of DAZ Studio and Poser can benefit from the vast catalogue of M4 content.
  • 6. Don’t expect miracles from the auto-fit tools.
  • 7. Zombies!

And there it is. I know I’m too late to help out the community junkies with their decision, but let’s be honest, most of you had already decided before release. So why are you reading this? Did I inform and entertain? I hope so. For those sitting on the fence, I hope I helped you come to a decision. And the same goes for any newbies out there that have found themselves here. To the latter I wish you as much joy and obsession as 3D has given me over the last couple of years. To everyone else, happy renderings.



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DAZ 3D Release Michael 6 – Genesis 2 Male


G2ANDM6smallSo I’d intended I’d already have a full review of M6/G2M and the most useful extra products. I got off to a good start doing a detailed comparison between the various base figure mesh dating back to M4/V4. Next was to get a quick render to go with the rest of the review when it was written. This part of the session degraded into endless play. First of all I wanted to get some lighting that brought out the quality of the skin materials, this led to playing around with said materials, which led back to playing with lights and then lots more material edits AND ON!

Maybe I’m out of practice when it comes to rendering flesh and blood figures, but I also think that the supplied materials with various M6 characters just aren’t doing what I want them to do, which is render something more-or-less realistic out of the box. What I found was lobsters and Jaundice. Could be a problem with my lighting, could be a problem with the mats, or it could be just down to my own preferences. Anyway, this is beginning to sound like a review, so I’ll stop right here. I’m not ready to do one just yet. I’ve yet to test many things. I will say that I like the new M4 and G2M morphs – they both have character and are, in my opinion, a huge improvement over M6 and the base male morph for Genesis – see I just can’t help myself being all reviewy and stuff.

I’ll get back to you all when I’ve got all those tests done.

Carrara 8.5: The Carrara We’ve Been Waiting For?

Carrara 8.5 pro box artThe long-awaited Carrara 8.5 hit the digital streets on the 26th of August. The point release comes packed with a beefy list of updates. As with any such release, some are super happy, some are dismissive, some others are firmly on the fence. Taking a look at just what is on offer gives us a good hint as to reasons for the mixed response.

What’s in the box?

The overwhelming bulk of the update relates to incorporating Genesis in to Carrara. This means that TriAx weight maps, the new DSON file format, smart content (plus CMS), and AutoFit have come to Carrara. Perhaps cynically, this can be viewed as paying for the privilege to purchase and use Gen 5 and 6 content.

On top of these new features are improvements to keyframe and animation tools, and new viewport representations for lights. According to some users that took part in the beta there are additional improvements not included in the new features list, such as improved stability, and faster viewport response.

For some, the hands-down best part about Carrara 8.5 is it finally offers support for Mac OSX 10.6, 10.7 and 10.8. The final cherry on top is the inclusion of Genesis content. Carrara 8.5 Pro buyers will get access to Victoria 5 and Michael 5 pro bundles. Carrara 8.5 (standard) users will receive starter bundles for the same figures. See the product page on the Carrara at DAZ’s store for full list of features.

Never been a better time to get Carrara?

If you are a long-time DAZ Studio or Poser (or even Bryce) user who has wondered if Carrara would be a good next step, then with Carrara being ready for Genesis 1 and 2 there really hasn’t been a better time. Carrara can do just about anything these other programs can, and then a whole lot more. Carrara has solid modelling and UV mapping tools, texture and weight painting, terrain and vegetation generation, volumetrics, rigid and soft body dynamics (which anecdotally have, or are being improved), and a fast and flexible render engine with many great features (multipass, SSS, global illumination etc). See tech specs for full mouth watering features gravy (currently only lists Carrara 8 features).

If you are already a Carrara user then the price of upgrading might seem a little steep, especially if you already own the included Genesis figures. If you couldn’t care a fig for TriAx, Genesis, and smart content then the upgrade might seem like an insult. Of course, if you’re a Mac user with a newer OS, then you’re probably just happy (or less angry) to finally have access to a version of the program that’s going to work with little hassle.

Pricing

If you are a platinum club member you receive 50% off the current $285 ($171) for Carrara Pro. 40% off standard Carrara, usually $149.95. If you are an owner of a previous Carrara version (purchased through DAZ 3D), you can pick up Carrara Pro for $85, and standard for $44.98.

Carrara 8.5 Verdict

Regardless of what you think about Genesis and TriAx, 8.5 is a solid point release and a good base for Carrara 9, which is forecast for a Q1 2014 release. Getting full implementation for Genesis in Carrara was always going to be high on DAZ 3D’s list of priorities, so it is good that it is done and more-or-less out of the way – get that AutoFit with G2 working! With this done, DAZ will be able to spend more time getting a stellar 9 finalised and polished.

It would have been great to see some little hints for 9 dropped into the 8.5 release, and perhaps they are there for a closer inspection. Sure would be good to see a features list, but I’m getting away from the topic at hand.

Carrara 8.5 probably has the most to offer to new users that are only just picking up Carrara. For current users there is still a lot here, but paying for what is essentially a content delivery pipeline might not sit too easily, especially for those that already own the included Genesis content.


Carrara 8