The new versions of Poser and Poser Pro are due to ship on September 20, and Smith Micro are now taking pre-orders at a significant discount.

Poser Pro 2012 (retail $499.99) is going for $249.99, or $149.99 if you’re upgrading from Poser Pro or Poser Pro 2010. Sidegrading from Poser 6, 7 or 8 is $179.99.

Poser 9 (retail $249.99) is going for $149.99, or $79.99 if you’re upgrading from Poser 6, 7 or 8, or either version of Poser Pro.

But what’s new? A full features list is here.

My pre-order for PP2012 is in, and I get a spiffy early adopter badge as well as my coupon. Obviously, I can’t review the product, but here’s what I’m particularly looking forward to:

Subsurface scattering

Subsurface scattering (or SSS) is one of the things make high-end renderers stand out. When light hits a translucent object it penetrates a short distance; how and in what manner depends on the material properties of the object. Candle wax does this, as does skin, and Poser’s inability to handle SSS in earlier versions was a major bar to achieving greater realism in renders. There were workarounds (both face_off and Bagginsbill have scripts that emulate SSS), but they weren’t ideal.

SSS will be present in both P9 and PP2012.

Light emitters

Even with the indirect lighting system (IDL) introduced in P8 and PP2010, it was difficult to show an actual light in the scene. No longer. With P9 and PP2012 you’ll be able to make an object emit light: headlights and running lights, flaming torches, lanterns, lightbulbs, lightsabres. No more faking it by sliding an object’s ambient light up high and using IDL, or postworking the lights in.

Weight mapping

The hot new thing in 3D. Poser’s lagging a bit behind in this (hey, if you want the hot new 3D software, go spend thousands of dollars on Studio Max or Maya).

Weight mapping is a new way of morphing targets and bending joints. It’s more advanced (and realistic) then the capsule zones used in P8 and PP2010, and will do things like making muscles bulge as joints are moved. Weight maps will also cross body zones, so moving an arm can affect a shoulder and collar.

The latest version of DAZ Studio already uses this for DAZ’s Genesis figure; word on the web is that Poser will implement weight mapping somewhat differently to DAZ Studio, so Genesis will not be 100% compatible with Poser. Shame, but there you go. DAZ have been trying to move away from being mere Poser content providers since DAZ Studio came out, and it’s working well for them. It’ll be interesting to see if a third-party vendor comes up with weight maps for M4 and V4. If they don’t, you’ll be able to make your own in PP2012 (but not in P9).

PP2012 will carry the concept further into weight map rigging and autotransfer: if you have a figure with a weight map, you take a set of clothes, apply the same weight map and the clothes will now fit the character and whatever morphs you’d applied.

The downside is that the figure and the clothes have to be prepared with this function in mind.

Weight mapping is the new feature which bothers me the least. I may try it and find it’s wonderful and I never want to go back to joint rigging and fall-off zones, or I may think “meh.” I’ll have to see.

Object grouping

Oh, dear god, yes. You’ll be able to incorporate several objects into a group and move of modify them as one. Group clothes and hide/unhide the whole group. Create a background of multiple objects, group them and move them round as one to fit a change in camera angle or lens length. This will clear up one of the most frustrating, boring aspects of working in Poser.

This will be operational in P9 and PP2012.

Other features

Most of the other features promises are incremental changes in the background. Fatser rendering. Some rationalisation of object menus. Tablet support for the morph tool. Improved library.

Differences between PP2012 and P9

PP2012 runs in a 64-bit environment and does gamma correction. P9 doesn’t do gamma correction (you’ll have to postwork it later, or use extra lights to light shadows) and, even though it runs on 64-bit systems, it does so as a 32-bit programme.

PP2012 comes with queued rendering, network rendering and background render options; P9 doesn’t.

PP2012 comes with software to help move full Poser scenes into Studio Max, Maya and Lightwave. P9 doesn’t.

I took the Pro plunge late (PP2010 was my first Pro version), primarily for the 64-bit support and the gamma correction. I don’t use the other Pro features, though a professional outfit probably will.

Since I got Pro, I’ve hardly used Poser 8. I can’t see myself getting Poser 9 as well as Poser 2012. At least this time they’re coming out at the same time, so we don’t feel the need to get both (Poser 8 came out months before PP2010, and its introduction of IDL was so significant that many PP users ended up getting it for that, only to have to upgrade again when PP2010 came out).

If you have the cash, I’d go Pro.

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