Software: Discover the third dimension

Keith White
13 November, 2010
View more articles fromthe author

Some years ago I worked on a project using 3D software to demonstrate weight gain and loss on human figures derived from actual photos. Working with Cinema 4D and Poser gurus was a fascinating if brief insight into the world of 3D figure creation.

More recently, in the production of historical documentaries, I’ve been considering the use of 3D software to recreate historical scenes as an alternative to budget-breaking re-enactments. I’m particularly interested to see how much I can do myself, so I’ve started at the beginning with the very popular DAZ 3D.

I downloaded the free software from the DAZ website (, registered online and dived straight in. Courtesy of a series of short YouTube DAZ tutorial videos I quickly reacquainted myself with the basic 3D concepts of scenes, poses, cameras, lighting and tweening. The main improvement over time seems to be the preset routines. It’s no longer necessary to build every item in a scene from the ground up.

A basic DAZ workflow runs something like this:

Load your model. This is usually the Victoria or Michael figure. DAZ comes with some basic content but there is plenty more to be had on the website – both free and for sale at very reasonable rates. If you get seriously addicted to this stuff you can join the Platinum Club for US$7.95 per month or US$99.95 per annum (about $8.90/$110). You get huge discounts, freebies and access to special offers.

You can vary model clothing and hairstyles from any variations you have, or others which you can get online. Most of the basic models come with many body shapes or ‘morphs’ which you can then manipulate to get the exact result you want. In this way it’s possible to create a variety of highly individual figures from one basic model – all the way down to detailed facial expressions such as pout, wink, smile and frown.

Pose your model. Using either presets or a range of tools to manipulate various body parts you can set your figure in a specific pose or position. If you want animation, create other poses and use the Puppeteer tool to fill in or ‘tween’ frames in between. The aniMate plug-in offers pre-constructed animation routines including walking, dancing, fighting and a number of common gestures.

Add a scene or background. Use presets or choose from your own image collection. Alternatively you can fashion your own stunning landscapes in Bryce, a DAZ stablemate. At this stage you can create and position a variety of lights and vary camera positions. Your own film studio!

Render your scene. When you have everything set up the way you want it you then set your Mac to work. This includes capturing locations of figures and objects, pose information, lighting and camera settings, colour and texture details plus any specific render options you choose from an extensive menu. This is where the new fast Macs really come into their own, crunching all this detail almost on-the-fly.

DAZ Studio 3 is a very impressive introduction for beginners. If you need to fly higher there’s the seamless upgrade to DAZ Studio 3 Advanced, for US$149.95 (about $166).

If you want to broaden your skillset check out the other complementary members of the DAZ stable – Bryce, Carrara and Hexagon.

So I’m about to get into 3D again. The positive changes since my first experience are the huge decrease in render time, the compilation of basic routines into presets and a vast 3D community creating figures, objects and scenes at affordable prices.

The DAZ software family offers a great introduction for teachers, students and wannabes to the many creative opportunities in 3D modelling. Maybe a killer iPad graphic novel?

This article originally appeared in the October issue of Australian Macworld magazine.

Leave a Comment

Please keep your comments friendly on the topic.

Contact us