* VLC now supports 360 video and 3D audio.
* Can stream to Chromecast devices.
* Can play Blu-Ray Java menus.
Did you download Google Earth Pro when it became free, a while back now, but haven’t updated it since? The latest Google Earth Pro 7.3.1 update brings “new 64-bit support, performance improvements”. There’s no auto-update in the software, it seems, so you have to go fetch the new installer manually.
Possibly of interest to readers who use Google Earth to find terrains that can then be extracted from datasets for use with 3D landscape software such as Vue and Terragen. Or those who donate 3D building models to Google Earth.
It’s near the end of the month again, so here’s my round-up of the new releases for Poser and DAZ for January 2018. It’s probably been a bit of a slow month for the store sellers, as I’m hearing that’s been the case for many who sell online. It’s been an especially slow January, this year, it seems.
Also of note this month is the unusually large amount of “fan art” for sale.
Sci-Fi Cat Car. It’s on the DAZ store, so I’m assuming that it’s original and not fan art inspired by some Japanese anime?
A believable near-future Space Station for DAZ Studio. Similar to NASA/ESA designs I’ve seen, but they’re public domain so you’d be OK to use this for commercial renders such as a graphic novel.
2049 Diva Hat by Coflek-Gnorg. Given the name I’m assuming something like this is in the new Blade Runner 2049, which is a movie I still haven’t seen yet (the DVD isn’t available yet, here in the UK).
The Duke for G3M, with a sort-of David Bowie look. Be aware that this requires you have the G3M Body and Head Morph packs.
Sixus 1’s Mr Bogey for Daz Studio. A fantastical Harry Potter-ish version of a Victorian “Organ Grinder’s Monkey”. Expensive, for a standalone, but comes with… “bonus strand-based hair, highly-detailed clothing and poses.”
Mr. Sparky’s free Super SteamPunk Shooter for Poser. Would probably look best being wielded by toony rather than photoreal characters.
Sixus 1 has given his old V4 Lamia monster a makeover, as Lamia for Genesis 8 Female for DAZ Studio.
Orc HD for Genesis 8 Male for DAZ Studio.
Wild Boar by AM, with Look at My Hair presets. Nice but a bit small. We could probably do with a Gilgamesh-sized monster-boar as well.
1971s’s Charming house will be instantly familiar to all players of Morrowind who slipped past Fargoth and got as far as Balmora. Lovely work as usual from 1971s, but probably best used as “fan art only”.
Xeno-Temple for Daz Studio. Again, it’s fannish in that there’s a big nod here to the Aliens movies and Giger.
A stylish 1950s Killer Bug from Outer Space for DAZ Studio.
A free pack of Colors 4 Toon Renders materials for Poser. I haven’t tried them yet, but I assume they’re OK.
A detailed Hovis-style 1910s Vintage Shop Bicycle for DAZ Studio.
A 1960s Yellow Submarine. I’m fairly sure this is still in copyright, to whoever owns the Beatles’ intellectual property this month, so this is another one that’s best used for “fan art only”.
A Helping Hand Poses for Genesis 3 Male, for battle and disaster scenes.
The AntFarm’s Freight Elevator and Basement.
Jack Tomalin’s well-known Parkside Box Car 3D model gets an upgrade to Parkside Box Car 2018 for DAZ Studio.
And there’s a set of four nice free Medieval keys for DAZ Studio.
The Cornucopia store is still down, and there’s not a great deal of landscape elsewhere this month. But ShaaraMuse3D has hi-res 3D Scenery: Frozen Snow Formations for Poser, with 8K HD textures.
Planet Glise 2 also looks good. Although it’s for DAZ Studio it looks like it would work well if flooded in Vue, thus serving as a quick-start basis of a prehistoric or alien underwater world.
That’s it, more picks next month.
There was once an excellent desktop software package called FontLab, which was the best professional tool you could get for creating new Windows fonts or tweaking old ones. Now FontLab has finally been updated, indeed completely overhauled, and released as FontLab VI. Regrettably the new cost is a glyph-curling $689, but if you purchased FontLab 5 (way back when Windowsaurii roamed the steaming primeval swamps of the Interwebs) an upgrade is a more feasible $199.
A free open-source video editor, Shotcut. New to me, but currently at version 18 and thus quite polished. It has a set of Tutorial Videos which also come in German-language versions. It has a less-than-inspiring website, but according to the reliable WebUser magazine it’s a good choice…
“Its interface feels instantly familiar and is very easy to use, and it offers nearly all the editing features you could wish for. … simple enough for beginners to master, but it also has plenty of advanced features” — WebUser magazine, end January 2018.
Interesting 2017 statistics from the booktrade journal Publishers Weekly (19th Jan 2018), giving a snapshot of the print book market for 2017. They’re summarising the industry-leading NPD BookScan data, which tracks 85% of print bookstore retail in the USA. So comparative digital/online trends are missing, but I did note a couple of interesting things:
1. After surging wildly ahead for two years, print sales of graphic novels in bookshops slipped back a little…
“[they had] an 11% increase between 2015 and 2016 — the second biggest gain in adult fiction in that year — [but] saw sales fall 5% last year.”
I’d guess the dip was somewhat due to much-cheaper 10″ digital tablets, such as the new Kindle Fire HD 10″, which is ideal for reading graphic novels. Also, Marvel are having a hard time on sales at the moment, due to their editorial policies in the monthly comic-books.
2. Interest in the fad of adult coloring books has (predictably) collapsed, though it had a good run. Sales of History/Law/Politics and Reference books are now surging, presumably on both sides of the political divide. Book sci-fi for adults seems to have slightly declined, possibly partly due to the depressing / pessimistic nature of most of the ‘serious sci-fi’ novels being released. Fantasy for adults seems to be running at about the same level too, with its apparent strong surge in 2017 nearly all down to Neil Gaiman selling 265,000 print copies of his Norse Mythology. But such broad stability is encouraging for print, in the face of piracy and a continuing slip over to digital and audiobooks rather than print. Much of the ‘serious sci-fi / fantasy’ audience is getting older, and so audiobooks and tablets with scalable ebook fonts will appeal more and more, thus one would expect that trend to cut into print sales.
3. Various cultural trends are evident on looking down the book sales tables. It seems to me that if you want to reach a sweet spot in the 2018 mass market, then you would release the following ‘ideal’ product — which would aim to hit multiple mass-market growth areas at once:
Juvenile: Historical Animals, with their story set in a specific and distinctive Place. (On the flipside of such furry historical fiction, trends in music suggest that ‘boy bands’ and nerd culture may be two hot ‘real world settings’ for 2018).
Adult: Detective Horror set in a very well-researched and detailed historical setting, with a dash of the Fantastical. Light on the Romance.
Non-fiction: The huge success of Gaiman’s Norse Mythology may have opened up a follow-on market for the myths and stories and spirituality of the North?
I also note that steampunk comes through in Hollywood movies set to be released at the end of 2018, and the genre will get a strong marketing/awareness boost due to that. There’s also a major Tolkien biopic movie, though if that will be any good or not remains to be seen. But the middle of the year should see some sustained establishment-media attention for Tolkien. Rocketing sales at Games Workshop also suggests sustained interest in Tolkien-like fantasy at the other end of the age spectrum, as the ‘new baby boom’ kids establish their first out-of-home no-parents interests.
Of course, that’s all “mass market”, which can be heavily skewed by where the marketing money and talent goes. There are plenty of strong genre niches too, made ever more accessible by crowdfunding and new indie distribution platforms.
Another new Poser-aided comic, Apocalypse Girl from Poser and DAZ content-creator Sixus 1.
I’ve never seen this one before: Setup a Real Time Black and White Preview Window in Photoshop. Very useful for digital painters. Sadly the setup process can’t be recorded and then run as an Action (I tried), but you’ll probably memorise it once you’ve done it a few times.
Cisco reveals Multiple Unpatched Security Vulnerabilities in Blender.
Blender’s response, after a lot of blather, seems to be boil down to: we’re not going to fix them, even though this huge list of vulnerabilities is now public and exploitable by hackers.
The Poser sale is still on. Upgrade even a very old Poser version to the latest Poser Pro, for $49.95. Looks like Smith Micro can also ship you a physical disc in the mail, which could be rather handy if you’re in a remote place with weak or no broadband.
Here’s another way to quickly change the entire colour and/or line style of Poser’s Comic Book Preview or Toon Outlines lineart. It’s not the same as hand colouring with a soft brush, to partly match the colour flats layer beneath – but it’s a quick way to get the ink line colour away from black. It uses Photoshop’s Layer blending mode.
1. Open Poser’s render of your ink lines, in this case a simple toon outlines render.
2. Run a Photoshop Action on the layer that knocks out the white, leaving only the black lines.
3. Add a new white layer under the lines, so you can keep on seeing your lineart properly.
4. Top menu | Layer | Layer Style | Blending Options | tick Colour Overlay | click on Colour Overlay to open its controls.
5. Adjust the colour and settings of Colour Overlay, to taste. In this example I’ve had the ink lines become red…
You can also simultaneously apply the next Layer blending mode, Gradient Overlay…
The stacked blending mode can be saved as a preset to the Styles palette, from where it can be easily applied to other lineart.
A new free 90-minute webinar on using Poser for comics production, “How to Create Graphic Novels and Anime Art Using Poser Pro”, from Digital Art Live and Smith Micro. It’s on YouTube in 720p. This is the second of two versions of the same webinar, presented by Tasos Anastasiades. The first run-through had some glitches, but this second one is excellent.
There’s also an in-depth interview with Tasos, to be found in the latest (Dec 2017) free monthly magazine from Digital Art Live.
Poser’s Sketch Designer module probably doesn’t get as much love as it should do. It’s been around and unchanged forever, which means that most Poser users last took a serious look at it a long time ago, when running on underpowered PCs and a crash-prone Poser version. Sketching took forever, could easily crash your PC, and the render size was insufficient to do much with. Most people seem to have forgotten the Sketch Designer is even there.
But there’s a whole lot that can be done with it, once you break free of the presets and work out what the sliders do. Learning how to turn off background sketching is the biggest time-saver (Background tab | Opacity 0% and just-in-case bring all the other sliders down to 0% too).
There’s also the fact that Sketch Designer results can now be quickly improved with some fairly recent additions to Photoshop’s features. For instance, here’s how to quickly fix the output from the plain vanilla “Sketch” preset, using Photoshop CS6 and higher. Here I’m using a flat IBL light, and I’m in Comic Book Preview mode in Colour with lines turned on. Basically, the scene is about as flat as it can get, though admittedly we’re still getting some indication of shading from the character’s materials. Then we run Sketch Designer’s standard “Sketch” preset on it, after turning off the preset background and turning the sketch lines’ Opacity down to maybe 40%. This is the result in a 2400 by 1800px render size in .PNG format…
You could also experiment here with turning Depth Cueing on, to see if you get fainter pencil lines further away from the camera.
Then load the PNG render in Photoshop, apply Smart Blur followed by Surface Blur, then finish with a little bit of Noise. Sketch Designer’s strange swirly-whorly Sketch patterns now look like graphite pencil shading and some artistic smudgery, but we’ve kept the linework un-blurred…
The addition of Noise is a quick and clunky emulation of paper texture, but you could omit that and blend onto a real paper texture. In that case, you might not want to lower the Sketch preset’s opacity quite as much as I have in this example.
You might also add the original Poser Sketch layer back on top as a 50% blending Photoshop layer, then go over it with a big soft Eraser to remove the knots in the whorls and just leave what looks like ‘a trace of pencil strokings, here and there’.
The only problem with Sketch renders is that when you save the render to .PNG it is not masked. But there are multiple other ways to get the mask from Poser.
Following my recent Poser lineart colour tutorial, many thanks to Mike Mitchell for pointing out his “Noir Style Tutorial, Pt. 8 – Step 3: Edit Materials” blog post. Mike’s post usefully points out that Geometric Edge line colour can be easily edited, in Poser’s Materials Room.
This works, but on its own it is not all that useful for my suggested Photoshop-oriented workflow of “colour flats + shading + linework” as layers. Because it can’t be applied in the Comic Book Preview mode’s B&W setting, only in its Colour or None setting. Here it is with Colour on…
And with B&W on…
As you can see, the bright green line just isn’t being picked up when B&W is turned on. Nor does it help to switch Poser’s overall Display to one of the Cartoon Display modes, or to render in Firefly with Toon Lines on. Nor does it help to use a shade of grey for the green line.
Mike’s tip would be most handy if you’re tweaking textures directly on the character, in the hope of quickly pumping out a set of single finished/usable comics renders from Poser. I haven’t yet got as far as doing the whole ‘total character materials makeover for comics’ thing — which obviously has huge potential — and currently I’m still slowly exploring the best options for getting multipass renders stacked up in Photoshop. That’s mostly because I want to find a relatively quick-and-automatable way to create consistent comic frames that look like they’re hand-drawn (aka ‘the mythical Northwest Passage to the fabled Land of the “Make Art” Buttons’). “Consistent” is the key word here, so as to avoid two hours per page of colour adjusting and tweaking shadows to get them to look alike in each comic panel and from page-to-page.
However, prompted by Mike’s note I’ve found that there’s an exception and a workaround. Simply switch Poser’s overall Display to “Cartoon w/lines” (three tones) and we get a grey-filled duplicate of the previous B&W mode. No extra ink lines are being added when compared to the B&W Comic Book Preview mode, but we do retain the green outline, albeit initially with a hair-thin black line either side of the green ink line. (I can’t see any way to colour-ramp the line with a gradient, as it has no ‘node connector hole’ in the Material Room. So it appears to me that the Geometric Edge line can only ever be a solid colour).
However, fiddle with the Comic Book Preview dials a bit and the unwanted hair-thin black lines vanish. This makes for a solid colour edge-line which is useful, for instance when used as a Colour blend layer in Photoshop. When we export this as a masked .PNG, then everything else in the render will be grey or black. Therefore it should be possible to either Colour blend or to select-extract just the coloured line. If you just want a solid colour fill on your linework, and don’t want to fiddle with fiddly adjustments layer or blending modes in Photoshop, then is seems this is a quick way to do that. Here’s Darkseal’s Nyla in a nice dark pink line…
There’s no need to make multiple renders for multiple line colours, because Photoshop can ‘Replace Colour’ with ease, or change colour of a layer using Layer Blending modes and Colour Overlay.