Not completely sure why, but I decided I would take a little detour with my 3D tools and give the DAZ Studio a try with the new version just out. DAZ Studio 4 has a bunch of new stuff, perhaps the cornerstone of which is the genesis morphing toolset. This allows a single generic humanoid to be moulded into all manner of people from small girls, heroic men and even monstrous creatures. All the rigging, textures and clothing all come along for the ride as you mix and match all these deformers.
This video is from the success stories promo page shows how some artists use the DAZ Studio and figures as the basis for some quite cool artwork. Doug Shuler uses the software before going on to paint superheroes:
[Doug Shuler illustrations via the DAZ site]
Armed with bundles for V4 and G4 plus the Genesis tools that should be plenty of capability to show me whether this might be a workflow with merit. Using the figures to explore character ideas, either for bringing into other 3D tools for the game engines or rendering out to use as reference for photoshop/painted concept work.
Here are 2 images from the Monthly DAZ Gallery showing what can be done by the community:
[Images by Poeplipoe and Igolochka using DAZ from the DAZ Monthly Gallery site]
My explorations so far have really only allowed me to start getting a feel for the interface and various approaches to using the library, parameters and options in various orders. You need to be careful to save often - a false move of applying a material to the wrong things and boom. There is definitely a learning curve, though it is pretty shallow - esp if pre-armed with a little 3D software understanding. The structure of the library isnt intuitive though - and having to download and install a bundle is a pain.
A little while after getting going I was at least able to throw a figure into the scene and set them up with options for a basic output renders. Here are some quick images to show that it can be done very quickly - compared to starting from scratch in 3ds Max this is lightspeed. They arent exactly overflowing with quality, but they already are expressing character and showing real potential for working over for character design purposes.
[my test renders while exploring DAZ Studio 4]
For me - complex posing, while keeping the anatomy sane, is hard work and often ends up wonky. Plus expressions and keeping features consistent from one illustration to the next are tricky - having good grounding from something like DAZ could be a powerful ally in this.
Next step is to follow this idea all the way through a pipeline to see how I fair, going from DAZ to rendering to photoshop grayscale to painting to colouring and final touchup. May dive in and go straight for a Moth or Butterfly.