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Lightwave Tutorial - Poser Imports

This tutorial was written some years ago, but is still one of the most popular on the site, so when rebuilding the site, I decided to keep it. The most important thing that has changed in the meantime is that Daz Studio Pro can now be downloaded for free, and I strongly recommend it if you are not up to modelling your own characters from scratch.

Click Here to go to the DAZ3D site and download the software.

Now, back to the tutorial!


Using Poser figures in Lightwave.

Level: Intermediate.

The Basics.


This is an intermediate level tutorial - so not every step is explained, I assume you know your way around the Lightwave interface. To do this tutorial you will need Lightwave 7 or higher, and the free M3 or D3 figures from Daz. You will need a copy of the free Daz Studio, or Poser, (Not sure what the oldest version of Poser is that will work, I guess 4+).

I have done this as one long page, so it's easy to print and you don't have to jump around online. At least that's the way I like tutorials!

Many Lightwave users are extremely dismissive of the idea of using Poser figures in Lightwave. The most common reasons I hear for this are:

This is generally followed by the claim that the only way to get quality is to model your own, the hard way. But to model a believable human figure is an extremely demanding task. And to model one that will animate well adds a whole new level of complexity. Then there is realistic texturing of human skin to master... If you have the skills and the time to do this, then by all means go ahead. But for most of us, and particularly the less experienced 3d artist, pre-made figures are well worth investigating.

This tutorial will try and show you how to get started in making good user of Poser based content within Lightwave, for minimal cost and effort.

The seriously good news is that there are some excellent base figures available for free. There is also software to export these base figures into Lightwave readable formats for free, and free plug-ins to help you get the textures over.

So lets get started!

The real problems with Poser content.

A lot of the perceived weakness of poser content comes directly from the rather low quality figures provided with older versions of Poser. Poser 6 and up are a lot better, and the Daz “Genesis” figures are better still, but the impression gained from those early versions has stuck. Even with Poser 5, if you start with a default scene and hit render, production quality, you get Don the plastic zombie. Eyes staring straight ahead, plastic skin, and about as convincing as a half melted Barbie doll.

Like this:

Weak poser figure Weak poser figure head

And earlier versions were even worse…

Now with only a little more effort, you can get something like this:

Improved poser figure Jose poser figure

In both cases these images were rendered inside Poser, but I will show you how to do the same thing in Lightwave. And before you know it you will be able to make images like this, from inside Lightwave:

Dodo kisses the oriental dragon in the elves village

Building, dragon, elf, hair, all taken from Poser objects and brought into Lightwave.

Getting started: Better base figures.

Important Note: If you have Vue 5 Infinite, which was bundled with early orders for Lightwave 9, and Poser, you will be able to load models into Vue, and export them as *.LWO - this is NOT covered in the tutorial as it requires three separate commercial programs!)

The very first thing you should do is visit the Daz3d web site. They have produced 2 very good and very flexible FREE base figures for Poser, Michael 3, and Victoria 3. (There are others, but start with these two - they are very broadly supported). I am not permitted to provide the objects here for copyright reasons, so you will have to collect them from Daz, and follow along.

(Update! Daz are now on Michael 5, which is not free - the good news is that if you download the free Daz Studio Pro, you can also get the free content pack, and can use that instead)

Click here to visit the Daz web site.

The Daz3d business model is simple and very attractive to users - they like to provide the base tools and products at a very low price, (or even free), and then sell you lots of add ons.

If you download and install Michael 3, (we will call him M3 from now on, for short), and render, you will get this:

M3 base M3 base 2

Well, not an amazing difference, but we have only just got started.

Incidentally, note also that M3 will respond to the usual Poser options of setting proportions - M3 is not just one figure, but the basis for a family of figures. I am now going to make a very simple export to Lightwave.

So, let's get things a bit more the way we want. I will start by setting the proportions to heroic, and applying a suitable superhero pose. Like this:

M2 figure posed

Now we want to get the object out of Poser, choose the menu options:


Take the default options for all subsequent menus. The OBJ format can be read in Lightwave, and it will also keep the various transformations, (the pose and heroic proportions in this case).

Important Note: If you do not have a copy of Poser you can do exactly the same thing with the free Daz Studio core software. This has a lot of add ons available, but the core product does what you need. Get it from the Daz3d web site, where you collected the M3 and V3 figures. I'll be using mainly Poser, but only because I know it a bit better. Daz Studio actually has rather better export options, particularly if you are exporting multiple objects to one exported file. For now the defaults will work fine.

Time to go to Lightwave, and load up our hero, in modeller, like this:

Modeller view of M3 export

OK, not very exciting so far, although the shape is definitely there.

We need to do a couple of things. First of all, go to the 'multiply' tab, and click the triple button. That will turn all those potentially non planar, (that's not flat in plain English) polygons into triangles. If you look at the surfacing, you will see that separate body parts have separate surfaces, a big help in getting it to look right. But we are going to keep things extremely simple for this example.

I have created a nice shiny surface, with a gradient on incidence angle so it looks more reflective at shallow angles. I turned on smoothing and gave it a reflection map, to get a rather cool figure, reminiscent of the "Silver Surfer".

M3 textures for a cosmic look

Now I think that looks pretty cool, and I would not want to try and model him the slow way.

So far so good. But there are limits to the uses of such simply textured people - not all characters are statues, or cosmic explorers from the sixties. Of course, there is nothing stopping you from developing procedural skin surfaces and applying them to the figures. With the new subsurface scattering in Lightwave 9, you could probably get something rather convincing. You may already have some you can transfer from other models you have made. But this tutorial is about doing it the lazy way, so lets move on to getting good textures in from Poser.

The best Poser figures use image maps, and often very high resolution ones, thousands of pixels on a side. This means that you can get in really close to a face, and the details won't pixelate.

The bad news is that I am not aware of any good free high resolution character maps.

The good news is that there are a lot of very reasonably priced ones.

My main source for this sort of thing is the Renderosity Marketplace. The material is provided by users, and therefore the quality is to say the least highly variable. But it does pay to dig around the best selling stuff, and you can find some seriously impressive textures for $8 to $15. For this example, I am going to use the 'Shane' figure, available here for an excellent value $6.99. Although Shane is a 'David' based figure, it works just fine with M3.

If you want to consider some other options, take a look at these:

It's also worth investigating other characters by these merchants - I think you will agree that they are a LOT better than the default Don, and do not in any way look like him!

Anyway, back to Shane. I loaded him into Poser 5, gave him an interesting pose, and rendered him so you can see what we are starting with in Poser:

shane starting point shane starting point

As you can probably see, the head is the same shape as M3 - this is because I did not apply any head morphs. We will deal with that later... For now, I just went through the procedure to export him as an OBJ file.

If you load him into Modeller, you will find that he has no textures, exactly as our M3 figure came in.

shane dud figure

Of course, tripling polygons and setting smooth on will help remove those ugly kinks, but how do we get him textured?

Well, when you exported the figure, you did not just export the shape, the software also produced an MTL file, (Material file), which has details of the materials used. In this case, that includes links to the UV mapped texture images. But Lightwave does not read these out of the box.

There are various object translation utilities out there, and I am sure some of them will do the job. So if you already have such a utility, and are happy with it then get stuck in.

If you don't, well there is a free MTL import script available from "Dodgy", which will do most of the work for you.

Here is dodgy's home page:

And go here to get the script:

Another program that deserves to be better known is Accutrans 3D. This does a wide range of object conversions, and the most recent versions can save out Lightwave format objects, complete with the UV maps intact.

It has a fully functional trial version available, and the fully registered version is only $20, which is great value!

Collect your copy from this website.

Before we continue, a few words of warning. Lightwave's Modeller can be a bit fragile when importing OBJ files. Save often. Also, try and keep things simple - for example, exporting multiple objects from poser into one OBJ file may cause problems. Dodgy's script is great, and it's free, but it is not 100% bullet proof. And neither is Lightwave.

Anyway, on with the action.

accutrans grab

Here he is,loaded into Accutrans 3d, (click for a larger view). The display is a little rough, but he has quite clearly got his textures! There's something odd going on with the eyebrows and eyelashes, we will fix that a little later.

Now select SAVE AS, and choose Lightwave 2, Mega files. (Lightwave 1 is the very old small files format). Here are the options I chose:

accutrans save options

A few seconds later, your object is saved, and you can load him into modeller.

Lets take a look at what we have!

shane imported

As you can see in the preview window, the textures have arrived, and we have a posed and surfaced figure. However I am going to do a bit of cleaning up, as the conversion has not quite handled everything, (this is common with most of the translation utilities - the best job I know of is done by Greenbriar, but this is no big deal).

(If you deselect QUADS when exporting from Accutrans 3D, as shown in the screenshot about, the model will already be tripled - skip this stage. If you use other scripts, you may still need to do it.)

First off all, we still have some of those non-planar polygons. You can clean them up in modeller by going to MULTIPLY tab, and clicking TRIPLE.

Next we want smoothing on for all surfaces - open the surface editor in modeller, and click on the first surface name, then shift-click the last surface name. You are now editing all the surfaces at once. Tick the SMOOTHING box. In some cases you may find that the utility has dragged in some luminosity settings, or applied strong specular - you can also clean these up quickly at this stage if necessary. But ours is looking good. I'll close in on the face, and lets see how he is coming along:

Shane face

Well, he has Brezhnev's eyebrows, and Dusty Springfield's mascara fetish, but we are getting there. You may also see traces of seams, (they don't really show in the compressed image), particularly if you are using low res images for the texture previews. They are probably artefacts of the image mapping, don't worry at this stage.

The other problem I have come across sometimes is that there are options that separate the body parts into different layers. If you see subtle lines around limbs or the neck, check that the body parts have had points merged, so they shade smoothly. But things work well with this combination of parameters for Accutrans 3d.

Lets send him to Layout.

shane textures

You can see the texture seams I mentioned before, as I said they won't show in the final render. But what is up with the eyes?

Well, Accutrans has not managed to handle the transparency options - Poser has an unconventional approach to transparency, and most methods have this problem, (though again Greenbriar does better than most). To handle it properly you must wait for the advanced tutorial, but for now lets just get the transparency set to 100%, (and check that the specular is also zero), so the eyebrows and eyelashes disappear.

Very few Poser figures use the physical eyebrow polygons, they are normally painted onto the forehead. And male figures generally do not have prominent eyelashes.

One other rather odd thing has happened - his eyes were blue, but now they are black. Examining the textures I discovered that it had used the reflection maps for the diffuse colour map. This appeared to be in the Daz3d exported OBJ. It was a simple matter to point things back at the correct blue eyed image map.

At this stage we also have no bump channel - Shane does not come with a bump, so to speak, again I will handle that in the advanced tutorial.

How does that look? Here's my test render.

shane fixed

Now that's more like it. Finally here's a render of our finished figure, with some better lighting and a simple setting.

Some additional notes:

Many of the figures you can buy on Renderosity will require morphs. The morph packs are an additional product for the M3 and V3 figures, and are NOT free. They will let you fine tune a mass of parameters on the figures, everything from thin ankles, to adjusting ethnicity, to pointy elf ears. If you do not have these, then the figure will have the same basic shape as the vanilla M3 or V3 figure.

This procedure may seem a bit long winded, but it's fairly quick once you get used to it. Part 2 of the tutorial, advanced techniques and animation, will show you how to reuse some of these textures.

There is also a set of plugins from Greenbriar that will help you get Poser figures and props into Lightwave. They do a much better job of taking in textures automatically - if you are going to do this a lot, you will probably find them worth buying. They will even let you create Poser content inside Lightwave. Here's the Link.

Additional notes on Accutrans 3d:

When I showed this to the author of Accutrans 3d, he said that he had recently obtained a detailed specification of the OBJ format with .MTL files, and was planning to improve the way Accutrans 3d handles this format. So check there often!

Wayne also adds:

Some poser models have the surface normals pointing the wrong direction so the triangles are black or dark when rendered.  This was reported by an AccuTrans user.  He used the align normals group of controls in AccuTrans.

If you want to change the settings for selected layer attributes after a file has been read, use the "Layers->Batch Attributes" menu command. Set the attributes and depress the "@" button to select the attribute for use".  Check the "Prefs->Batch Attributes" menu item and the batch attributes will be automatically applied after the file has been read.

You can manually set layer attributes after the file has been read.  Use the "Layers->Attributes" menu command".  Select the layer.  Set the attribute.  If the attribute should be global to all the layers, click the button with all the little squares on it.

Quads can be deleted and recreated.  Delete the quads using the "Tools->Delete Quads" menu command and then recreate them using the "Tools->Triangles to Quads" menu command.  Use the "Prefs->Options" menu command.  On the "General" page you can set whether the quad should be planar or some what non planar when created.  You can also set how much the quad can vary from a rectangular shape.

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