Most of the people who see my artwork know that I work 95% of the time in DAZ Studio, but that is now coming to a close. Here's the thing --I love the DAZ studio models, and I've had a lot of fun with Iray and 3Delight over the years. My decision comes on the heels of DAZ Studio's move to Encrypted content. I'm not really down on Encrypted content as a whole, but the way they are implementing it has me concerned, and so I choose not to continue working with it.
But let me get to the heart of what really pisses me off about the whole thing. We've been asking for things for years as users of DAZ3D, Better cloth dynamics, Strand based hair, direct vertex manipulation, an animation rig for the figures or the ability to create one, particles --the list goes on and on. Not one of those things I mentioned or the hundreds of other user requests have been placed at the forefront of development. We're still working off ten year old cloth technology where other applications are running circles around DAZ Studio, and THIS is what they consider to be the most important thing. That tells me right there as a company, they have no interest in serving their user base in any fashion. Here you have other operations like Smith Micro and Reallusion and Luxology/The Foundry making at least an effort to give the users what they think we want, and the folks at DAZ Studio seem only to be interested in setting us up to become a captive consumer market.
Stop the train. I want to get off.
Here's what I'm doing now. You might want to investigate other options but I think that I'm comfortable with Modo, Iclone and Cinema 4D, so that's what I'm going to stick with. I was a little daunted by the prospect of learning rigging, but as I think on it, if I spend a few months learning it now, then I can pretty much do whatever I want later on. But to those of us who don't want to take too long --both Cinema 4D and Modo and a lot of other 3D Packages offer you an Auto-Rig option of some kind.
I have tested Reallusion Iclone and I will say this. It's hands down the simplest conversion for DAZ Genesis, Genesis 2, and Genesis 3 figures available. (Genesis 3 requires some extra work because of the facial bones but it's doable in a short time.) Basically, a Genesis 2 figure converts in about 15 - 20 minutes depending on how proficient you are. Iclone offers Physics, Particles, Apex Cloth, Wind Dynamics, etc. About the only thing I don't like about Iclone right at the moment is the lack of a full on animation rig in the view port. You have to select the bones by the puppet tool. There's no way to assign a Hotkey to a bone, so you're pretty much stuck with that for now. It may be better to set up the scene in Motionbuilder, Ikinema or Akeytsu, animate the motion there, and then bring it back into Iclone to render. I also like it because there is a plugin for Perception Neuron Motion Capture or Kinect Motion Capture. The renderer is not as advanced, and despite the advertising, you're wasting your time with Indigo Render if you want to use it for animation. (You basically have to do the render in Iclone frame by frame and send it to Indigo in order for it to interpret the frames and give you a usable output. It takes about 3 times as long...)
Right now I am investigating Modo ACS 2. Basically, I'm not trying to rig every male and female character from scratch, so a system like this offers me a very standard biped Rig for all of the major muscle groups needed for animation. That means the only thing I really have to work out is rigging the mouth, brows and the tongue. The thing about a setup like this is that I only need the geometry. I'm not trying to import anything other than the mesh from DAZ Studio so Genesis, Genesis 2, or Genesis 3 doesn't matter anymore -I'm free to work with any mesh regardless of generation. One of the other key considerations is that Modo can accept garment animations directly from Marvelous Designer, meaning that I can actually put them in clothing that looks realistic when they move. The last reason I'm going to list is that I get real strand based hair that doesn't look like geometry faking at being hair. , or if I want to fake it, I can experiment with geometry and shaders that will be able to be rigged and animated with dynamics in order to achieve a more realistic look. (Posing hair in DAZ Studio is a nightmare!)
I am also looking at Cinema 4D. Now this one is kind of a horse of a different color. It offers two alternatives right now --you can use the Lumiere Rig Tools to transfer the weights of a DAZ skeleton to Any Character Object. It takes a little more time, but it's pretty comprehensive. I've had some trouble with manipulating the bones in the character object, so I've put it on hold until I can work out what I'm doing wrong in R17. The other alternative is Cactus Dan's Rigging Tools. The Cactus Dan approach is to convert the existing bones to Dan's Bone system, where you can develop your own animation rig and apply it. This one is way more like actual rigging so if you're not prepared to spend some time working it out, then look for something else. It is not for the faint hearted, but it's the most comprehensive conversion. If you convert Genesis 3, it will convert all the bones including the facial bones , but you will have to ad control points to the facial skeleton on your own --there's no guide on how to do this so you'll have to learn to rig it. Theoretically, if you set the control rig up on it's own, you would be able to apply it to another imported Gen 3 Figure and all you'd have to do is adjust the location of the controllers. Honestly, though I think it would be much better all around for you to re-rig the whole thing from scratch and just adjust and re-use the rig, rather than work out all of the differences between the Genesis 3 skeleton and the Cactus Dan Rigging tools.
It simply boils down to this. I'm tired of waiting for DAZ Studio to implement the things that are available when I know those things can be had elsewhere. I'm tired of being limited by no dynamics, no physics and no particles. It's not a tool for that and it doesn't look like it ever will be so why keep wasting time working with a tool that doesn't give you the functionality that you need? This is my personal choice and I don't recommend it to anyone who's just doing still renders. So when you see pictures to come and they look like Models from DAZ --know that the shapes do come from DAZ Studio and that I'll always be greatful to them for all the great content they've provided, but as a hobbyist who aspires to animate, it's time to move on to something a bit more robust. I'm testing out Cinema 4D, Iclone and Modo. I will let you know which ones I settled with and why when I'm sure of it.