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Rendering animation to sequential image files with Poser and VirtualDub

Author: Wizardkiss

Tools Needed

* Microsoft Windows

* Poser

* VirtualDub (free)

Introduction

In this tutorial I will describe how to render your Poser animations to a series of sequential image files and then assemble them into a finished video using a free open source program called VirtualDub.

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Step 1 - Advantages of this method

There are several advantages to rendering your animations this way rather than directly to a video format file:

-If you should need to end the render before it finishes for some reason, or if Poser should crash before it completes (it could happen!) you can easily start back after the last complete frame where the render left off.

-You can view the results of the completed portion of your animation while the render is still in progress.

-Having individual files like this allows you to load them into your paint program to touch up or add special effects. You also gain access to all your paint program's filters to use on your video (assuming it has a batch function).

Step 2 - About VirtualDub

First of all let me introduce you to VirtualDub. It is a fairly well known video utility that you could think of as sort of a Swiss army knife collection of video tools. It is a completely free open source program for Microsoft Windows. Even if you have a big expensive editing suite like Adobe Premier I would still recommend having VirtualDub on your system because it is very handy for doing various small tasks.

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Step 3 - Download VirtualDub

Go to the VirtualDub SourceForge page at http://virtualdub.sourceforge.net and download VirtualDub. There are several versions available but the one we want is the latest stable release build. Unless you know you are running the 64-bit version of Windows you should select the 32-bit version. The version number may be different than the one seen in the picture below by the time you read this, but don't worry about that. Just download the latest stable release.

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Step 4 - Install VirtualDub

VirtualDub doesn't need to be installed with a setup program. To install it just create a folder somewhere on your hard drive and unzip the file you downloaded to that folder. You can then delete the zip file if you wish.

To start the program run the VirtualDub.exe file. To make it easier to use you can right click the .exe then select “Send To” > “Desktop (create shortcut)”. This will place a shortcut on your desktop to run the program from.

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Step 5 - Set up the animation in Poser

Now that we have VirtualDub installed let's render our animation in Poser. Create your animation as you normally would and when you get to the Movie Settings part of the render dialog select “Image Files” from the Format pop-down menu as seen below in Poser 7.

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Step 6 - Render the animation

Click the Make Movie button and select a folder to hold your sequential files. I would recommend making a separate folder on your hard drive to hold the image files for each animation you do to keep things neat. Enter a filename and select the file type of your choice. Don't use TIF or PSD because VirtualDub will not recognize those file types. If you're not sure what format to use try TGA. Click Save and the render will proceed.

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Step 7 - View the results

When the render is done go to the folder you saved to and you should have something like this:

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Wow! What a lot of files! Each file you see is one frame of your animation, numbered in sequential order. Don't worry though, next we're going to assemble them all into one nice, neat video file. If you want to you can examine them with whatever image viewing program you use to see how they turned out. Any manipulation to the images you wish to do with your paint program can also be done at this stage.

Step 8 - Assemble the files in VirtualDub

Start VirtualDub and select “File” > “Open video file” from the pull-down menus. Navigate to the folder where your sequential files are and select only the first one as seen below and click Open. VirtualDub will begin working and in a few seconds all your files will be loaded and assembled in sequence.

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Step 9 - Preview and save in video file format

You'll notice that your animation appears twice, side by side. Don't worry about that, it's one of the features of VirtualDub, but it isn't relevant to what we're doing here. If you wish you can click the play arrow at the bottom and watch your animation play in VirtualDub. At this point, if you wish to save your animation as an uncompressed video, you can select “File” > “Save as AVI” and we're done.

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Step 10 - Compress the finished video file to make it smaller

Saving to an uncompressed AVI will result in a very large video file so you might want to save it in a compressed format to save space. Fortunately VirtualDub will take care of this too (I told you it was handy!)

Select “Video” > “Compression” from the pull-down menus at the top and the dialog box seen below will open.

I can't tell you which compression method to select because it will vary depending on which codecs you have installed on your computer. If you have XviD (a free codec available at http://www.xvid.org) that's a good choice. Click the OK button. Nothing will happen yet but that's normal.

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Step 11 - Save the compressed file

Now select “File” > “Save as AVI” and enter your filename. When you click the Save button you should see two status windows pop up. This is the compression in progress and it may take a while. When it finishes we're all done and you'll have a nice small video file. You can then delete the sequential files if you wish, or save them for future editing.