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Understanding Poser Files

Author: DoctorTed

Tools Needed

  • Poser 4

Support Files

  • None

Introduction

Poser makes use of separate files to store and represent each character, prop, light, or camera, and may employ separate files for particular details of the characters. When you import a new model, character or morph target you need to make sure the associated files are stored where Poser can find them. See the File Placement Table below for a list of file locations.

All of these files are stored in the Poser Runtime directory, and most must be in a particular location for Poser to function correctly. On a PC, the full path to the Runtime Directory is normally:

C:\Program Files\MetaCreations\Poser 4\Runtime

Depending upon where you bought the program and which patch you last installed, the path may instead be:

C:\Program Files\Curious Labs\Poser 4\Runtime

If you have installed the Mac version, you can locate the Runtime folder inside the Poser4 folder. The Poser4 folder will be wherever you chose to place it during installation, or at the root level of your Startup Drive if you chose a default installation.

Even though the location of the Poser4 folder may be different between Windows and Macintosh versions, the contents of the Runtime folder are structured identically on both. The only exception is that some of the Windows files will have an extra “.rsr” file with them, with the same name as the file it is related to. This is a result of the differences between the way these two operating systems store information. For example, an .rsr file in Windows will contain the image preview for an object, whereas the Macintosh version will instead have that preview encapsulated in the resource fork of the object itself.

In the majority of cases, if you download a new character or prop you will be downloading new files to add to Poser as pp2, hr2, CR2 and rsr. Files that provide textures and bump maps are usually jpg, tif, or bmp images.

The files that make up the new character, prop, hair style, etc, will be available on the web in either a .zip or .sit compression format. (An in depth look at these compression formats is beyond the scope of this tutorial) Once downloaded and decompressed you will have a collection of these various Poser file types. You can move the resulting files by hand, referencing the file location information that may be stored as a document in the compressed file. Just drag them with the mouse and drop them into the right folder. Some Zip files, such as Zygote models and characters, are provided in Winzip files that automatically place the files where they belong in the Poser Runtime folder upon decompression; see their download instructions page for clarification. Macintosh users will still need to manually place these files into their correct locations.

It is possible to examine the CR2 file in a text editor and find the names and correct locations of all required files. That method will be discussed later in this tutorial along with the details of the CR2 file. A safer and easier way to automatically place the files is with the aid of the CR2Edit utility by Daniel Wilmes. Unfortunately CR2Edit is currently available only for Windows.

In the table below, note that placement is most critical for files that go into Runtime\Geometries. There is more flexibility in the libraries section. An expression in parentheses means that the subdirectory or name depends upon the figure. You can find the correct entry for that part of the path by examining the corresponding entries in your own directory structure, or by following the instructions that may have come with your download. Within the libraries subfolder, you are free to create folder names or move files around; your locations will be reflected in the Library found within Poser. Placement of the graphic (texture and bump) files is not critical since you can specify the location from within Poser.

Poser Files and Their Placement

File Extension

Purpose

Correct Location under Poser 4 \ Runtime

obj

Figure Geometry

Geometries\(figure name)

rsr (small; KB); PC

Thumbnail graphic

libraries\character\(category)\(character name)

rsr (large; MB); both

Binary obj

Same location as associated geometry file

pz3

Poser Scene

Wherever you save Poser scenes

cm2

Camera

libraries\camera\Camera Sets

CR2

Character

libraries\character\(category)\(character name)

fc2

Face

libraries\faces\(category)

hr2

Hair

libraries\hair\(category)

hd2

Hand

libraries\hand\(category)

lt2

Light

libraries\light\Light Sets

pz2

Pose

libraries\pose\(category)

pp2

Prop

libraries\props\(category)

tif, bmp, bum, jpg

Textures; bump

textures \ textures\(category)\(subcategory)

pzs

Web links

Weblinks\(category)

Two other kinds of files that you may encounter are phi and pcf. Phi files were used in earlier versions of Poser to perform functions now carried out in the hierarchy editor, and were located with the obj file. Pcf files are coded for use by Objaction Mover.

Poser scenes are stored in pz3 files. They are similar in structure to CR2 files, although they contain lights, cameras, figures, and all other components of the Poser scene. See the sections on Library Files and CR2 files for more information on Poser file contents.

Step 1 - File Types Found in Poser Downloads

Numerous Poser resources are available on the Internet as listed on the Arcana resources pages. Many include free downloads; other items are for sale at the Digital Art Zone (DAZ3D) and other commercial web sites. It is useful to know what kinds of files to expect in these downloads.

The simplest cases are texture, bump, transparency, and reflection maps. These are provided as graphic files, often in jpg format. Location of the graphic file is a user option, but the location must be supplied when the texture is applied to a figure within Poser. Poser installs the initial set of textures and bump maps as indicated in the file placement table.

Perhaps the most commonly available download is the morph target. These are supplied as obj files that are imported into Poser for application to part of a figure. Morph targets are controlled by the CR2 file, which provides a dial when the body part is selected. The Poser manual defines and discusses morph targets on pages 152-157.

If you download a new model it will most likely be supplied as an obj file, along with a CR2 and some texture and bump maps. These large downloads are often for sale rather than distributed freely.

Props are often supplied as pp2 files with embedded obj information. They may also include texture and bump map files. Hair files also may have the geometry embedded in the hr2 file rather than a separate obj.

Characters are usually modifications of meshes (models) that already came with Poser, but can also include custom models you created in other programs for use in Poser. They are supplied as CR2, texture and bump files. Conforming clothing uses a CR2 file to make it poseable; thus the download is similar to that of a character.

Magnet files are actually prop (pp2) files with a pre-positioned magnet as the prop.

Step 2 - Structure and Mechanics of obj Files

So what is Posette, really? Does a sort of virtual Barbie Doll somehow unfold from the Poser CD? Does your computer put her together from electronic tinker toys?

There may be some sort of magic at work, but you do not need to understand the magic to use Poser; you can produce excellent art simply by learning the tools provided within the program. However, there are cases where external manipulation of the Poser files can create effects that are difficult or impossible within the program. An understanding of the files facilitates troubleshooting, and defines the possibilities and limitations of your creativity with Poser.

In the geometries folder of the Poser file structure are several dozen subfolders with names that correspond to Poser figures. Within the subfolders are files with the extension “OBJ”. Each obj file describes a model or “mesh”; a collection of polygons arranged in such a way as to form the desired shape. The polygons are grouped to define important subdivisions of the mesh. Poser needs the polygon groups to have particular names, which are seen within the program as body parts: hip, left foot, ring finger, etc.

Obj is a text file format introduced by the high-end 3D application called Wavefront. The obj file for a figure describes vertices, faces, groups, and materials in a code that Poser (and many other 3D programs) can interpret. From this information you would know the position in three-dimensional space of each vertex or other component. By describing the positions of all the vertices in the mesh, the obj defines the shape of even a complex object like Posette.

The obj file is divided into sections, and follows a format which has several allowed variations. The purpose of each statement is identified with an initial code, including v for vertex. A typical entry in an obj file might be:

v 0.045944 0.036847 0.027364

The three numbers are the x, y, and z coordinates in the object's local coordinate system, respectively. There may also be entries for texture vertices (vt), vertex normals (vn), and facets (f), among many others. Groups are indicated by “g” followed by the group name, with the list of facets following. There are also “usemtl” lines, which tell Poser how to color the untextured object. The obj format provides for complex mathematical expressions that can describe spline objects as well as meshes, although Poser makes no use of those features.

Poser characters and props are based on the obj file format, but the obj file alone does not give enough information for Poser to produce all the properties of the 3D objects that we have available to us in Poser. For this reason Poser uses CR2, pp2 and other files to supplement the information in the obj file and extend our capabilities for working with it. The information normally supplied in an obj can also be embedded within a pp2, CR2 or other files, using the standard obj coordinate format. Thus prop downloads often do not specifically include a stand alone obj file.

An obj file, or a CR2 with embedded obj data, conveys information about 'morph targets'. The Poser manual defines and discusses morph targets on pages 152-157.

You can learn more about the OBJ format and its origins, as well as many other 3D file formats at Paul Bourke's 3D Data Formats page.

Step 3 - Structure and Mechanics of Library Files

Within “Poser 4/Runtime/Libraries” you will find folders that correspond to the categories in Poser's library pull-out: Camera, Character, Face, etc. Each library element is described by a special type of file: .cm2 for cameras, .CR2 for characters, and on through the list.

All of these files are text files, which you can open in a text editor or word processing program. They contain formalized descriptions and instructions written in code that Poser can read. As with any computer instructions, everything has to be in exactly the right format and exactly the right place within the file. Because the files can be large and complex, it is not advisable to modify them unless you have a good idea how to go about it. Always make a backup copy before editing a file.

All of these files follow a similar structure, but have separate filename extensions and library locations (see the File Placement Table for details). The simplest of these files control props, lights, and cameras, and the most complex, the CR2 files, describe Poser characters. The file “box.pp2”, found in the Library folder under Prop Types, can serve as an example. You may wish to have a look at the file in a text editor, but be careful not to save any changes or the file will no longer work.

Each file refers to an underlying obj geometry file, also in text format. The file describes the parameters that can change within poser, including size, position, textures, etc. There can be more than one file referring to a single obj. This would happen, for example, if the modified prop, character, etc., is resaved in the library by pressing the “+” sign at the bottom of the library window.

The file “box.pp2” is set up like an outline, with minor sub sections organized within major sections. Indentation is used to distinguish the levels of the hierarchy. Indented text is a sub section of the text that encapsulates it.

The file opens and closes with {} marks, and each section is similarly distinguished, as in some computer programming languages. The major sections describe the file version, the location and name of the obj file used, and properties such as the settings applied in Poser. One of these sections, called “channels”, contains information about the position, size, textures, and other properties that were assigned and appear in Poser. If you change the standard “box.obj” from within Poser and save it as a new object to Poser's library, you will find many differences in this section between the two versions when looked at in a text editor. Poser will add new entries as needed under channels, as well as modify values in the existing entries.

It should rarely be necessary to modify these types of Library files outside of Poser, with the exception of CR2 files. Any attempt to modify these files should involve a copy, not the original, and should include great care to maintain the brackets and other critical elements of the file format.

Step 4 - The CR2 and Why You Would Want to Modify it

The CR2 file is a special case of the descriptive Library files. The CR2 is the largest and most complex of these, and the type that you are most likely to modify outside of Poser.

The geometry of the figures used in Poser is stored in obj files. The CR2 file offers Poser-specific details: size, position, pose, textures, proportions, etc. It also controls the dials that change the figure; the dials can be hidden and modified from within the CR2. Normally the CR2 governs a single figure.

Some of the other Library Files files work by modifying specific sections of the CR2. For example, poses, faces, hands, etc. are already described within the CR2, but the application of a pose, face, or hand file changes the corresponding action of the CR2. This change is written to the pz3 (Poser scene) file. If the modified character is saved to the Poser library, the pose, face, or hand file overwrites the original information in the CR2 file.

An obj file, or a CR2 with embedded obj information, conveys the information about 'morph targets'. A morph target modifies the geometry of a Poser figure, and is controlled by a dial provided by the CR2 file. The Poser 4 manual defines and discusses morph targets on pages 152-157.

The CR2 file is organized into about 15 sections, related to Poser version, the intended obj file, the figure body parts (called 'actors' in the CR2 file), their connections and interrelations, the materials applied to the parts, the preset materials, and the display mode. Settings within these sections control such things as scaling, the ways the parts bend, whether they are visible, and endless other details. Individual settings within the files are enclosed in brackets {}, which are often nested to develop complex instructions. One of the easiest mistakes to make in editing a CR2 file is to forget or delete a closing bracket.

It is risky to edit a CR2 file. The size and complexity makes it easy to make a mistake and difficult to locate the mistake. All hand editing should use a copy, not the original file. The safest and most convenient way to edit a CR2 file is with the great utility CR2Edit, written by Poser artist Dan Wilmes. CR2Edit is currently available only for Windows. Among the many chores made easy by this utility are listing the files referenced by the CR2, automatic installation of downloaded files, modification of ancillary file locations, copying of joint parameters, resetting of several parameters, and execution of various kinds of conversions. CR2Edit provides a manual CR2 editor that is safer and more convenient than a general purpose text editor.

You should also be aware of another utility called CR2Editor, by John Stallings. It is available in the files section of the egroups PoserTech forum, and it appears that version 1.51 is the most stable. Although CR2Editor and CR2Edit have very similar names, neither software author was aware of the other when the programs were being written. CR2Editor is particularly strong for viewing two CR2 files at once, and moving blocks of code between them. It also works well for comparing two versions of the same file. CR2Edit has a wider range of tools for other operations on CR2 files.

If you create a figure or piece of clothing in another 3D application, you must export the piece as an obj file for use by Poser. However, you will not be able to write a new CR2 file from scratch, since these files are often tens or even hundreds of thousands of lines long. In order to produce a CR2 file for your piece, you can modify an existing CR2. The lines you will change will be the ones that tell which obj it works with and where that file is located. You will also remove the lines that define the materials applied to the object. You will then need to supply new materials after you open your object in Poser. When you save the new figure as a library component within Poser, the program will write a corrected CR2 file. You can learn about this process in a tutorial by Steve Shanks.

There may be several CR2 files for a single obj file. The different CR2 files use the obj in different ways. You can download and import a new character as a CR2 file that makes use of an obj figure that you already have. Many such characters are available on the Internet.

A newly discovered property of CR2 files is enhanced morph control (EMC): the ability of an adjustment or morph target to control a morph target. This suite of features has presumably been embedded in Poser for some time. It may have originated as a means to apply a large number of morphs at once to the “Hero” figures. Three forms of EMC were discovered by Poser hot-doggers Rbtwhiz and Nerd.

The first form of EMC is known as joint-controlled morphs (JCM), in which the movement of a joint adjusts a morph target. This is especially valuable in animations, where for example the biceps might bulge as an arm bends. The second form of EMC is partial body morphs (PBM), which control more than a single morph on the figure. For example, you might want to synchronize morph targets on the hips and abdomen of a pregnant woman. The third type is conforming morphs (CM). Conforming morphs control the shape of an article of conforming clothing as the figure moves. CR2Edit makes it easy to apply EMC. Learn more about EMC from the CR2Edit manual, or from the web sites of Rbtwhiz and Nerd.

The pz3 file that stores the Poser scene is so similar to the CR2 that one may simply change the file extension from pz3 to CR2. The resulting CR2 may then be imported into an existing scene to bring not only a figure, but its associated props, hair, etc.

The best, and perhaps the only, detailed discussion of CR2 format was written by Kevin Rose. This is a great resource, with the discussion linked to examples in a separate frame.

Step 5 - Learning More/Wrapup

Resources that contributed to this article have been cited in the different sections. All of them contain details that were not discussed here. The CR2Edit manual contains a good deal of information about CR2 files.

The most readily available way to learn about Poser files is to open them up in a text editor and study their structure. Follow up by playing with some of the features of CR2Edit. At some point Curious Labs, which took over from MetaCreations as the supplier of Poser, may specifically document some of the material treated here.

Because there has been no documentation of these features by the software authors, it is difficult to be sure that all important details have been covered, and that all the information is correct. I would like to hear about errors that you may find, or new information that you may uncover.