Using the DS4 Timeline to craft a "photoshoot"
I'm still pretty new to 3d art and Daz Studio etc. but I have decades of professional software development experience and tend to "play" pretty hard when getting into something new.
One thing I've tried to do starting early on, is to use the timeline to organize a "photoshoot", a series of still images. DS seems to somewhat invite this, e.g. in the built-in "series of still images" options in the render settings tab. I sometimes found the animation on the timeline useful for this, as the interpolation of poses and camera positions can "find" views that look good to me that I did not specifically create. But I also often found I wanted to have a series of images with figure(s) in precise and stable poses in themselves and in relation to props and other figures. But the timeline, in my attempts, did not seem to be well suited to this usage.
It slowly became clear to me that that is mostly "by design" in that the timeline is intended for animation and not for a series of static poses. For example, suppose in frame 5 you have a figure precisely posed and it happens that the Abdomen has a twist of 0. Then later in frame 12 you for the first time apply a non-zero twist to it. If you go back and look at frame 5 after doing that, the pose has changed because a non-zero twist has been interpolated back onto the Abdomen. And that can move the arms, and if the hand on one of those arms was supposed to be on another figure's shoulder, well it isn't anymore. OK (actually ouch!) after some study it seems I must accept that DS is working the way it was meant to, but that's still a 'problem' for me in this kind of project.
Through several iterations I have crafted working versions of scripts that I can use to "force", "guard", and "repair" keyframe values down through the entire figure across the timeline as I work frame by frame, so that the poses should remain stable. This was a lot harder that I expected; the biggest problem being that "some actions" (I have not nailed down which) reach back through the timeline and remove some of my keys in earlier frames. So the latest version of my scripts actually save a private copy of the translation, rotation, scale, and morph values in each node by frame and can check and "repair" the pose in each frame if it finds that later changes moved the figure in some unintended way.
Well, that was a lot of work and I'm not exactly sure it was really necessary (as I still wonder if someone has an easier way), but it was very worthwhile to learn enough about the DS object model and scripting to be able to do all that [there are a few dark corners and some gotchas! that I hit, but overall I rate the DS scripting capability as "awesome"]. But now I wonder if it was really necessary, and if it is of interest to anyone else. I have these questions to toss out here:
1. Is this use of the tools - to create a "photoshoot" as a series of still images of figures and props with precise and coordinated poses and positions - not common? Is it, perhaps, too "novice-level" as an approach?
2. Or, do more experienced and knowledgeable users have some preferred way to do this kind of thing, either having tamed DS in some way I did not recognize or using some other tool? Did I miss something basic?
3. Or, do lots of other users want to / try to do this with the DS timeline and more or less either struggle or give up?
I'll be very pleased to hear back from the community with any thoughts on all this.