Custom Browser in Carrara
Your Carrara Browser
Getting around in the Carrara Browser is as simple as clicking through nice, large tabs and adventuring through all of the various categories within. The Native Content package that ships with Carrara fills your browser with content and a magnificent structure of its navigation categories - and it also contains the Wizards available for various tasks wherever you see that you can use a wizard.
Carrara also utilizes your "My Documents" folder (Windows) for the top level (by default) of each browser category. This structure is easily accessible and can be grown as much as we like, into a complete superstructure for storing files.
This article is all about creating your own, personal filing system to which you can easily save anything that you want within Carrara. Since we all use Carrara in our own way, this custom browser ability is an amazing feature - making it possible for you to make it any structure of organization that works best for you!
◄ My Carrara Content Storage System ►
Open Carrara and have a look at the browser window at the bottom of the screen. You'll see an assortment of tabs along the top of the window, leading you to various types of content that can be contained within Carrara, which covers an enormous range of file types. Right now I would like to focus on a custom organization system that you create yourself according to what you'd like to work with and save within Carrara - in the browser. Since most of us will eventually have the urge or need to save objects, let's move to the object tab.
Notice that the top line of categories within the tab, even though it doesn't follow alphabetical order, is "My Objects". This is a direct link to a folder within your "My Documents" folder. A folder called "My Objects". This folder is found within a simple folder structure. Let's go there now.
◄ Folder Structuring ►
Inside your My Documents > DAZ 3D > Carrara 8 folder, open My Presets. If this folder doesn't exist, create it now.
Within My Presets, open My Objects.
The My Objects folder will likely be empty unless you've saved something into it already. Know now that .car files created from Carrara can be moved anywhere without breaking - unlike some other applications. So if you create a new folder structure that you really like, you may feel free to organize content that you've already saved from Carrara into this new structure.
It is within this folder that you may begin a simple file storing structure. For example, I use a "Creatures" folder. Within it, I have the following folders, due to my interests and content collection: Animals, Custom, Dragons, Misc, Orcs, Predatron, etc.,
I also have a "People" folder which contains separate folders for each of the names of my most main characters ( I have two main characters) and a selection of others to help me organize people by type; Village Commoners, Villains, Thugs, Friends, SciFi Crew, Lo Res City, etc.,
You can see how we can easily create a nice working structure in here.
Please keep in mind that you really only need to have a simple starter file system, and let your needs create the rest. I'll explain that: Once you have a base system of folders, you can easily add to the system during a "Save As" operation, and create new folders according to your needs.
Save As will store the whole scene. However; In Carrara, if you already have a folder in place, you may simply drag whatever you want to save from the Instance Tab (The box on the right side, under the word: "Scene") directly into the browser, completely avoiding to store lights, cameras, scene information, whatever was not in whatever it was you dragged to the browser. Neat, huh!
So let's stop right here so I can explain a little further.
This My Documents folder system doesn't affect the "Scenes" tab in any way, for some reason unknown to me. If I find out, I'll report an update here. Therefore, I create an entire "Scenes" directory within My Objects instead.
So when I open the My Objects category at the top of my browser, I also have a "scenes" category in there that further opens into a vast structure of many vague scene type that I create and save. It is the My Objects tab that contains most everything that "I" save in Carrara.
I have folders for Light rigs, Effects, Vehicles, Buildings.... in the main character folders with my People folder, I have further folders for Clothing, Weapons, Accessories, Action Shots, Versions (where I save different configurations of that character), etc. And I'll do nearly the same for the ultimate bad guys as well.
This system becomes very powerful, and completely sets Carrara apart from all other content use applications. And it's important to save things once you've set them up in Carrara. Carrara has an amazing render engine and shader system that is slightly different from others - so many shaders will need at least some degree of optimizing to render properly. Something I'll be discussing when we get to the Shader Room. I take this thought much deeper.
Each of my main characters get their own custom light rig (also discussed in detail later) that only affects the character it's attached to. This rig only provides highlights to make them stand out as heroes - and works well with other scenes I've saved.
In Carrara, Ctrl G creates a group of whatever you had selected, even if it's only one object. I create a group that is named the first name of the hero which contains the hero figure, it's clothing and accessories, light rig and cameras with dramatic angles and named appropriately so they are never the same name as any other camera in any other scene.
This is really easy when you get used to it, like I'll explain in just a minute.
The My Objects folder itself is also a useful place to keep things that you load often in Carrara. Mine contains a scene called "1280 x 720 Blank". Instead of ever using File > New, I just touch my 'Objects' tab and right there is "1280 x 720 Blank", and a few others.
"1280 x 720 Blank" loads a scene with two cameras, the default light and all of my favorite default render options all set and ready to go - and is otherwise a brand new, empty scene. the name gives it away, that it renders to 1280 x 720 resolution, and I've also set a default format and camera, rather than Carrara's default BMP output setting.
I also have one called "Character Template" which includes a group called "Name goes Here" which contains my Character highlights light rig all set to only affect the group: "Name goes Here", so that it's all set and ready for me to add a new character model.
By the time I rename the name of the group and the lights, everything is easily, already unique, as mentioned just a minute ago.
I have certain backgrounds that I use over and over - because the focal point of the scene makes the background far less important on those scenes which use it. It only makes perfect sense that I optimize the lighting and set up a few default filming cameras and save the scene in an easy to reach location.
Then I can use that scene as my blank and populate it for an incredibly quick scene creation process.
Since I've optimized the lighting for that scene, I give the lights good names, group them (Ctrl G), which also gets a good, descriptive name like: "Mid Day Overcast Light Rig" and drag that group into my "Lighting" folder in my My Objects collection.
Anything and everything that I think might be of use later on, I save in this manner. If it's a whole scene, I perform a Save As and get it into that same structure so I can drag it in at any given moment - or double-click it to start off with it.
Now so far we've only discussed the Objects tab. I use a similar structure for Shaders and Clips as well.
You'll see how saving shaders in an organized fashion can save you incredible amounts of time, due to that shader optimization thing I mentioned earlier in this article.
In case you don't already know, the big multi-colored ball at the top of the shaders list in the Shader Room (left) is the Global Shader for that object. It stores all of the shaders in the list below - so if you ever drag that ball to the Browser and give it a memorable name, you may use it again on like figures by simply dragging it from the browser onto that figure's multi-colored ball! Just a little tip to remember for later.
We can do this for our custom atmospheres we make with the Realistic Sky, Sky or any of those atmosphere conditions making our own structures within the Misc tab, which is where we can also store other custom setups, like IK Chains and such.
Take a look through the default browser for some great ideas on how to make your workflow much easier and efficient by storing your most often used fractions of scenes for use in staying consistent in other scenes - simple drag n' drop!
Have a Question? Just Ask!
I love to help others as best I can. This is a rather broad topic: CG Filmmaking, so my articles on any particular topic may not answer your specific question.
Most of the questions directed to me are regarding Carrara or How did I do this?
For these sorts of things, post your question at the Carrara Discussion Forum (or another appropriate category) at Daz 3D.com forums, and if I don't see it right away, someone else might. They are such a friendly and helpful bunch! I've learned so much from that forum over the years!
For a more immediate question directed to me, log into those forums and Send me a PM!