MODO 701 review: next generation 3D content creation

While safely established as a great package for modelling, MODO had remained in something of a 3D ghetto until the release of version 601 which added significant functionality in other areas. The idea was to take modo into being an all-round package, taking on CINEMA4D and Lightwave. With version 701 this advancement continues, though not with as many new features as 601 brought to the table.

To start there are improvements to modelling, beginning with creating bevelled edges which previously gave rounded edges. New options include making these square and sharp and subdividing the edge to make it smoother. There’s a new tool called the Contour tool which can be used to draw over the top of a mesh to create curves or poly line segments to create loops that the new Bridge Autoconnect will fill in. The Bridge enhancement also works with empty areas, just mark up the borders of the area to be filled – no matter if it’s a very large one – and it can be automatically filled in.

On the animation side there are little tweaks like updating how dynamic parenting works. This can be quite cool because you can simply drag a new gadget from an object and link it to the would-be parent. Then, when the animation is run, the original object is linked to the animation of the parent. It makes the process more visual and natural. Time hauling is another one that’s hardly revolutionary, but makes the animation process that bit easier. Instead of moving around the 3D scene, then dropping down to the timeline to scrub back and forth, and then going back up again – which is laborious – there’s a new icon for time hauling. Activate this and a pop-up box appears. Now you can navigate the view as before, but using the right-mouse button acts as the time-scrubber so you aren’t going back and forth. The middle-mouse button scrubs through a defined area of time on a loop. Also, there’s a toggle for the start key frame for a sequence so that no matter where you scrub to, when you finish the timeline automatically drops back to the start key frame. Means you don’t have to go looking for it.

One of the biggest improvements isn’t a tool, it’s a re-engineering of the code to make large scenes really fly. You can get up to 175x faster performance on large scenes now and this makes MODO 701 offer something different from say CINEMA4D. A scene that C4D would struggle with thanks to a very high polygon count is easily handled by modo. On the rendering side the Progressive Refinement Rendering engine has been improved so that you can be rendering away toward final quality, increase the image size in mid-render and recommence and then, if say you need to showcase what it’s looking like so far, you can pause. Now, the image file and the progressive render state can be saved. The image can be sent to a client or demonstrated and then, if better quality is needed, the render state can be reloaded and the rendering will continue on from that point, with all the quality that it had achieved up until then.

The rendering has been improved and speeded up, from handling large scenes, to progressive rendering and using extended passes.

The big new feature out of all the tweaks and improvements is the new particle engine. This uses a new simulation layer that interacts with simulations in real-time. The particle animation can be previewed or cached so that each frame of it is available to examine at any point. The particles mainly use the node flow schematic system similar to the deformation system but a lot of this is automatically linked up for the basics. You can add stuff to this like modifiers and position them so they affect the particles in certain places. The fun stuff is where you fire particles in realtime at solid objects with a dynamic collider so they interact. The steps for the sim can be increased to enhance the quality, or you can up the volume and size of the particles. When you get a heavy particle stream, shown in real time, they exert a force on the rigid bodies which, in turn, affect how the particles rebound. It’s possible to come up with some quite complex simulations in a short period of time with the system.

There’s lots of other improvements such as audio playback and a sound channel modifier for animations, better hair simulation, simplifying the scene graph complexity, a new Python interpreter for faster execution, unlimited network rendering and some simplification to the material and layered shaders, though that’s still not as clean and logical as C4D’s for comparison.


An interesting release. If you weren’t convinced by modo before it’s probably still not for you as it has its own style and way of doing things. For those interested primarily in modelling it’s worth the time investment to get over the learning curve as 701 is a clear leader here. Match it with ZBrush and you have an unbeatable system. Things are getting cleaner and more efficient, hence the animation, large file and rendering enhancements and for existing users, the new particle simulation system adds a whole raft of functionality.

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