modo 301 Review

In its brief history modo has quickly become a favourite of 3D artists – and this update makes it easy to see why. The program’s new sculpting and animation tools, together with many other improvements, are sure to keep it in good standing with its loyal users, as well as win many new converts.

Modo 301 marks the debut of extensive digital sculpting tools, and for the foreseeable future modo’s sculpting tools are the only ones available for the Mac. However, that doesn’t imply that users will have to settle for second-best. While modo’s sculpting methodology differs from ZBrush or Mudbox, sculpting in modo is a close analogy of real clay sculpting.

Like ZBrush, modo offers mesh-based sculpting – sculpting by fluidly pushing and pulling the geometry with various sculpting tools. However, the amount of detail is tied to the resolution of mesh. In other words, more detail requires more polygons, which may eventually become prohibitive in terms of performance.

Model citizen
To overcome this, modo provides image-based sculpting, where sculpting or displacement data is stored in an image map. Displacement maps are nothing new, but modo’s implementation is unique – the same tools used for mesh-based sculpting are used for image-based sculpting, so the switch is seamless. The maps for image-based sculpting are created, managed, and applied in modo, so there’s no need to import them.

Finally, the displacements created by image-based sculpting are displayed in real-time in the viewports via OpenGL and displacement shaders. The obvious advantage is that very small, high-frequency details may be sculpted and previewed instantly, but the underlying geometry remains relatively light.

modo 301 features a new 3D Text tool, improved snapping, better selections, and other tool enhancements. Unfortunately, modo lacks construction history. However, modo’s unique Toolpipe component is a form of tool history that keeps track of tool use and provides a command centre where tools may be organised for efficient modelling.

Since its initial release, modo has facilitated the mind-numbing job of UV mapping with insightful tools, such as, Relax and Fit, along with unique tools including UV Peeler. This release continues to make UV mapping simpler with an improved Unwrap tool and new symmetrical UV. Though still not fun, at least with modo, UV mapping can be done quickly.

modo delivers one of the best 2D/3D painting toolsets available for texturing 3D models on the Mac. Painting in modo is straightforward. Apply a UV map, set the Paint tool properties, and start painting directly on the 3D model – in real time.

Though it would be presumptuous to abandon your animation program for modo for now, modo 301 can animate mesh objects, lights, cameras, shaders and any object property. The software also features basic character animation via morph targets, and MDD and FBX import. If future animation in modo is on the same par as its sculpting, painting and rendering tools, we’re definitely in for a treat.

Keeping with Luxology’s philosophy of efficiency, rendering in modo is fast and simple to set up for most situations. From the onset, modo’s renderer supported high-end lighting and effects such as HDRI, GI, SSS, and caustics. However, this release optimises rendering for speed and introduces photometric lighting as well as network and satellite rendering.

OUR VERDICT

Currently, modo is the only advanced digital sculpting application for the Mac. However, its sculpting tools easily compete with applications on other platforms. Add awesome painting, rendering, and now animation, and modo 301 is a must-buy.

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