Modo 1.02 full review

Going deep. Modo has the tool and interface depth to handle tough modelling jobs under pressure.

Luxology’s Modo has raised the bar for subdivision surface modelling, a technique typically used for creating 3D models of characters and other organic surfaces.

Modo’s chameleon-like interface, deep toolset, and powerful scripting system (not to mention its rather high price tag) place it among other high-end professional 3D tools.

Whereas many other modelling systems have extensive polygon-editing tools and treat subdivision surfaces as an afterthought for merely smoothing objects, Modo distinguishes itself with a large suite of tools specifically tailored for sub-d modelling. Modo makes it joyously easy to select and work with sub-d surface topology, including points, lines, contiguous loops of lines and faces, and even repetitive patterns of selections.

The Tab key toggles between polygon proxy and sub-d surface views – and there are effective tools for nearly every type of slice, stitch, extrusion and surface manipulation you can think of. (Version 1.02 added a bridging tool for quickly joining faces of separate surfaces.) There’s even a feature that lets you paint a path for extrusions, with an effect akin to pinching and pulling bits of toffee.

Importantly, Modo offers an efficient interface for UV mapping, which accurately applies textures to irregular surfaces, and is an excellent team player when it comes to exporting geometry to other applications.

This raft of features doesn’t make Modo hard to use, however; it so readily adapts to most 3D artists’ habits that many will find it easy begin working with it effectively in a single session. The interface and features result in a fast, intuitive and interactive workflow that makes modelling fun – and the excellent tutorials and documentation on DVD-ROM further smooth the path to Modo fluency. Much of Modo’s adaptability is due to its amazing degree of customizability.

The interface is completely modular; you can modify and create workspaces to suit your own work habits; and tool palettes, key commands, and pop-up menus can be tailored to suit any environment. Modo can even be made to mimic the keyboard shortcuts and layouts of applications that you’re accustomed to using.

Alias Maya and NewTek LightWave shortcuts are used automatically with a simple preference selection. Modo’s sub-d toolset is the best we’ve seen for the day-to-day demands of a working modeller, although it’s missing some features that would make it more useful, such as the capability to work with NURBS curves and surfaces (important for industrial design); fitting sub-d surfaces to scan data; painting detailed displacements onto surfaces; and the capability to draw new construction curves directly onto an existing skin.

As a version 1.0 product, however, it’s a remarkably mature and capable tool.

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