By Mike de la Flor Macworld UK | on April 23, 2009
Price When Reviewed: 450
Pros: Easy to learn, standard interface and workflow, advanced true polygonal digital sculpting, excellent 3D paint and texture map extraction.
Cons: High-end Mac needed for best results, no posing tools, no UV tools, some 3D paint brushes missing.
Autodesk's Mudbox 2009 3D modelling software was released for Windows back in the autumn of last year (read our original review here). Now released for the Mac, we're taking a look at what it offers 3D artists using Apple's hardware.
The new version retains an intuitive, artist-friendly interface, but combines it with huge performance improvements, new sculpting tools, a new 3D paint system, and many important enhancements.
The sculpting tools include updated versions of Bulge, Flatten and Pinch, along with novel new tools like Wax, Scrape, Foamy, Fill and Spray. All have a different feel from the sculpting tools in Mudbox 1, but it doesn’t take long to get used to the new workflow. The new sculpting tools are intuitive, powerful, and fun.
Mudbox 2009 has been retooled to manage meshes composed of tens of millions of polygons, making it possible to sculpt finely detailed sculptures in real time. While subdividing models into millions of polygons was straightforward, to achieve real-time sculpting with tens of millions of polygons requires a very powerful Mac with as much RAM as possible and a hefty video card.
New in Mudbox 2009 is a production-quality 3D paint system. This allows multiple texture types such as Diffuse, Specular and Bump to be painted right on the model in real time, regardless of UV distortion. Mudbox’s paint system features some standard brushes like Paint, Airbrush and Pencil, but lacks several common ones. On the plus side a great Projection brush allows image-based textures to be painted directly on to the model. Overall, the paint system is comprehensive and makes it possible to create very complex, rich textures easily.
New Viewport Filters simulate various render environments, letting you preview the model in specific lighting and make changes right in Mudbox, or use the Viewport Filters to create pre-viz presentations.
Autodesk has done a great job updating Mudbox with new sculpting and painting tools and enhanced dataset management, and improving performance by multi-threading operations like texture extraction. There is room for improvement, such as better UV tools and more painting tools, but regardless of any minor problems, Mudbox is a digital artist’s dream as it is easy to use, intuitive and powerful.