Price: 615 . 245
Pros: Great new features for rendering and animation.
Cons: Fairly pricey; power-hungry; some crashes on PPC version.
Already a well specified modelling tool, modo gets stronger in animation and particularly rendering with the 401 release. There’s now a preset library, packed with models, textures, environments and materials.
Rendering gets a boost from support for direct caustics, using photon mapping to enable more realism in glass and jewellery. There are options such as dispersion to add a tint to refracted light rays, and blurry refraction for use in effects such as frosted glass.
There’s now also support for fur rendering, which initially draws on the underlying layer for colour and other appearance attributes. By adding textures to a UV Map on the mesh, you can make the fur material inherit the changes and procedural textures; gradients and image maps can all be applied to modulate fur colour.
Thanks to modo’s hierarchical shader setup, you could create a layer group for the fur, isolating the shading changes taking place so that you don’t mess with the textures of the surface underneath. There are plenty of
fur and hair grooming tools, too.
Image by Jacques Defontaine.
Rendering is further boosted by Light Linking, which allows you to tie a light to specific meshes, so that only those parts of the scene are illuminated. Then there’s the Replicator feature: this is similar in concept to instances, but more efficient. Replicators generate render-time duplicates of meshes, placing them onto multiple vertices or polygons in a scene.
Highly efficient for tasks involving multiple variable copies, such as leaves on trees, Replicators can be also be applied onto materials and manipulated using texture layers. They can be viewed in modo’s Preview Renderer, which has also been improved.
Stereoscopic rendering is big business in film post-production: it’s good to see support for this in a mid-priced package. You set the interocular distance (the spacing between the eyes) for a pair of stereo scenes, as well as the convergence distance from the camera. Anything behind the convergence distance point will appear to be receding into the screen, while anything in front will seem to come out of the screen.
You can export the scene to Photoshop (interoperability to create an anaglyph image (the green- and red-based 3D we grew up with), but for animation you can create one motion sequence in modo based on the red luminous colour channel blended with one based on a channel representing all other colours. There’s also support for Collada and FBX.
Some other additions are pretty fundamental. For example, you can now adjust the centre and pivot points around which an object rotates, moves or scales. This improves modo’s animation capabilities, and is strengthened by support for simple 2D two-joint Planar IK.
Running on both PPC (albeit slowly) and Intel Mac and 32-bit/64-bit Windows, these latest enhancements turn modo into an even better all-round tool, though it does come at a fairly hefty price.