By Michael Burns | on January 14, 2008
Price: 435 . 195
Pros: Mesh and image-based sculpting workflow. Layer support. Animation. Variety of learning aids. New snapping and precision tools. Good image support.
Cons: Power hungry for more complex modelling tasks. Animation fairly limited
A hybrid modelling and painting tool in the tradition of ZBrush, Modo has evolved to introduce organic sculpting and some animation capabilities, while strengthening core features.
Modo has a versatile layout that lends itself well to either linear modelling workflows or working piecemeal on projects in conjunction with other applications. The various Tabs are dedicated to tasks like rendering, painting or UV editing and the layout has been configured to allow you display two tasks together – for example showing the UV window while you edit a mesh alongside – making for a far more interactive experience.
Unusually for a pro 3D application, Modo is also packed with learning aids such as inline help, videos, HTML tooltip links and documentation.
Modo is already well established as a pro-modelling application, benefiting from its Solid Sketch tool, symmetry features and fast subdivision workflow.
301’s new sculpting features offer a combination of mesh-based and image-based modelling, which can be used in tandem or separately. With the mesh-based approach, sculpting tools like Push or Smooth work on the cage, or vertex points of polygon models for organic moulding of surfaces. Keyboard shortcuts abound, for example Tab flips the workspace to a smoothed view, while D and Shift-D subdivide the mesh in alternate ways.
To add fine detail, image-based textures can be applied, created with Modo’s Paint tools or by importing common file formats like PSD and TIFF (including 16-bit and floating point colour). It’s simple to add or reduce resolution for more or less detailing and multiple image maps can be layered for the same object, or activated at any point, giving a great deal of control. It’s straightforward therefore to apply multiple images to one model and blend them, leaving the finest detail for the highest resolution map or to edit layers individually at any time.
Version 301 also offers new animation capabilities, which you can quickly use to keyframe camera moves. You’ll probably need to go elsewhere for more complex tasks, but Modo does also offer morph animation as well as the import of .MDD files to render animations created in other 3D applications.
New snapping functionality and precision tools include snapping to guides and grids, with a 2D snap option to avoid 3D offsets in perspective views. Specific constraints include the ability to shrinkwrap an object or to constrain the pen tool to a certain height.
Licences for both Mac and Windows are provided with the software, available in boxed or download form for the same price, and for once licensing a 3D package is a breeze.
Mudbox is cheaper and has similar mesh tools and facilities, but as well as being confined to Windows, offers no animation. ZBrush too is lagging behind with Mac support for its latest release, so Modo 301 appears a prime choice for digital sculpting on the Mac. Add in the animation and paint features and you have a full-featured application ready to take on the big studio tools, at about half the price.