What to expect from MODO 801

One of the community’s favorite pieces of 3D software has just got even better. Here’s the rundown of the new features of what to expect from MODO 801

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The key to MODO‘s success is its versatility. It’s a 3D package which is used in diverse environments such as architecture, 3D art, film-making and videogames. As it’s an all-in-one piece of software it can do pretty much everything you need, so you won’t have to fire up third-party software to create stunning pieces.

Its latest version, MODO 801, adds even more to the mix than ever before: nodal shading, new deformers and better hair and fur, on top of a bunch of little tweaks to make the software even more impressive and intuitive. In fact, there are so many new and cool features that we won’t be able to cover them all here; nevertheless we’ll guide you through some of our favorite bits and bobs.

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MODO has its roots in one of the first 3D applications to deliver broadcast-quality graphics: LightWave 3D. Developed by many of the same engineers, the first version of MODO was released 10 years ago, and has since found its way into a lot of different environments, as Adam O’Hern, a product design guru, testifies:

“We work with brands to create compelling product photography for packaging, point of purchase displays, billboards, print ads, and web 360 views – often long before the physical product is ever manufactured,” he says. “This allows us to start the packaging design and manufacturing process in parallel with product manufacturing, cutting weeks or even months from the total time to market.”

While artist Mike Campau works in a similar role to Adam, he uses the software for creating predominantly 2D art, which is testament to its versatility. “I am digital artist who works primarily in print for large advertising agencies and businesses direct,” he says. “I use MODO for just about everything, from simple 3D type to full-out CGI environments. I combine MODO renders with photography and try to blur the lines of reality.”

 

MODO Nodal

A new feature which has long been a part of other 3D packages is nodal shading. This system means that artists can create complex shaders and materials quickly and easily using a series of connected ‘nodes’, each of which can be tweaked and turned on or off individually. It makes it really easy to get an overview of what’s going on in a particular texture or shader, and you can apply the same setting to multiple objects by connecting the necessary nodes together.

Snapping in MODO has always been very good, and it’s especially handy for creating architecture or vehicles with lots of straight lines and right angles. In 801 it gets even better, with the cursor contextually snapping to different surfaces to make selections and manipulation easier. You can specify certain rules for snapping, such as geometry intersections, and then save these rules as a preset.
MODO’s also nabbed a few features from dedicated animation packages in 801. Character animation is now even easier thanks to the inclusion of inbetweens and key poses, which smoothly fills in the blanks between your virtual actor’s movements. Onion skinning let you see every stage of an animated sequence, and new retargeting controls allow you to apply motion-captured data to differently proportioned creatures and people, and make tweaks to their movement if necessary.

“Finally, with these enhancements, I actually feel like I have control”

“I always felt like I was not in control of my animation,” says Brad Peebler, The Foundry‘s President of the Americas. “And finally, with these enhancements, I actually feel like I have control. You can forget about all the curve blending, all the craziness that comes with traditional keyframe animation.”

Rigging

Rigging is typically a fiddly nightmare, but MODO 801 makes things a lot easier. The schematic viewport – which is used to set your rigging properties – automatically magnifies itself when you hover the mouse over it, which means you can create complex interactions and animations and still see what’s going on.

Wrap, lattice and bezier deformers have also been added, and these allow you to add soft-body simulations, simple warps and tentacle-like animations respectively.
MODO 801’s new referencing system allows multiple people to work on large-scale scenes – a neat addition which can get a little complicated in other software. It allows you to work on your lighting or rendering while someone else is creating models, and as everything is cross-referenced you can ensure your project stays up to date.

“Referencing is good when building larger scenes with a team of people”

You can specify objects which can’t be removed, too, which prevents accidental deletion of your hard work. Although it’s a minor addition, Juhani Karlsson, a 3D artist and technical director at Talvi Digital absolutely loves it. “The small and not so flashy features such as referencing are good when building larger scenes with a team of people,” he confirms.

Smashing

Physics also receive some love in 801. A new glue strength system specifies how objects break apart when they’re subjected to a force, and this can be used in conjunction with the shatter tool to break things such as wine glasses and buildings realistically. You can even use the leftover debris as a model unto itself, which makes it easy to make a mess. Another neat addition here are particle modifiers, which can be driven by music or sounds to make sprites change colour – expect to see this in many music videos in the coming years.

Related is fur, which is now easier to style and sculpt. MODO features guide curves so you can get an idea of how the hair will look in a final render, and new tools allow you to lengthen, reposition and manipulate hair as you see fit. You can even specify different colors for the roots and tips of the hair, which adds to the realism. If you’re familiar with MODO’s Vmaps you’ll know how it works.
“When you add the Vmap it gives you all these little white guides, and you can select the hand and specify a negative value for the fur and it removes it,” says He’s Here All Week‘s Matt Burniston, who demonstrates the technique by removing the hair from a gorilla’s hand.

Mike Campau is also a fan of the new fur, adding: “The improvement in the fur tools is definitely my favourite upgrade with its new set of tools to control and style hair.”

This is on top of a whole host of great features for specific MODO users. Texture baking now has greater control over output resolutions, so game artists can tweak it to match their engine of choice. New Iridescence and Thin Film materials create unique oil and rainbow effects on surfaces, and UV unwrap – which lets you ‘skin’ models and lay their meshes flat so you can create UVs – is quicker and more versatile.

Adam O’Hern is incredibly happy with the update. “We’ve been extremely excited about the vastly-simplified color management system and the ground-up rewrite of the referencing and snapping systems, not to mention the long-awaited addition of nodal shading,” he says. “The upgrade would be worth it for any one of these improvements, but all of them in a single release? Wow.”

The future of MODO

The other big news to come out of The Foundry recently is that it’s partnered with 3D printer company, MakerBot – which is surely a match made in heaven! As a result The Foundry and MakerBot are working hard to ensure that the software and hardware play nicely together, which will hopefully remove the headaches of 3D printing. MODO users can even claim a 10% discount on MakerBot’s printers!

As for MODO itself, everyone we’ve spoken to is extremely happy with the latest version. However, an often-requested addition is better support for third-party software, something we’d love to see in MODO 901. “I would love to see MODO integrate third-party render engines,” adds Mike Campau. “Although MODO has a great, and fast, renderer, I would love to be able to open up other possibilities.” Juhani also sums it up perfectly for us: “Lets hope that MODO stays MODO, only more so!”

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