Modo 201
Issue: Volume: 29 Issue: 1 (January 2006)

Modo 201

Modo 201, which is scheduled for release this month, is a significant product upgrade for Luxology, bringing the software much closer to being a full-blown modeling and animation program.

One of Modo’s most notable features is its customizable user interface. Many people consider this attribute to be at the bottom of the priority list when choosing a modeling software, which is understandable. However, when you use a program for several hours a day, the UI, by default, becomes significant.

Modo’s interface is intuitive and user- friendly, allowing you to open multiple panels that can float independently, be sandwiched between other panels, moved elsewhere on-screen, or positioned on a second monitor. Panels can be easily collapsed and accessed using the small buttons that appear when a panel is resized or with keystrokes. To existing Modo users, the intuitive UI is not new. However, Version 201 improves on an already excellent interface by incorporating tabbed viewports, an iView feature for quick preview renders, and tiny thumbnail previews that update as a model changes. The ability to create, save, and share interface layouts in Modo 201 is one way the program helps users modify their work flow.

Modo’s new shader tree is an intuitive, straightforward way to apply textures to models. It can be used to layer textures, images, and maps to a model-similar to the way layers are set up in Adobe’s Photoshop. The process begins by applying a base material to an object, controlling diffuse values, Fresnel effects, and specularity, then adding surface properties, such as image maps. You can also place a mask on the model to isolate the image map and continue to enhance the textures with features such as noise, bump, displacement, luminosity, and subsurface scattering.

Setting up textures in Modo 201 is achieved by stacking textures in the program’s Shader Tree.

Modo’s micropolygon displacement tool allows for great detail without adding a lot of geometry. 3D modelers that don’t include micropolygon displacement, for example, require the user to subdivide a model, using an extremely high number of polygons to achieve the same effect.

Enhanced texturing options in Modo allow for greater flexibility when using the shader tree by giving you the ability to paint your own textures directly on your models. The system can be used to quickly create a UV map for a model, and paint it in a flat UV display or directly on the model. This includes the ability to paint color and bump or displacement maps. The unwrap UV option makes the creation of UV maps easy. While image maps are great, the ability to add a scrape, cut, or extra color throughout a model is ideal.

Luxology has also added a new rendering engine that offers global illumination, micropolygon displacement rendering, lens distortion, depth of field, motion blur, and environmental lights. Like in most programs, the global illumination is processor-intensive, so your rendering speed will vary depending on processor speed. The rendering engine includes bucket patter selections, which allow you to change the way a render is calculated. Also included is support for instance rendering, OpenEXR, file sizes up to 30,000x20,000, and various anti-aliasing routines.

Multiple cameras can be added in Modo, but when compared to other 3D applications such as Softimage XSI and LightWave 3D, for example, setting up cameras and lights is not easy and straightforward. The Luxology team also has added interesting new ways to control camera positions, but the process is not intuitive.

New modeling tools include mesh instancing, enhanced cloning, and fall off, while a polygon reduction feature helps keep texture maps intact. However, Modo 201 still lacks animation capabilities.

Modo 201 is an impressive upgrade to an already powerful modeler. The inclusion of significant painting tools, with Z Brush-like flexibility, and a fast, high-quality rendering engine with global-illumination options make Modo a formidable 3D modeling solution.

Dan Ablan is president of AGA Digital Studios in Chicago and founder of 3D/ He is also the author of “The Official Luxology Modo Guide” from Thomson Course Technology.

Minimum System Requirements: Windows 2000/XP, running on a Pentium 4 or Athlon system, or Mac OS X 10.3.9 on a G3, 512mb RAM, 100mb available hard-disk space, OpenGL-enabled graphics card, monitor resolution of 1024x768 or greater, DVD-ROM drive, and an Internet connection for product activation.