Last fall Luxology invited CGarchitect and other members of the press down to San Francisco to check out their latest release. Over the course of two days we were shown previews of the latest features, presentations from modo users, 3rd party developers, and the Luxology team. This article is a summary of those presentations from the point of view of an architectural visualization professional. While the new 601 release includes a ton of exciting new features, I'm going to limit the coverage in this article to those I think are most applicable to our industry. To check out the entire release details, stop by the Luxology website here.
Luxology's modo has often had a leg up on the competition when it comes to performance and updates as it was built from the ground up using their Nexus application architecture, which has allowed them to be a lot more nimble. They of course entered the market a lot later than their competitors and did not have the legacy code to contend with. Brad Peebler, Luxology's President and chief evangelist, says he is not that concerned about the competition. During the press conference Brad commented that "it's a multi-app world and it's not worth getting hung up over the competition". He also indicated that the down turn in the economy actually helped their business because users want tools that make them more productive. Productivity and ease of use have always been modo's strong suits and it seems to be paying off.
As many Luxology staffers were or are users themselves, they approach everything they do from the standpoint of a production artist, including their "Customer Friendly Policies" which include: No annual maintenance fees for modo, No hardware lock (aka “dongle”), including licenses for BOTH the PC and Mac and if you are at a new location and need modo, as long as you have access to the Internet you can download modo and your license and be up and running. Just delete it from that system when you are done.
What I found most interesting about Brad's introduction was their decision to go after the packaging and advertising market where photography is typically is used - specifically because I'm seeing a similar move in our own field. He said this is an area they have been targeting for the last two years. The VFX and visualization markets are still growing but do not have the growth potential of new markets. In speaking to large visualization companies in our own industry over the last few years, I've discovered that most have moved into the same industry that Luxology is now targeting. Dedicated visualization studios that once did 90% architectural visualization now only do about 50% architectural, filling the rest of their workload with advertising type projects.
Rigid and soft body dynamics based on the Bullet Physics engine are now a standard part of modo. recoil, formerly a 3rd party plug-in, is now integrated deeply into modo 601.
Dynamics calculations in modo, are handled by recoil™ that simplifies the setup and execution of complex physical simulations by combining robust collision detection with a variety of constraints, forces, and controls. recoil simplifies the setup and execution of complex physical simulations by combining robust collision detection with a variety of constraints, forces, and controls. Based on version 2.79 of the popular Bullet Physics engine, recoil is now integrated into modo (e.g. it is no longer a separate Plug-in). recoil now handles soft body dynamics in addition to rigid body interactions.
Image Credit: Boris Cargo
Image Credit: Pascal Beeckmans
For hard surface modeling jobs, modo’s vertex, edge and polygon tools let you create virtually any man-made shape and are ideal for constructing architectural and mechanical designs. For modeling smooth forms like a backpack, or pure organic shapes like a face, modo offers Pixar Subdivision Surfaces. “SubD” models offer smooth surfaces with a high degree of local variation, which support creasing and multi-resolution sculpting. These two modeling representations are unified within modo, allowing you to convert at will between polygons and SubD representations and utilize the same modeling toolset.
modo lets you construct geometry with precision by allowing you to snap to existing geometry or to points on the modo workplane. This snapping functionality not only allows precise placement, it also facilitates construction of watertight models that render perfectly and are suitable for 3D printing. When you want to type in a numeric parameters, you can type in values like 4m+6in and modo does the math (4 meters plus 6 inches) for you.
Use modo to paint on 3D surfaces or on 2D images, across multiple images and UV maps.
In modo, painting is fully multi-threaded for maximum performance — even when using large brush sizes or painting with symmetry. Both image-based and procedural brushes work fluidly, and you have the option to blend (e.g. color dodge) in over a dozen ways while painting. As you paint in modo, you can be painting across multiple images on multiple UV maps.
A wide variety of tools are provided, including airbrush, paintbrush, eraser, clone, line, fill, smudge, blur and lasso. Each tool has properties that include not just color but also opacity and blending modes. Several brush types are provided (stamp, roller, text, procedural) or you can supply your own and select the one you want from the brush browser. Finally, there are the inks... these let you do anything from painting an image onto your model (image ink) to using a parametric ink that modulates the color of your ink depending on the height of the displacement you’re painting over. If you like, modo will apply the ink according to the slope or altitude of the surface you are painting on. This makes painting fresh snow on a mountain range or adding pitted surfaces on the leading edges of a wing an easy task. You can also take advantage of real-time mask painting for brush-based control over how two different images (pristine and battle-damaged for example) blend together.
Driving the modo renderer is the Shader Tree, which is modo’s user interface for describing the appearance of items and the environment, and how lights and cameras should interact with them. Any images you select in the Shader Tree can be painted on immediately in modo.
With this direct access to modo’s Shader Tree, you can leverage 3D painting to adjust complex surface appearances layer by layer. This isn’t just about brushing on new colors – you can paint bump maps in real-time or paint into channels to affect the specular highlights. modo’s Shader Tree also allows you the freedom of painting non-destructively by utilizing the familiar functionality of layer and mask based painting found in popular 2D painting tools. In fact, you can import .PSD files into modo and paint separately on each of the layers found in the file; you can also export UV maps to Photoshop for painting there if you prefer.
As of modo 601, the Paint tools have been extended to let you paint and adjust the value of vertex weights. This lets you adjust how different parts of your mesh behave during animation or set parameters for downstream use in game engines. You can smooth, erase, or simply paint over vertices to increase or decrease weight values. As you paint, your shaded weight map can now be seen on top of a textured model with weight values as labels if desired. This lets you easily see how weight maps line up with geometry, textures and other features of your models. You can also directly paint particles across your surfaces which you can then use to drive the location many other rendering effects in modo like blobs, volumes and replicators.
modo 601 is equipped with one of the world’s great renderers for creating gorgeous images and animations – and for baking out everything from HDRI files to textures for game engines. The Luxology renderer is provided as both a final render engine and as an optimized Preview Renderer that updates nearly instantly as you model, paint or change any item property within modo. The renderer is an over-achiever that offers that rare blend of speed and quality, and is licensed for network rendering.
The modo Preview Renderer is a constantly rendered view of your scene which lets you immediately see the effect of every modeling, lighting or material change as you work. If nothing is happening in the scene, the Preview Renderer will progressively render to final quality. This is a game-changing way to work, for you are essentially doing hundreds of test renderings as you model or change the light or material properties of your project. By the time you kick off a final render, you know exactly what it is going to look like. The Preview Renderer also gets you familiar with how every parameter in modo affects your final rendering because you can see each individual change as it is made.
Volumetric rendering in modo lets you create smoke and clouds. A Skin shader delivers realistic human skin. The versatile Fur material lets you create everything from grass to supple animal Fur. Procedural shading is supported along with non-photorealistic effects like cel shading, half-tone shading and contour rendering. Blob volume items give you the ability to create a range of gooey, and viscuous shapes.
Special rendering support is provided for visualization of mechanical and architectural designs. Render Booleans let you reveal interior model detail for product cut-away shots. Or you can truncate the view through a camera up to a specified clipping distance, providing an interior cross section that can be animated to gradually reveal or hide objects. You can also smooth sharp edges in mechanical visualizations at render time to emphasize edge highlights or simulate worn looks. Motion blur and depth of field support enhances the presentation of product presentations for truly photorealistic results.
Render Booleans allows you to use meshes or other 3D shapes to visually subtract out parts of your scene at render time, revealing interior portions of your models without having to manually remove or hide intervening geometry.
Realistic camera models with industry standard camera backs, adjustable field of view, lens distortion and focal length are provided. Stereoscopic rendering is fully supported with on screen controls that let you get the perfect parallax for every shot. A spherical projection type for camera items allows the creation of spherical environment maps, including export of modo-created panoramic HDRI’s.
Render Passes let you easily and automatically render scenes with alternate settings such as: different materials for color studies, different item visibility for post-render compositing, or different pixel resolutions for film/video, web and print applications. You have complete control over what attributes of your scene are rendered.
modo can be used on up to 50 Mac or PC workstations for network rendering; it is multi-threaded to use all available cores on each of your systems. Setup is extremely easy and is largely automatic; you can schedule rendering clients to render scenes across named groups of systems in your workgroup for maximum throughput.
As many architectural visualization projects are subject to time limitations and a lot of preview renders for client progress reports, modo now includes the ability to render based on your available time. Just tell modo how much time you have and modo will render the best animation it can so you can meet your deadline.
Need to bring specific CAD format files into modo? The CAD Loaders for modo are ideal for designers, engineers, product visualization specialists and 3D generalists who need to bring CAD data into modo for visualization or design. In addition to simply loading CAD data, the CAD Loaders also provide interactive control over how geometry is imported and provide you with the ability to handle large files with repetitive elements.
The CAD Loaders are based on Parasolid© – an industry-leading geometry kernel with associated APIs for translating Parasolid’s XT data format and other popular industry formats.
The CAD Loaders are available in two configurations, Advanced and Basic:
“I’m working on foliage for this project at Cityscape in London. Right now, I’m painting a weight map (weight tool + airbrush falloff) to mix in different kinds of plantings. I’m painting in ferns right now, inside a viewport set to RayGL with everything else turned off. So basically, it’s just a render viewport. No OpenGL elements are shown at all. And I can still paint. Brush down, make a stroke, brush up and POP (up pops some ferns).
I did a rendering test with another production scene. I had it set up in modo 401, and it rendered in 4m 14s. Opened the scene in 501 and didn’t change anything except fix the bump strength on a material that came through too bumpy. And the render time? 1m 37s. 260 % faster doesn’t seem like an oddity. Basically, it seems that the slower it is in 401, the bigger difference 501 makes.
Seriously, guys, *terrific* work! I’m very impressed with the rendering performance increase in modo 501.“
modo 601 is available immediately for both Mac OS X and Windows at $1,195 with an upgrade price of $495. Existing modo owners can upgrade for $395 for the next two weeks. Also, for a limited time, users of Maya, 3ds Max, SoftImage, Houdini, CINEMA 4D, and LightWave 3D are offered a crossgrade to modo for just $795. modo 601 is available from Luxology and its network of authorized Luxology resellers around the globe.
CAD Loaders for modo are available immediately from authorized Luxology resellers and on Luxology’s website. The Advanced CAD Loader for modo 601 includes XT, IGES, and STEP file loaders priced at $695.00, while the Basic CAD Loader is a Parasolid XT standalone file loader priced at $495.00. CAD Loaders for modo are compatible with Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X.
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