Product Review: Mudbox 2011
Mudbox 2011 was released in April, and is available separately, or as part of the Autodesk Entertainment Creation Suites. It boasts a variety of new features and enhancements over its predecessor. For those who are not familiar with it, Mudbox is a digital sculpting application, and also meant to be used as a finishing tool to add small details to your models.
The most noticeable change in Mudbox 2011 is the new color scheme. This new scheme is meant to be easier on the eyes, as well as integrating Mudbox better visually with the rest of the Autodesk software. However, the interface itself has not been rewritten (as it was rewritten for Maya 2011).
The most significant new feature is the posing toolset. You can now use joints to deform and pose your models, and you can also import an already rigged model and use its skeleton to deform and pose it inside Mudbox. As I said, Mudbox is a sculpting software, but the posing toolset combined with the different viewport filters should allow artists to create snapshots of their models for supervisors or clients to see, so having these posing tools is a welcome addition. Keep in mind, though, that the Create Joint tool in Mudbox is actually meant to create one single joint to quick-test a specific deformation, so if you need to rig a complete character, you will need to import the rigged character instead.
You can change paint weights on the bones if you're not satisfied with the current deformations. However, if you've done your weighting correctly in Maya (or your 3D app of choice), they should work just fine in Mudbox since the rigged models are transferred to Mudbox using the industry-standard FBX format.
Another amazing feature is the "flatten to UV space" command. This command allows you to "unwrap" your model and lay it out according to its already-created UVs. This is very useful as it simulates how you'd paint directly in UV view, without leaving Mudbox. If you revert your model to the previous view mode, any changes you've made to the texture will be reflected on the model.
Mudbox 2011 includes new painting tools: Blur, Dodge, Burn, Contrast, Sponge, Hue, Hue Shift and Invert, and should be very useful in your 3D painting. However, it is obvious that the Mudbox painting toolset can't be compared to a dedicated application, such as Photoshop. That's why it's also useful that there is now an improved connection between Mudbox and Photoshop.
You can export your painted texture as a layered PSD file. Once in Photoshop, you can modify your layers, and add new layers. When you save your file, Mudbox will detect it's been modified and ask if you want to reload the file, updating all of your texture layers.
Mudbox 2011 can also generate vector displacement maps. Vector displacement maps are like a combination of normal and displacement maps, allowing you to displace your geometry in all directions, instead of just along the normals.
As I said before, sometimes you'll need to take a snapshot of your model inside Mudbox to show it to a client, supervisor or co-worker. You can create lights, use viewport filters and apply shaders to your objects. In Mudbox 2011 you have a variety of material presets ready to be used.
The different features allow for a faster workflow, and the improved connection with Photoshop will surely become one of your best assets. If you're a Mudbox user, you will surely like Mudbox 2011.
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Sergio Aris Rosa [nemirc], is Sr. Staff Writer for the Renderosity Front Page News. Sergio discusses on computer graphics software, animation techniques, and technology. He also hosts interviews with professionals in the animation and cinematography fields. You can follow him on Twitter, and if you want to see what he's up to you can visit his blog.