The Foundry's MODO 701 in Review

Ricky Grove [gToon] - Staff Columnist

"We want to make our (MODO) toolset more intuitive and to work well with other tools so that the artist, engineer or the designer can choose the right tool at the right time."
-Brad Peebler, President of the Americas, The Foundry

The release of MODO 701 in March of this year (2013) is cause for celebration. It's the first version of this most contemporary of 3D creation applications from the combined talents of Luxology and The Foundry, who merged to form one company (The Foundry) approximately a year ago. While the merge with The Foundry makes complete sense, the user base for MODO has been cautiously optimistic. With the release of MODO 701 it's clear that the merger was a smart idea because this new version of MODO is wonderful.

The Foundry benefits from adding a sleek, beautifully designed 3D application to their family of applications and MODO/Luxology benefits from the increased visibility (especially in the VFX world) that a merger with The Foundry brings. Moreover, both companies benefit from the “mind-meld” that is taking place when talent collaborates with talent. And the result is deeper development, but faster release times, plus innovation that is useful and imaginative. MODO 701 is the first of what I expect to be outstanding releases from this new synergized company.

 


MODO 701 logo (courtesy of Andy Probst)

 

Meet MODO 701

MODO 701 brings a lot to the table: new particle system, effective variations on the user interface, improvements to rendering, an overhaul of the animation system and speed, speed, speed throughout the workflow and rendering process. Lets look at what's new in MODO 701 in more detail.

•    New Particle System – a node-based system that is so well integrated into the rest of MODO that you can “interact and direct particles with virtually any aspect of your scene.” The new particle system is dynamic and can be cached/previewed in real time. The Preset browser makes it simple to set up particles and create some advanced setups quickly. And, amazingly, you can actually sculpt the particles using the MODO modeling and sculpting tools.

•    New Contour and Bridge Tools & More – Over a dozen improvements have been made to MODO's already top-class modeling tools. The new Contour tool allows you to create slices across a mesh (a help in retopology) and the Bridge tool gives you the ability to auto-connect a series of curves or poly-line groups into a continuous mesh.

•    Reworked Animation Workflow – Big improvements in creating animations in MODO 701. Upgrades to dynamic parenting, a completely new graph editor, excellent upgrades to using sound with your animation and many more improvements. I'm very happy to see this area of MODO get some love.

•    Rendering and UI Improvements – Unlimited network rendering on Mac/PC/Linux, new additions to Shaders, Preview is much, much faster and the MODO interface has been re-figured slightly to increase ease of use and workflow.

Be sure to work through the excellent MODO 701 slide-show at Luxology.com for a fuller breakdown of what's been added/improved. There are also excellent videos at their YouTube site that go into great detail, especially on the new Particle System.

And a big standing ovation to The Foundry/Luxology for porting the application to Linux, a move that will make a lot of studios very happy.

 


MODO 701's new Particle System

 

MODO 701 Project Workflow

I decided to use Dan Ablan's excellent  MODO 701 Signature Courseware as a basis for my MODO 701 review. Although he hasn't released the Particles section of the course, everything else in MODO 701 is very well covered.

From importing an image to model from, applying textures, setting up lighting and working through variations in final render, MODO 701 was fast and fun to work with. Modeling in MODO is simply the best of any 3D application I've tried. I was able to model my object(s) quickly and efficiently because the MODO interface is very intuitive.

Application of materials is something I hadn't explored fully in MODO, and I was surprised how clear the process is. I was able to apply textures, tweak them and check the near-final renders very quickly in MODO 701. I was also impressed with MODO's in-line help system while working on materials. Any problems that came up, I found the answers quickly in the help system. Of course, the MODO forums are outstanding and very friendly, too.

Rendering is where I really had a blast. MODO 701's open GL rendering (Previews) is quick and lively. I also appreciated the huge variety of ways to improve and adjust the renders. I spent hours simply trying out variations of my Dan Ablan project render. Adjust lighting, tweak a setting and the new renders simply jump up on the screen.

Here is the near final render of the MODO Light-bulb Project from Dan Ablan's MODO 701 Course-ware Light-bulb project.

 


My render from Dan Ablan's MODO 701 course

 

Final Thoughts on MODO 701

The biggest impression I got from MODO 701 is just how fast and tighter the application is. Tighter, meaning that moving from, say, modeling to materials, seemed faster to me than previous versions. The new particle system has a bit of a learning curve, but with the presets that are included and the ability to sculpt/model the particles, it's an addition to MODO that can't be underestimated. I'm excited about what I can create with this new tool in MODO.

Animation updates are very impressive, too. MODO users have been more focused on product imagery and pre-viz, so there aren't a lot of examples of where MODO is being used to animate. That will all change with the new updates to the Animation system in MODO 701. The new graph editor is much improved and editing motion paths directly in the 3D view port will speed up animation workflow like nobody’s business.

The Foundry and Luxology together are a more creative and powerful company than they are separately. The vast VFX market that The Foundry brings to Luxology/MODO is significant and will open many new markets. I expect to see more interactivity between applications in the future, much like what Adobe has done with Premiere, After Effects and Audition. It will also be interesting to see if The Foundry moves toward a subscription model via the Cloud at some point in the future. Since MODO 701 is nearly half the price of most other major 3D packages, I'm not sure they'll adopt this model anytime soon though.

 


MODO 701's re-worked Animation System

 

Is MODO 701 Worth Buying?

Yes, no doubt about it, MODO 701 is the best version of this modern 3D application yet. It may well be that with the addition of a great new particle system, MODO has positioned itself to give Maya a run for its money as the most popular, full-featured 3D application. With The Foundry behind MODO now, this seems like a distinct possibility.

I love using this program and I'm equally pleased with the MODO community and its passion for this most excellent 3D software. I hope you'll give the free 15-day trial of MODO 701 a try.

Notes

MODO 701 is available now for $1,345.50 for an individual license. Upgrading from a previous version is priced at $495 for an individual license and $695 for a floating license (allows colleagues in a work environment to share a license of MODO 701). And Educational license will cost $149. Full list of MODO licenses here.

Full system requirements for MODO 701 on Windows/Mac/Linux (beta) are available here. I tested MODO 701 on a mid-level PC running Windows 7 and a high-end GPU.

My thanks to Ian Hall from The Foundry for his help in putting this MODO 701 review together.

Ricky Grove [gToon], Staff Columnist with the Renderosity Front Page News. Ricky Grove is a bookstore clerk at the best bookstore in Los Angeles, the Iliad Bookshop. He's also an actor and machinima filmmaker. He lives with author, Lisa Morton, and three very individual cats. Ricky is into Hong Kong films, FPS shooters, experimental anything and reading, reading, reading. You can catch his blog here.

 

 

 


September 30, 2013

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