Autodesk's Mudbox 2010 in Review

November 8, 2009 9:37 am

Tags: 2D, 3D, 3ds Max, Adobe, Autodesk, Autodesk Suites, Collada, FBX, Maya, Mudbox, Photoshop, product reviews, Renderosity

From the moment I used Mudbox for the first time as a sculpting and detailing app, I knew it would be difficult for any other app to replace it. Mudbox is an application that makes sculpting feel natural, mostly thanks to its extremely intuitive user interface. Recently, Autodesk released Mudbox 2010, adding some very nice features.

One of the first things you will notice is the ability to exchange data using the FBX format. This should make it easier for users to send their assets to Mudbox for detailing, since FBX has become one of the industry-standard 3D data exchange formats (the other one being COLLADA).

There’s also improved interoperability between Mudbox and Adobe Photoshop. Basically, Mudbox allows you to take a “snapshot” of your viewport and store that as a layered PSD file, retaining layer information. You can paint new layers in Photoshop, add effects, and all that, and when you import that modified PSD file back into Mudbox, all those changes will be projected on top of your object.



This is a killer addition since it allows you to take advantage of Photoshop. As you know, Mudbox doesn’t offer the kind of tools Photoshop does (such as filters, color correction tools, and so on), so being able to do this is more than welcome. On the other hand, I’m a man of simple workflows, so I hope Mudbox will eventually allow me to do all those tasks without the need of Photoshop.



Mudbox 2010 includes new texture painting tools. There’s now a Clone brush that allows you to copy an area of your model and paint that same texture onto a different part of the model. Think of it as a 3D version of the Photoshop Clone brush.



The Dry brush is a tool that would have been extremely useful when I was working on my image “A in Leather.” My goal was to create a worn leather look for the catsuit, so I tried to add this wear effect to the bumps, leaving the cracks untouched. The Dry brush allows you to paint on raised areas while ignoring the cracks of your model, and that can lead to many cool effects.

In Mudbox 2009 Autodesk introduced “viewport filters.” These filters allow you to add a variety of effects to your viewport, such as depth focus, ambient occlusion and tone mapping. Mudbox 2010 spans a total of 6 different viewport filters (they are self-explanatory).



Viewport filters are cool, and they will prove useful if you want to take a snapshot of your model for approval. Unfortunately, they put a lot of stress on your video card, especially on higher subdivision levels, so you need to have a powerful video card to take advantage of them.

However, some users won’t find themselves using these viewport filters much, and thus will never be affected by the performance drop caused by those filters. To tell the truth, I’ve never actually used them, mostly because the quality available on the standard hardware viewport renderer is good enough.

The Extract Texture Maps window has been reworked as well. There you can now find the ambient occlusion map generation, while on the previous version it was found somewhere else. This is not such a big change, but personally I think it’s better this way since you can now generate all of your maps from one single location. However, I think we’re still missing the “generate texture map” option that would allow me to export my painted texture map as a flattened image (or as a PSD file containing all of the different layers).



Many users complain about the need of having powerful hardware to use Mudbox, especially since ZBrush can run on pretty much any gaming card. I can’t really say how Mudbox performs when using a gaming card since I own a Quadro, but I’ve heard it performs well when your polygon count isn’t excessively high (something like 10 million polygons).

I agree that Mudbox should run on lower-end video cards since workstation-class video cards aren’t really cheap. On the other hand, when you use 3d apps, professional cards offer a wide variety of advantages over their gaming counterparts, and once you use a professional video card you never go back.

As I said before, Autodesk Mudbox 2010 includes some very nice additions. The new interoperability between Mudbox and Photoshop, as well as other apps thanks to the new FBX importer/exporter, are great, and the new paint tools are also a welcome addition. On top of that, the program itself just feels faster and more responsive. However, Mudbox doesn’t really include any revolutionary changes as Mudbox 2009 did.

Autodesk has also released the “Autodesk Suites” of bundled applications. I was sent the Autodesk Maya Entertainment Creation Suite 2010 for review, which includes Maya 2010, Mudbox 2010 and MotionBuilder 2010. There’s also an Entertainment Creation Suite based on 3ds Max, as well as two Real-Time Animation suites (including MotionBuilder 2010 and either Maya 2010 or 3ds Max 2010).



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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.

November 9, 2009

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Article Comments

JeniferC ( posted at 3:04PM Tue, 10 November 2009

I always enjoy reading your product reviews. Thanks for all the good info! :)

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