Autodesk's Mudbox 2012 in Review

June 27, 2011 2:53 am

Tags: Autodesk, Maya, Mudbox

Product Review: Autodesk's Mudbox 2012

Mudbox 2012 is a digital sculpting software, and part of the recently released Maya Digital Entertainment Creation Suite 2012 (although it can also be purchased as a standalone application). For those unfamiliar with Mudbox, it’s an easy to use application that allows you to sculpt and detail models that have been created in any 3D application. Basically, you use Mudbox to add detail to your models, which can then be used in your main 3D application as normal, displacement, or vector displacement maps. The latest release packs some really good features, making Mudbox faster to use, as well as more customizable.

In Mudbox, you’ve always been able to use images as stencils to add custom detail to your models. However, in Mudbox 2012 you can create custom stencils easier than ever by using the Create Stencil command. You can use an image that might be stored in your Clipboard (meaning, what you copied into memory), and then deform that stencil using the sculpt tools so it fits the shape of your model. You can use virtually any image you want, but keep in mind that stencils are turned into grayscale when used to sculpt displacement maps.

Another big new feature is the addition of a Maya-style Hotbox. This feature should be very familiar to Maya users, and you'll quickly notice it saves a lot of time since your commands are available at your fingertips. To open the Hotbox, simply hold the spacebar and then select the tool or command you need.

There are times you will need to make changes to your model, affecting the work you’ve done in sculpting, texturing, or both. Mudbox 2012 includes two commands that can help you in these situations. The Transfer Details command will let you transfer your sculpted detail from your already-detailed model to the new one, while the Transfer Paint Layers does the same for painted textures. These two commands will work regardless of any topology and UV changes you might have made when you needed to change your model.

Some time ago, I saw some research on painting textures onto models without having to go through UV mapping first, but I never had the chance to test it in a commercial application. Mudbox 2012 adds PTEX Painting, which is, in fact, this kind of texture painting without the need of UV mapping. PTEX files can be exported in Mudbox and then used in your models just like any other texture. Keep in mind you need a renderer that supports PTEX textures, as not all renderers out there support them (and since my current render engines don't support these, I was unable to try it out and report the results).

Mudbox 2012 improved the posing tools, allowing you to use more than one joint to pose your objects inside the application. This is how the posing tools should have been, since previously you had to export your pre-rigged model into Mudbox to pose the complete figure.

Previously, Maya added a command to send the current model to Mudbox for sculpting. However, there wasn’t a command that would allow you to do the the same in reverse. Mudbox 2012 includes commands to send the current scene to any installed Autodesk application. Although it’s a small addition, it’s a welcome one since Autodesk is trying to make all applications exchange data between each other more seamlessly.

Mudbox 2012 also offers optimizations for improved texture management, faster load and save times, as well as tweaks to the selection tool and grab tool. Besides all this, Mudbox 2012 is also available on Linux, making it a fully multi-platform application.

I’ve been using Mudbox since before it was owned by Autodesk, and I dare say it’s one of those applications that gets better with every release. Mudbox 2012 offers a very good set set of new features, big and small, that create a very robust sculpting package.

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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.

June 27, 2011

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