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Foundry previews Modo 13.1

Friday, June 21st, 2019 | Posted by Jim Thacker

 
Foundry has revealed some of the changes coming up in Modo 13.1, the second of three linked updates to its modelling and animation software that will form this year’s Modo 13 Series.

The release is focused on performance and stability, and is described as including “pretty significant low-level changes” to the software, similar in scale to those made in Modo 901.

However, there are also new features related to character rigging, including a new Morph Container system, and changes to the Spline Effector.

More new features will be revealed closer to the public release: the software is currently in closed beta, and is expected to ship within the next couple of months.

First Foundry livestream about a Modo beta
The changes in Modo 13.1 were discussed in a livestream hosted by Modo learning community Pixel Fondue, the recording of which is embedded above.

(Full disclosure: it actually happened last week, but it’s the first stream that Foundry has done on a release that is still in beta, so we’ve only just spotted it.)

The stream isn’t particularly visual – you only get to see Modo on screen for a few minutes, and then only to discuss performance benchmarking – but it provides an insight into Foundry’s overall development strategy.

Changes to core systems improve performance when working with complex assets
Modo 13.1 rewrites a number of low-level systems within the software with the aim of improving viewport performance, particularly when evaluating complex assets.

A key focus is the process of drawing a mesh to the screen. According to principal software engineer Matt Cox: “When we looked at 13.0 and before, the big cost was generating the surface for drawing.”

In Modo 13.1, the code for drawing face polygons has been entirely rewritten – the changes will be rolled out to other polygon types in future releases – and that for bounding boxes largely so.

Cox described the changes as resulting in a 4x improvement in drawing performance.

While that doesn’t necessarily translate into the same improvement in scene performance, stream host Greg Leuenberger, CEO of Sabertooth Productions, confirmed that 13.1 is significantly more responsive, describing performance as “like night and day” with previous releases.

Other key structural changes include “smarter thread allocation” to deformers on machines with multi-core CPUs, also described as laying the groundwork for multi-threading more low-level code.

In addition, the timeline is no longer redrawn to screen with every parameter change, which should improve viewport animation playback.

There have also been smaller improvements to the Advanced Viewport and final-frame rendering.

Foundry senior product manager Shane Griffith described the work as representing “core changes” similar to those made in Modo 901, and invited users to join the beta to help identify any unforseen effects.

However, he stressed that he was not expecting a “doomsday scenario”, and that crash reports were actually slightly below average for this part of a beta cycle.

New character rigging features: Morph Containers, revamped Spline Effector
While the stream didn’t focus on the new features in Modo 13.1 – due to be revealed publicly closer to the release – it did cover two of them.

Both are improvements to character rigging workflow, including a new Morph Container system, described as an extension of Modo’s existing Weight Container model.

Weight Containers act as mesh-independent weight maps, making it possible to store weight values for vertices separately to the mesh itself when skinning a character.

In turn, that makes character rigs created with Weight Containers portable: users can simply attach an existing rig to a new character and have it work correctly with minimal manual input.

The new Morph Containers work in the same way, but with blendshape data.

That should make it possible for users to store the corrective shapes used in a character rig – commonly, to fix unwanted deformations to the surface of the body when limbs flex or joints rotate – independently of the character mesh, then transfer the rig between characters.

In addition, the Spline Effector, used to rig long thin structures like tentacles and tails, has been updated.

The effector was covered in passing towards the end of the stream, but one key change mentioned is the option to change values parametrically along the length of a spline.

More work on performance and rendering in Modo 13.2
According to Foundry, performance and stability will also be the primary focus for Modo 13.2, the third and final release in the Modo 13 cycle, due out later this year.

However, Shane Griffith commented that the 13.2 update would also include changes to rendering “on a couple of fronts”, and that Foundry is collaborating with AMD on the work.

Foundry initially integrated AMD’s GPU render engine, Radeon ProRender, into Modo in Modo 13.0, although the implementation was described as a work in progress.

Modo 13.2 will also see changes to the software’s Graph Editor and handling of curves.

Pricing and availability
Modo 13.1 is currently in closed beta, and is available to anyone on a subscription or maintenance contract. It is expected to become publicly available in the next couple of months.

The current release, Modo 13.0, is available for 64-bit Windows 7+, RHEL and CentOS 7+ Linux, and macOS 10.12+. Buying 13.0 grants access to the other two updates in the Modo 13 Series.

New perpetual licences of the software cost $1,799, while rental starts at $599/year.

Read more about the Modo 13.1 livestream on Pixel Fondue’s website
(Includes download links to test scenes discussed in the stream)

Visit Foundry’s Modo product website

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