Monday, April 24th, 2017 Posted by Jim Thacker

Foundry releases Modo 11.0

Foundry has released Modo 11.0, the latest update to its 3D modelling, animation and rendering software.

The update – the first of three in the forthcoming Modo 11 Series – is largely a ‘bugfix release’, although there are performance improvements and a few new features, particularly in the modelling toolsets.

The release also introduces new rental options for the software. Perpetual licences remain available, although the old system of paid upgrades has been dropped in favour of a new maintenance scheme.

Lots of bugfixes, but also some new features in the modelling toolsets
Foundry is positioning Modo 11.0 as a housekeeping release, iterating upon or bugfixing existing features – the firm’s head of industrial design products, Derek Cicero, claims that 400 bugs have been squashed.

However, there are some new features, primarily in the modelling toolsets, with procedural modelling, sculpting, retopology and MeshFusion, Modo’s real-time Boolean system, all getting updates.

In the case of MeshFusion, elements can now be copied and pasted between Fusion items, making it quicker to perform common operations; and there is a new option to split Fusion items, as shown in the video above.

There are also a number of new readymade MeshFusion assemblies, shown in this video.

The Automatic Retopology tool gets a new Adaptive polygon count mode, which automatically adjusts polygon density across the surface of the retoplogised mesh based on the smallest edges.

There are also two new polygon scaling modes: Curvature, which gives a higher mesh density along curved edges; and Shortest Edge, which again, adjusts density according to the shortest edges of the original polys.

The sculpting toolset gets a brush preview: a circle displayed on the surface of the mesh showing a brush’s area of influence.

The procedural modelling toolset introduced in Modo 10.1 also gets a few workflow updates: for example, selecting a modelling operation in the Mesh Ops tab now implicitly selects associated items.

In addition, procedural meshes can now be rendered with motion blur, like conventional meshes.

Performance boosts when displaying animations and complex scenes
Modo 11.0 also brings a number of performance enhancements, including support for OpenSubdiv 3.0, described as providing faster deformations on subdivision surfaces than the native implementation of Catmull-Clark algorithm.

The animation display is now cached every frame for faster playback; and MeshFusion can now be evaluated locally, with options to cache either meshes or Boolean operations, improving interactivity.

Item drawing has also been reworked to improve draw speed on scenes with “large numbers” of instances, although – as with the other improvements – the release notes don’t quantify the speed boost.

Smaller new features
The games export functionality introduced in Modo 10.0 also gets an update, with texture bake items now able to use the normal map preferences of a project.

The Schematic viewport, Modo’s visual programming environment, now supports automatic snapping for nodes, and automatically highlights instances when the original is selected.

When rendering, irradiance map caching now uses elliptical, rather than circular, regions of influence, permitting more efficient caching around interior edges in a scene; and the Maximum Radiance render setting has been reworked so that it no longer need to be updated when changing exposure.

Other changes include a new context-sensitive tool HUD at the foot of the 3D viewport; and the option to launch Modo in Safe Mode, which disables plugins and custom configs, speeding up troubleshooting.

Licensing changes: new rental options, upgrades ditched in favour of maintenance
Although it does mention the new features, Foundry’s own press material focuses far more heavily on the firm’s new licensing policy, which makes Modo available on a rental basis for the first time.

At $599/year – or twelve monthly payments of $59 – an annual subscription works out around a third the cost of a perpetual licence.

Perpetual licences are still available, although Foundry has dropped the option to buy individual upgrades in favour of annual maintenance, which provides users with all of the updates released in a 12-month period.

Existing users can take out and renew maintenance at a rate of $399/year. If you let your maintenance plan lapse, you can continue to use the software, but reactivating maintenance will cost $599.

Given that major releases have historically come out annually, with upgrades priced at $499 each, the new system will mean that it costs around 20% less to buy every major release, but users who previously upgraded every other release will pay around 20% more.

There is also a new login-based system for floating licences, which makes it possible to use Modo on any machine without having to transfer the licence, although you’ll need to connect to the internet every 30 days.

The old floating RLM licences are also still available.

Early user reaction: a mixed bag
Reaction to the release has been mixed, with some users welcoming the fixes it provides, and others arguing that a bugfix release is an underwhelming way to begin a release cycle.

Although the product website confirms that there will be two further 11.x releases, as there were in last year’s Modo 10 Series, there is so far no information on what new features they will introduce.

The one piece of news we do have concerns the work-in-progress VR toolset, previewed earlier this year, which will be released as a public beta “farther along” in the series.

User opinion on the new licensing options is also split: as you might expect, the most negative comments come from those who used to skip releases, rather than upgrading annually. However, the fact that rental is not mandatory, as it has become with Autodesk and Adobe software, is broadly welcomed.

Pricing and availability
Modo 11.0 is available for 64-bit Windows 7+, RHEL 6.8+ and CentOS 7+ Linux, and Mac OS X 10.9+. Perpetual licences cost $1,799; pricing for the new maintenance and subscription options is listed above.

Read a full list of new features in Modo 11.0

Read the FAQs about the new licensing options

Visit the Modo product website