Foundry ships Modo 11.1
Foundry has released Modo 11.1, the second of the three linked updates to the 3D modelling and animation software that form part of the Modo 11 Series.
The update adds a new live bridge to Unreal Engine, and improves Modo’s modelling, UV mapping and baking toolsets, particularly when it comes to smoothing geometry, painting weight maps and packing UVs.
New live link to Unreal Engine for game artists and asset visualisation
Whereas April’s Modo 11.0 was largely an improvements-and-bugfixes release, Modo 11.1 has an obvious headline feature in the shape of the new Unreal Bridge (above).
The tool creates a live link between Modo and Unreal Engine, meaning that changes made to a scene in one application are automatically propagated to the other.
It supports geometry, UVs, normals, materials, lights, cameras and the scene hierarchy; and can work across a local area network, and “even possibly remotely”.
As well as the obvious benefit to game artists who need to see how assets will look inside the engine, Foundry has been talking about this kind of technology as a way for product designers to visualise their work more accurately, along with Modo’s upcoming VR tools.
Modelling: improvements to smoothing and weight map painting
Aside from the Unreal Bridge, most of the changes in Modo 11.1 are refinments of existing tools, particularly to the modelling and UV toolsets.
The Topology Pen gets several updates, including the option to specify whether UVs are joined or are left discontinuous when vertices are welded, and whether points are left behind when an edge is removed.
Smoothing has been made more controllable, with options to lock the corners or boundary of a polygon island when using the Smooth or Sculpt Smooth tools, or the the Topology Pen’s new Smoothing mode.
There is also a new Falloff Weight Tool for painting weight maps when rigging characters; plus the option to convert weights generated by Element Falloff or Soft Selection Falloff to regular weight maps.
UVs: new workflows for optimising UV packing
The UV toolset gets a number of useful-looking workflow improvements.
A new UV Box Transform tool enables users to move, rotate or scale UV islands directly in UV space – it also snaps to edges – while a coverage value at the foot of the UV Editor shows how efficiently UVs are packed.
There is also a new brush-based Split and Sew tool, which enables users to split or sew UVs by painting directly over the vertices in UV space. The brush radius controls how far the UV islands are offset.
For troubleshooting, a Select Overlapping Polygons tool identifies overlapped or flipped UVs.
Other changes include the option to specify real-world units when exporting UV guides as SVG files, and more options for locking boundaries when relaxing UVs.
Games artists also get a new Texel Density tool for scaling the size of UV islands in proportion to the number of texture pixels assigned to them, ensuring that the scale of details remains constant between assets.
Baking: support for baking object space normal maps
The baking toolset also gets a few enhancements: notably the option to bake object space normal maps.
Object space normals are typically used in games for non-deforming objects like props or environments, since they provide better performance in-engine than tangent space normals.
Other changes include a Use Polygon Area option, which weights contribution to vertex normals by area.
The option is intended to minimise shading artefacts on models where large polygon faces meet much smaller ones: for example, a bevelled edge around a large flat surface.
There is also a new contextual menu for baking mesh features; and more options when using the Vertex Shader Baking tool, also now renamed Vertex Illumination Baking.
Changes to the Advanced viewport, progressive renderer and general workflow
Finally, there are a number of changes to viewport display and rendering, including new presets in the Advanced viewport for material and shadow display quality, designed to improve performance.
Materials can now be displayed in Basic mode (no shadows or image-based lighting), Simple mode (which supports Unity and Unreal Engine shaders), or at Full quality.
The progressive renderer gets a new Max Render Time option, enabling users to set the maximum time a render should resolve for; and the option to run preview renders from the command line.
The current state of a render is also included in autosaves, making it possible to resume progressive renders.
There is also a new GL Override option, which makes it possible to colour-code parts of a model in the Camera View, without affecting the rendering in the Preview Viewport.
Other general workflow changes include the option to embed a thumbnail in a Modo scene that is displayed in the Preset Browser; and the option to create and load template scenes from the Preset Browser.
Pricing and availability
Modo 11.1 is available for 64-bit Windows 7+, RHEL 6.8+ and CentOS 7+ Linux, and Mac OS X 10.10+. Perpetual licences cost $1,799, while rental starts at $599/year.
Buying Modo 11.1 also entitles you to the final update in the Modo 11 Series, Modo 11.2, which is due to ship later this year. You can read about Foundry’s new subscription and update policy in our story on Modo 11.0.