Wednesday, March 27th, 2019 Posted by Jim Thacker

Foundry ships Modo 13.0

Foundry has released Modo 13.0, the first of three linked updates to its modelling and animation software that will form this year’s Modo 13 Series.

The update adds a number of major features, including AMD’s GPU-based Radeon ProRender render engine, layered animation, and support for data arrays during procedural modelling.

The latter is described as a “first step” towards the kinds of procedural workflows possible in tools like Houdini or Rhino’s Grasshopper editor.

The release also updates most of the software’s key toolsets, including direct modelling, MeshFusion and UV editing, and extends the Modo Bridge live link system to Unity as well as Unreal Engine.

Arrays: a first step towards Houdini-like procedural workflows?
One of the most significant changes in Modo 13.0 is also one of the hardest to summarise: support for Arrays within the Schematic viewport, the software’s node-based scene editor.

A set of new nodes makes it possible to sample and manipulate types of data – initially, geometry properties, text, curves and particle systems – that can’t be reduced to a single number.

“With meshes, you’re rarely talking about a single value,” commented principal software engineer Matt Cox. “You aren’t dealing with a single vertex: you’re dealing with all of the vertices.”

The new functionality makes it possible to apply procedural operations to all of those vertices – or all of the particles within a particle system – individually.

In turn, that makes it possible to create new, more powerful procedural set-ups: Foundry’s demo showed the system in use to generate a custom helical coil along a guide spline.

In Modo 13.0, the functionality is geared towards procedural modelling, but Foundry says that in the future, it could “unify a lot of traditionally disconnected systems” within the software.

In a livestream announcing the release, senior product manager Shane Griffith described it as a “first step” towards the kinds of procedural workflows possible in tools like Houdini or Rhino’s Grasshopper editor.

Rigging and animation: Animation Layers, falloff blending and automatic data conversion
The release also extends Modo’s rigging and animation tools: notably, via support for Animation Layers.

Animation layering makes it possible to work non-destructively, by splitting individual movements or those affecting individual parts of a rig onto separate layers.

The layers can then be edited or overridden independently of one another.

Other changes include automatic data conversion within a schematic network, making it possible to connect different data types together without the need to add conversion nodes manually.

“It takes a lot of the insider knowledge out of rigging,” said Cox. “You don’t have to think about what is a matrix and what is a string [any more]: you can let Modo take care of it.”

Modo 13.0 also adds a new Blend Falloff operator, making it possible to combine the effects of different falloffs within a scene without the need to bake out weight maps.

One use case identified during the livestream was blendshape-based facial animation, but falloff blending could also be used to control dynamics or particle simulations.

Rendering: new Radeon ProRender engine and new GPU denoising options
Another major new feature in Modo 13.0 – albeit one that has been known about since 2017 – is the integration of Radeon ProRender, AMD’s physically accurate GPU-based render engine.

The renderer, which is based on OpenCL, and works with graphics cards from all of the major manufacturers, has also been integrated into Cinema 4D.

Griffith described the Modo integration – originally scheduled for Modo 12.2 – as a work in progress, admitting that “some really basic things” like shadow planes are currently unsupported.

More features are expected to be added throughout the Modo 13 Series.

Foundry also says that the underlying work may also benefit developers of other third-party renderers, by making it easier to get information out of Modo’s shader tree via the SDK.

The release also extends Modo’s render denoising tools: Nvidia’s OptiX denoising system, added in Modo 12.2, now works on any render pass, including grayscale passes like ambient occlusion.

For users without Nvidia graphcs cards, Foundry has also implemented AMD’s hardware-agnostic GPU denoising system, originally developed for the Blender edition of Radeon ProRender.

It provides three alternative algorithms for denoising renders.

Updates to MeshFusion, direct modelling and UV editing
Key changes to existing toolsets include the new Kit Fusing option in MeshFusion, Modo’s real-time Booleans system, which makes it possible to use only specified parts of a mesh in Boolean operations.

The feature – also referred to as Fusing by Selection Set in the release notes – makes it possible to have holes in Boolean source meshes, in turn making it easier to create complex negative forms like fan grills.

Other workflow improvements singled out during the livestream include new Quick Align and Ground Align tools, the latter of which automatically drops a selected object to the Work Plane.

There is also a new Find Shortest Path Selection tool, which automatically selects the shortest strip of polygons between two selected polys, described as useful for low-poly modelling.

The tool also works with vertices, edges, and even UVs.

Other new UV tools include UV Cut Map, which enables users to create colour-coded sets of seams between UV islands, and store them as vertex maps.

The workflow makes it easier to revert or iterate changes when UV unwrapping models.

A new Pack by Item option makes it possible to define UV packing on a per-UDIM basis, improving interoperability with tools like Mari that use the UDIM UV layout format.

There is also a new Modo Bridge for Unity plugin, which creates a live link between Modo and the Unity game engine in a similar way as the Unreal Engine live link added in Modo 11.1.

Coming up in Modo 13.1 and Modo 13.2: the “first steps” towards file referencing
Other upcoming functionality discussed during the livestream includes increased support for file referencing within Modo.

Modo 13.0 provides a live link to an external material library within the shader tree, making is easier for multiple users to work with a set of shared materials.

Foundry is “looking into doing something similar” with mesh presets later this year, which would make it possible to reference geometry components from external files.

In addition, improvements to the display of ambient occlusion within the Advanced Viewport are likely in Modo 13.1, and general improvements to performance likely throughout the Modo 13 Series.

Pricing and availability
Modo 13.0 is available for 64-bit Windows 7+, RHEL and CentOS 7+ Linux, and macOS 10.12+. Buying or upgrading to 13.0 automatically 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 an overview of the new features in Modo on the product website

Read a full list of new features in Modo 13.0 in the online release notes