Foundry ships Modo 14.1
The update adds support for Intel’s Embree ray tracing library to Modo’s new mPath renderer, promising performance on modern multi-core CPUs “pretty darn close” to that on Nvidia RTX GPUs.
Foundry has also integrated Intel’s Open Image Denoise and AMD’s new AI-driven render denoising systems in Modo, alongside the existing AMD and Nvidia OptiX denoisers.
Other changes include support for vertex maps and the new Ghost and X-Ray display modes in Modo’s Advanced Viewport, and further iterative updates to the modelling and rigging tools.
Users also get a new PBR texture loader, and a work-in-progress USD importer.
Advanced viewport: support for vertex maps, plus Ghost and X-Ray display modes
As with most recent Modo releases, Modo 14.1 features a lot of ongoing incremental changes throughout the feature set, making it hard to pick out individual headline features.
However, Foundry’s own marketing material leads off with improvements to the Advanced Viewport.
The AVP gets support for the new Ghost and X-Ray display modes introduced in the standard viewport in Modo 14.0, plus support for vertex maps.
That includes weight maps, UV distortion heat maps, and vertex colours, so it should benefit workflows ranging from building assets to animation and motion graphics.
Performance has also been improved when manipulating models with “large” numbers of shaders – anything over 50, according to Foundry – and for specific UV and edge modelling operations.
Modelling: updates to bevelling workflow, plus UV relaxation as a procedural operation
Modelling improvements include a new Auto Weld option for the Polygon Bevel tool which “properly resolves” vertex intersection, and further updates to the Edge Chamfer tool added in Modo 13.2.
The Make tool can now create a new quad polygon between two selected edges in a mesh.
In the procedural modelling toolset, both the UV Relax tool and the new Unwrap and Relax tool added in Modo 14.0 are now also available as mesh operations.
The change – the request of one of Foundry’s enterprise clients – enables users to maintain an “end-to-end procedural” workflow throughout asset development.
Rigging and animation: IK/FK switching in the Planar IK solver
The rigging and animation toolsets also get iterative updates, including support for IK/FK switching in the Planar IK system added in Modo 13.2.
Users can also now disable both the Planar IK and Full Body IK solvers after they have been applied to a rig, making it easier to tweak the positions of individual joints.
Foundry told us that its main recent focus in these toolsets has been on improving underlying performance, with “super-complex production rigs that used to run at 2fps now [being] very usable at 30fps”.
More fundamental changes look to be further off: work on supporting non-linear animation in Modo is currently on hold.
Rendering: support for Embree in mPath, plus render denoising on the CPU as well as the GPU
The rendering toolsets get quite a few significant changes in Modo 14.1, with mPath, the new path tracer introduced as a “ground-up redesign” of the default renderer, now supporting Intel’s Embree library.
It provides a faster alternative to the existing Foundry SSE ray tracing engine for CPU rendering.
Foundry director of product for digital design Shane Griffith described performance as “really impressive”, and “pretty darn close” to that of mPath’s OptiX GPU rendering engine running on current-gen RTX GPUs.
The OptiX engine itself has been updated from OptiX 6 to OptiX 7, which results in “roughly 20-30%” better performance and memory usage.
In addition, Foundry has integrated Intel’s CPU-based Open Image Denoise (OIDN), making it possible to process render denoising calculations on the CPU as well as the GPU.
The firm describes OIDN as being slower than Modo’s three GPU-based denoising systems (Nvidia’s OptiX, plus two AMD technologies, including a new AI-driven system), but providing more reliable results.
Pipeline integration: initial support for USD import, new PBR texture loader
As with other recent Foundry releases, including Mari 4.6v4 and Nuke 12.2, Modo 14.1 takes a first step towards native support for the USD file format increasingly being adopted in VFX pipelines.
The new UsdModo plugin makes it possible to import geometry, curves, lights, materials and animation data in .usd, .usda, .usdc and .usdz format, with more functionality due in Modo 14.2 later this year.
Other pipeline integration changes include a new PBR texture loader, which automatically loads sets of PBR texture maps generated in other DCC software, and assembles them into Modo materials.
Pricing and availability
Modo 14.1 is available for 64-bit Windows 10, RHEL and CentOS 7.6+ Linux, and macOS 10.13+. Buying 14.1 grants access to the remaining update in the Modo 14 Series.
New perpetual licences of the software cost $1,888. Rental costs $62/month or $629/year.