Design Visualization

Luxology Launches Modo 601 and New CAD Loaders

22 Mar, 2012 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Updates take the content creation solution to a new level of support for the ‘CAD to ad’ workflow.


"Modo 601 is our most significant release ever," said Brad Peebler, president and cofounder of Luxology, about the recently released version of the company's flagship modeling, rendering, and animation software. Modo 601 includes character animation, built-in dynamics, volumetric rendering, and enhanced retopology modeling tools. The product is now a full pipeline solution for professionals working in media and entertainment, advertising, engineering, and architectural design visualization, according to the company. Peebler added, "With new feature and workflow enhancements, modo now offers an end-to-end production solution."

The company also launched the brand-new CAD Loaders for importing CAD data into modo 601. If you work with XT, IGES, or STEP files, you now can import data easily and accurately to create photorealistic images and animations in modo 601.

Different Sort of Company

Luxology was founded in 2002 to build the modo software solution, but also to create layers of code that could be stripped out and integrated by other software developers, Peebler said at a media event hosted by Luxology in San Francisco last fall. The result of the latter effort is Nexus, which today is the underlying architecture of PhotoView 360 for SolidWorks, the rendering functionality in MicroStation, and other tools.

Luxology is one of those companies that seem to genuinely care about customers. At the media gathering, Peebler explained how his firm aims to make things as easy and affordable as possible for its customers. For example, "When you buy modo, you get it for Mac and PC; you can download it as many times as you want. We want to make it easy for our customers."

A lot of issues that users face today are the result of vendors' fear, Peebler continued. Incomplete software integration, interoperability problems, and other barriers to sharing data exist because of vendors' worries about piracy. "We trust our users. We don't worry about piracy," he said. "It works against users. We don't punish users for skipping a release or force them to upgrade."

Modo was not built to compete with large-scale content creation tools such as Autodesk 3ds Max and Maya, Peebler said. Many competing solutions are huge. "They do so much that unless you are doing 3D ten hours every day, they are too complex. They try to do everything, so they are hard to adopt for users who have very specific needs." Luxology works to make modo accessible to all users. For example, modo Kits are collections of "smart content" that are essentially shortcuts to creating realistic lighting, materials, and other challenges. "These are more accessible for those who don't want to learn everything there is to know about Modo," Peebler said. For those who do want to dive in deeply, user support is strong. More than 26 hours' of training materials are available for learning new rigging functionality alone for modo 601.

"All of this was trying to break down the barrier of 3D," Peebler concluded, where complexity and price were keeping some users out of the market.

What's New in Modo 601

As Peebler indicated, the latest version of modo is packed with significant new features, some of them groundbreaking for the product. The full list of modo 601 enhancements is posted on the company's web site. Visit the Luxology YouTube channel for video demonstrations of new features.

New feature and workflow improvements include the following:

Character animation. Modo 601 offers a range of character animation functionality from easy-to-use posing tools to the creation of fully articulated character rigs that can be manipulated through a full-body inverse kinematics solver and a general purpose system of layered deformers.

Modo has had rudimentary deformers for a while but only solved certain problems, Peebler said -- not complex, detailed deformation. "Now we have that nailed." Now you can do more advanced deformation that you cannot do with other character-modeling tools, he added.

"This is character animation done right," said Greg Brown, a modo 601 beta tester and senior CGI artist at Alter. "We've all been holding our breath for this one and it was definitely worth the wait."

Dynamics. Rigid and soft-body dynamics, based on Version 2.79 of the Bullet Physics engine, are now a standard part of modo and provide realistic simulations of mechanical and organic motion.

Recoil of soft bodies and other features has been updated significantly, Peebler reported. "We reached out to the developers of recoil [formerly a modo plug-in] -- and bought them." The $200 tool is now integrated in modo 601 for improved representation of soft bodies including flowing fabrics, rubbery materials, and ropes.



This video shows a quick test of recoil soft bodies in modo 601. The curtains are animated using a force modulated with a noise texture.

Retopology modeling. Focused tools and a new dedicated retopology modeling layout help users simply and rapidly create clean models on top of imported geometry.



Modo 601 introduces new tools and workflow enhancements for retopology modeling.

"We are now the fastest retopology modeling tool" integrated in a workflow solution, Peebler said, adding that typically if you topologized a model, you couldn't make any changes to the model without starting over and retopologizing. Now you can iterate the design and retopologize the modified section.

Rendering and shading. New photorealistic rendering capabilities include volumetric rendering, render booleans, hair and skin shaders, and rounded edge control for hard surface models. Cel, contour, and halftone shaders offer enhanced nonphotorealistic rendering opportunities.


These renderings show the before-and-after effects of new rounded edge control for hard surfaces in modo 601.

These renderings show the before-and-after effects of new rounded edge control for hard surfaces in modo 601.
These renderings show the before-and-after effects of new rounded edge control for hard surfaces in modo 601.


This interior, rendered with eight portals, shows off improved lighting capabilities in modo 601.
This interior, rendered with eight portals, shows off improved lighting capabilities in modo 601.

3D paint. The multipurpose paint system in modo 601 is extended to paint, scale, erase, and smooth vertex (weight) maps on meshes.

Rendering workflow. The Preview Renderer can now be used for final image production, as it will progressively render an image to the desired resolution at full quality. A comprehensive render pass system, plus new interactive image processing and comparison tools, speed image refinement.

Modeling. Modo's Pixar Subdivision surface modeling now includes the ability to crease individual vertices and control display resolution while rendering at full quality. Soft and lazy selection options enable rapid yet precise isolation of model components while modeling.

Modo 601 also adds support for the 3Dconnexion Space Navigator 3D navigation device, Peebler said, although posts in the Luxology discussion forum indicated early on that that some users were experiencing compatibility problems. The company reported that the first service pack would resolve the issue.

Full-Fledged Solution

Last fall, Peebler talked to the media about the misconceptions that seem to follow the modo software. Specifically, modo has a reputation for not being a full-fledged solution, he said. Peebler takes issue with that directly. "People think it's not a full application" — that it doesn't cover the entire model-animate-render pipeline, he said.

"It was and is full," Peebler asserted. "We are the best modeling application out there, no question." He adds that modo is the best rendering tool among integrated solutions (and a formidable challenger to many standalone products) and "is a very, very robust animation system. We do things that others don't (such as retopology) just like they do things that we don't."

Modeling, UV mapping, sculpting, texturing, deformation, topology creation, and character animation —modo does it all. "For people who have been waiting for modo to become a 'full application,' [version 601] crosses that barrier," Peebler said.

A workflow solution is particularly valuable in the trend toward computer graphics for advertising and marketing (CGAM), or what was is often called "CAD to ad." Finally, Peebler explained, it's as fast or faster to create something in 3D as it is to do camera work. This movement touches all markets, "it has relevance to all of us," he said, adding that modo facilitates this process by avoiding common challenges faced when imported CAD data requires significant repair or clean-up or can't be imported at all.

New CAD Loaders

Luxology's new CAD Loaders for modo 601 are key to a streamlined CAD-to-ad workflow. Using the new tools, loading a CAD file in modo results in a clean mesh that doesn't need repair, so users can get right to animation.

CAD Loaders for modo are based on Parasolid technology from Siemens PLM Software, a geometry kernel that's behind more than 40% of all 3D modeling data stored worldwide, according to the developer. As models are loaded into modo, the CAD surfaces can be dynamically tessellated for optimum use in modo's modeling and rendering operations. Real-time rendering previews and dynamic editing tools in modo can then be used to turn base designs into immersive, photorealistic graphics.

"CAD Loaders for modo offer users a flexible set of controls for optimizing incoming CAD data that goes beyond simple file importing," Peebler said. "This opens up a world of CAD data for designers and other 3D artists who want to tap the power of modo for concept design and advanced visualization."

The new, integrated functionality offers several benefits, including:

Industry-standard Parasolid technology. Support for Parasolid XT, IGES, and STEP files allows CAD designers and other modo users to access design and engineering files produced in leading CAD systems worldwide.

Expanded flexibility for surfaces. Incoming surfaces are maintained as parametric surfaces in modo, which allows for alternate tessellation parameters to be applied dynamically under user control. Resulting meshes can be saved as convex polygons or a combination of quads and n-gons.

Efficiency. Many CAD files are characterized by large amounts of repeated data elements. With the Instance Handling feature of the CAD Loaders, modo users get the choice of loading instance-laden files as copies, instances, or modo replicators, which can greatly reduce memory use and boost interactivity.

Pricing and Availability

Modo 601 is available for Mac OS X and Windows at $1,195; the upgrade price is $495. For a limited time, users of Maya, 3ds Max, SoftImage, Houdini, CINEMA 4D, and LightWave 3D are offered a crossgrade to modo for just $795.

The Advanced CAD Loader for modo 601, including XT, IGES, and STEP file loaders, is priced at $695; the basic CAD Loader, a Parasolid XT standalone file loader, is $495.

All new products are compatible with Microsoft Windows and Mac OS X and are available from Luxology and its global network of authorized resellers.


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