Luxology Modo 501 Cranks Up Rendering Speed

16 Dec, 2010 By: Nancy Spurling Johnson

Revamped new version offers 30% to 40% faster performance and much more for Windows- and Mac-based 3D design visualization and animation.

When Luxology launched the original version of its modo 3D content creation software in 2004, the company created a community web site for all 3D users to explore all aspects of 3D. Introduced this week, the latest release "goes back to the users," said David Tracy, community director, incorporating extensive user input about how to improve the software. "We have revamped the entire program; virtually no area was left untouched," Tracy said.

Available for both Windows and Mac platforms in a single license and running on the CPU, modo 501 offers improved modeling and sculpting functionality, 30% to 40% faster rendering on average, ray-traced viewports, and an introductory release on 64-bit Mac OS X. An enhanced toolset delivers increased productivity and performance for 3D artists in engineering and architectural design visualization, media and entertainment, game development, and computer-generated imagery (CGI) for print.


Colors, textures, and reflections are more realistic and render more quickly in modo 501, as shown in the two images above.

New and improved features in modo 501 include:

Rendering. Ray-tracing speed as well as depth of field and bump mapping quality are improved. The Preview Renderer now progressively renders to near final quality and can prioritize updates in areas where users scrub with a mouse or pen. "With nearly everything, you're going to see a speed increase," said Tracy. "For animation, you'll see a huge increase."

A complex architectural rendering generates more than twice as quickly in modo 501 (bottom) compared with the previous version (top).

A new Displacement as Bump feature allows users to customize the high and low points of texture in a rendering, resulting in much-improved image definition with much less effort. Faster rendering is facilitated by new view frustrum culling, whereby the system renders only the portion of a model that the user is viewing on screen.

User experience. The new RayGL viewport option lets users model in a ray-traced environment, effectively merging modeling and rendering. The Help system, now web-based, has been overhauled and equipped with a better search engine as well as a commenting and rating system so users can supplement existing documentation.

Modeling. modo 501 now supports industry-standard Pixar Subdivision Surfaces, and new "one-click" modeling tools have been added to accelerate common modeling operations. Procedural geometry tools are now available, and new snapping and alignment tools enhance precision.

Sculpting. Sculpting tools in modo now work on multi-resolution meshes, facilitating both coarse and fine adjustments to surfaces as needed.

Texturing. New occlusion texturing options make it easier to create worn edges, corroded crevices or rust stains under overhanging stairs. modo now offers the ability to work with large disk-based, tiled-image map formats, letting users work with images that are much larger than the available system memory. A large collection of new 2D and 3D procedural textures is included, such as dirt, rusted panels, and etched wax.

Fur. Styling tools have been enhanced and modo renderings can now exhibit stray hairs, plus a range of kinky and frizzy looks. A new "billboard" capability provides efficient visualizations of trees and leaves.

Animation. A new, node-based schematic viewport lets users view, create and edit reusable rigs in a visual manner.

Software Developer Kit (SDK). Improvements to the modo SDK enable third-party developers to introduce new items and tools into the modo workspace. Luxology is working with leading developers to create a new generation of plug-ins that will extend modo even further.

For CAD Applications

For CAD data visualization in particular, noteworthy updates include the following:

  • New support for edge contour rendering.
  • Rendering options include surface and segment rendering plus control over contour color and width.
  • New option to fade contours over distance.
  • New Billboard function is useful for adding landscape to exterior AEC scenes without adding large amounts of explicit geometry.
  • Reverse engineering workflow is enhanced by equipping the Edge Slide and Edge Extend tools to work on top of existing geometry in modo 501.
  • Photometric Light shape preview is introduced; a displaced wireframe sphere is drawn at the light position with its radius based on the intensity of the photometric data file.
  • Users now can save standard render settings, including camera information , for easier rendering of objects for design reviews.

Modo 501 directly supports SolidWorks and Bentley Systems MicroStation (the latter of which includes native Luxology rendering engine support), as well as dozens of other file formats.

Pricing and Availability

modo 501 is available immediately from Luxology resellers worldwide. Retail price is $995 (no maintenance fees); existing modo users (any version) can upgrade for $395. For more information, view an online visual tour of new modo 501 or e-mail

About the Author: Nancy Spurling Johnson

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