The Foundry Modo 701 review
Price: $1,495 (£967) individual licence, $495 (£321) upgrade from 601
Pros: Works well with large scenes; modelling tools are best in class; time-saving progressive rendering engine.
Cons: Idiosyncratic interface; rigging is poor; not many new features.
While established as a great package for modelling, Modo had remained in something of a 3D ghetto until the release of version 601, which turned it into a full animation suite. With 701 – the first under new owner The Foundry – this advancement continues, though with not as many new features as 601 brought to the table.
The biggest new addition is the particle engine, which uses a simulation layer that interacts with simulations in real-time. The particle animation can be previewed or cached, so each frame of it is available to examine at any point.
The particles mainly use the node flow schematic system, similar to the deformation system, but a lot of this is automatically linked up for the basics. You can add things to this such as modifiers, and position them so they affect the particles in certain places. The fun stuff is where you fire particles in real-time at solid objects with a dynamic collider, so they interact. It’s possible to come up with some quite complex simulations in a short period of time.
For modelling, new options for bevelling include making these square and sharp, and subdividing the edge to make it smoother. The new Contour tool can be used to draw over the top of a mesh to create curves, or polyline segments to create loops that the new Bridge Autoconnect will fill in.
On the animation side there are little tweaks such as updating how dynamic parenting works. This can be quite cool because you can simply drag a new gadget from an object and link it to the would-be parent. Then, when the animation is run, the original object is linked to the animation of the parent. It makes the process more visual and natural.
Time hauling is another addition that’s hardly revolutionary, but makes the animation process that bit easier. Instead of moving around the 3D scene, then dropping down to the timeline to scrub back and forth, and then going back up again – which is laborious – there’s a new icon for time hauling. Activate this and a pop-up box appears. Now you can navigate the view as before, but using the right?mouse button acts as the time-scrubber, so you aren’t going back and forth. The middle button scrubs a defined area of time on a loop.
One of the biggest improvements isn’t a tool, it’s a re-engineering of the code to make large scenes really fly. You can get up to 175x faster performance on large scenes, which makes Modo 701 offer something different from, say, Cinema 4D. A scene with a very high polygon count is easily handled by Modo, whereas C4D would struggle.
On the rendering side, the Progressive Refinement Rendering engine has been improved, so you can be rendering towards final quality, increase the image size in mid-render and recommence, and then, if say you need to showcase what it’s looking like so far, you can pause. Now, the image file and the progressive render state can be saved. The image can be sent to a client or demonstrated and then, if better quality is needed, the render state can be reloaded and the rendering will continue on from that point.
If you weren’t convinced by Modo before, it’s probably still not for you. For those interested in modelling, it’s worth the time investment to get over the learning curve since 701 is a clear leader here. Match it with ZBrush and you have an unbeatable system.