May 24 2009

All over modo

Past 2 days I’ve gone from doing general overview of MODO to concentrating on scene lighting & rendering and a little bit of modeling. One recent realization was to RTFM since a lot of the mouse input behaviors are not so standard – for example, try to subtract from your selections.

Most of the movies I have watched have been from the section of their website and the extra, downloadable tutorial supplements – over 1.5 gb of them in fact.

I have also listened to a few “modcasts” from the website, but most of the topics are advanced – i.e.. model rigging, scripting, UVs and displacement maps. Although not too hard to grasp, most of these (except scripting) are disciplines for work on completed models. Although they are important to take note of while modeling from the beginning or you might run into problems later.

One of the mega awesome scripters from the MODO forums is Seneca from id software. He has quite a repository of scripts that are worth checking out – at least to see what is possible to automate in MODO.

Another great help has been a thread, from the MODO forum, about creating a pencil. A few techniques emerged, but the one detailing Boolean function of intersecting foreground and background meshes was really inspirational.

Watched the reference tutorials that can be download to supplement the MODO help menus – in particular the Snapping tools behaviors and the Action center modes.

Precision tools (that is what they are called in the palette buttons)  like Scale Absolute looks quite good for fitting geometry against existing geometry. For example, the tutorial scaled a column without extreme distortion, to the ceiling in a background layer. A globe shaped handle is used to set the original scale, and the cube shaped handle will resize the object.

Unspecific to this tool, but affecting all MODO tools is a settings option called Unit Averaging. Not sure what the benefit of the default “Fine” setting is, since my meshes didn’t seem to quantize similarly and did not approximate to similar dimensions. So I chose to turn off Unit Averaging completely for finer control over the increments for deformation.

Action center modes are really important when working with parts of objects or adjusting the whole mesh. In the drop down menu’s there are presets for certain modes, and the 2 options at the bottom are used to mix and match the Axis and Action centers.

  1. Local action center is great for multiple selections to edit them all at once according to their own axis of a normal.
  2. Element mode will modify your selections according to a single selections normal axis. For example selecting numerous polygons, then using an axis of a vertex somewhere else on the model, by clicking it, to modify the selection.
  3. Select Center Auto axis mode will automatically calculate the center of your selections, and use that as an axis for deformation – useful for rotating many selections around.
  4. Action Center Pivot will use the selected pivot position for modifying
  5. Origin will use the 0,0,0 point for you deformations
  6. Screen mode will use your screen orientation, for example an angle in perspective mode will yield an axis center based on that angle – pointing towards the camera. This mode is a bit tricky because initially, the deformation widget will appear as if it is aligned to the world coordinates. You must click on the viewport to select your screens axis – however, it will orient itself with a perspective or the the invisible trackball that MODO uses for camera orientation. It is a bit strange since it will orient the axis on this invisible sphere even if trackball movement is disabled for the view port. Also while clicking to select your axis, it is 99% guaranteed you will click and drag slightly, resulting in mesh deformation.

I also listened to the Seneca “modcast” available on the Luxology website, and it drove me to watch a couple of videos about Vector and Regular mesh displacement. This largely concerns mesh sculpting. A vector dsiplacement map is a 2D representation of XYZ positions, while a regular displacement map is a 2 color height map.

A mesh can  be deformed by modifying its actual polygon and vertex positions, or by modifying the fake shader on it.

Not to get confused, you can also paint Vertex Maps to do such things as Soft Selections.

Also tried some rendering of glass in MODO. The Render tutorials bundled with the MODO help menus and the glass tutorial on

I used planar lights, directional lights and environmental settings to affect the renders. I also picked up a technique from the forums to create Spherical and Cylindrical gradient lighting, by using gradients in the luminosity masks of a light material applies to the inside of these objects. Placing your backdrop and objects inside these luminous objects yielded some nice light effects. Some have attributed this technique to IES light system that I haven’t looked at, and probably don’t need to.

The main savior is that 401 will come with presets for lights and backdrops so concentrating on strictly modeling is sufficient now.

Didn’t dive into Material Masks yet but this is the way to mix and match things like glossy and matte finishes on a single surface. This tutorial is found in the rendering section of the help movies accessed from inside MODO.

Good movie of a model being built (without narraration) by Andy Brown

May 20 2009


Very cool video detailing how to mix multiple falloffs, convert them to vertex maps and layer more fallofs..falloffs. A nice technique to modeling this way. And also painting.

A video about occlusion textures as masks for painting.  Combined with reflection map (is this the term?) this could be very cool for weathering effects.

Also checked out soft selections made with vertex maps – a bit of an overlap in technique with the falloffs video, but good stuff.

May 20 2009

Not much MODO today

2 generative pieces of soft that have capability of exporting meshes. I want to use these for some projects sometime.

Structure Synth – this is a bit like Context Free in that it uses grammar to render 3D structures. It has basic exporters for Sunflow java renderer and Blender. I would guess its possible to output to blender and then save an OBJ file for use in MODO and etc.

TopMod – this is really interesting. Crashes a bit, but a must have.


Also watched some cool japanese anime short with robots and power suits called Higan. Could this be an animation pilot for  Maschine Kruger stuff.


Also found an insane blog about Concept spaceships, you couldn’t ask for a better compilation of ship design inspirations.

And checked out some procedural demo by some dude then checked his demo group, and its a very good one.

Also some crazy Lightwave plugins:

  • vRoom that fills empty rooms with a fake interior
  • Fprime that is somewhat real-time rendering with all features.

Vray is also going realtime.

Found the page of Kow Yokoyama – the creator of some awesome kits and a big influence on the sci fi kit scene from the 80’s. Still going strong.

May 17 2009

More modo today

Watched a video detailing how renders can be saved as PSDs, with multiple layers and alpha channels for the different materials/parts of a model.

Good to know about the rendering capability, but I have to focus on the modeling. After doing some test renders of the projects bundled with the MODO explore series I am very impressed at the speed and quality that a good setup is able to achieve in MODO 64bit.

Found a list of available tutorials for MODO here and watched a great MODO in focus video by Andy Brown. The video focuses on the MODO UI and the a key feature that is explained is the ability to create custom tool windows and then assign hotkeys to pop them open on the workspace.

One of the intro videos references Vertex Monkey for tons of free stuff like materials, scripts and tutorials. Also a computer benchmark section can be found there.ashleywood_bertie[1]

Also a help/reference feature is explained. From the help menu it is possible to view the reference pages for all of MODO’s tools or activate a help mode that will link to the reference pages after clicking on the related tool inside MODO.

Another good resource that i found through Vertex Monkey is a collection of tutorials by the guy from Sabertooth Productions. The macro creation tutorial helped here.

Checked out on vertex monkey how to run scripts and it was a bit of a pain, so there must be an easier way. Probably to create new tool menus for the scripts. Also have to watch out not to get loaded with old 103/202 scripts that are redundant or do not work in 302.

Another Sabpro tutorial was for creating piemenus and editing MODO forms, brought up by pressing F3.


  Also got a reply about assigning multiple keystrokes AND a mouse click to the extra mouse buttons on my logitech mouse. The logitech Setpoint utility does not support assigning both a click and a key stroke to extra buttons, so the tech support suggested I use a thirdparty soft UberOptions. It really rocks!


Took a look at the Zbrush website, and they have opened a texture library with some nice photos and whatnot. Free to grab!


also viewing the MODO 401 preview videos. Quicktimes…so I copied their URLs from Firefoxe’s Page Info window and saved them – to watch in VLC. F* quicktime!

May 16 2009

Starting modo…again

in 2005 I totally failed at grasping MODO, and moved to Maya. I completed one tutorial and was not happy with it. I switched to Zbrush but still feel I need a technical modeling tool along side it.

So I have came back to MODO to do some tutorials.

I have forgotten most of the stuff I did in 2005 with modo 1, or was it 201. So I am starting with the basics. Namely, navigation and customization of the UI.

MODO has a very nice tutorial program called MODO Explore, up in the File menu. It is part of a “card system” that is some funky XML / Macro flashcard presentation that will teach a bunch of stuff to get you started. Very nice.

Silly things like, synchronized viewports, can really stuff you up – so enjoy the video of how to fix this setting. In all, it is best to go through the UI tutorials first.

I did a quick tutorial by building a simple deodorant bottle with a cap.

I used:

  1. The pie menu (macroed to a special key on my Logitech LX710) to navigate around the model.
  2. Falloffs on deformers to quickly sculpt a general shape
  3. deform tools bound to the work axis and local points of the polygons I was working on.
  4. Mesh Edit –> edge loop tool to create creases and more polygons on a surface.
  5. Bevel tool to extend geometry and inset polygons.
  6. Work on separate mesh layers.
  7. Duplicate –> Bridge meshes to join polygons.
  8. pressing space to switch between vertex, edge and polygon selection as well as dropping the tool. *

*The spacebar will not switch between vertex, edge and polygon if you have Items set as your selection – it wont do anything other than drop the tool/deselect your object.

Checking out the rest of the MODO Explore chapters and tried out snapping modes and precision tools.

  • snapping to geometry (background layer) while using the precision scale, with handles set to the scaled object boundary, will correctly scale the object.
  • got a bit lost with the deformation widgets not aligning with the background Mesh, but was able to re align the objects by snapping them to the grid. There is probably some way to realign everything to 0…Since absolute precision tools will pop up widgets at 0,0,0 you really need to have your object correctly placed there – meaning on its pivot.

Finally I checked out constraining a mesh to a background layer, then pushing it – causing a shrink wrap effect to the mesh.