Home > Features > Product Review: Luxology modo 202


Version 201 added rendering to modo's toolset -- and version 202 added much-needed additional speed (generally twice as fast) to modo's output. Speed is the key here since modo contains the most astonishing live preview rendering you're ever likely to see (outside of Worley's f-Prime plug-in for LightWave). (see image 01) Setting up a Render Tri-view gives you a perspective view of your scene (for camera and light set-up), an OpenGL view through the camera and the live preview. This kicks in immediately, is a progressive scanline render, and is quite something to see. Unlike Maya's IPR or LightWave's VIPER, this doesn't require a complete render pass first, and it's a true render of all elements and lights in the scene -- HDRI, reflections and even refractions are all re-rendered in real time. Since it's progressive, it's blocky on the first few passes, but for gauging overall lighting and 'feel' it's more than capable. Move the camera, change a material color, increase a light's output, and it all updates right before your very eyes.

You will need a lot of RAM to keep going -- but what doesn't need oceans of RAM these days? One drawback is that it also seems to update at every opportunity – even when moving a camera that's not the current Render camera – or even turning Advanced tool handles on or off. To mitigate this, the Preview render can be paused and re-started manually, but we wish it was a little more intelligent in forcing its automatic updates. The render quality is also quite superb, especially if you're using Radiosity and HDRI. (see image 02 and 05) And seeing HDRI update in near real time is pretty impressive. Comparing it to Artlantis-R -- a fine product in its own right -- Luxology's solution is clearly superior. The final output quality is also sublime, and takes advantage of all the available processors at its disposal: our test files rendered with four 'buckets' corresponding to the four processor cores in our Mac Pro. One thing that did surprise us, however, is the fact that the program is unresponsive while the Render Window is open -- you can't even work on another scene while the current one is rendering. This is a substantial negative.

04 - As well as live rendering, modo also provides live painting onto 3D surfaces directly in OpenGL view. Color, bump, specularity and displacement painting are all supported.

Luxology has a very complete set of UV mapping and texture painting tools -- again aimed more at the digital content creation and games market. However, there are a few interesting applications of this technology to visualization. One of these is Radiosity 'baking'. This is the ability to render out a Radiosity / HDRI diffuse map for particular elements in a scene. This will contain all the shading, color bleed and falloff surface appearance that gives Radiosity its visual appeal. This can then be UV mapped back onto the original mesh. Then, when raytraced, that surface will have all the appearance of having been radiosity rendered -- but without the calculation overhead. Of course it doesn't make any sense for stills, but it can provide massive time savings in animations. Of course, modo doesn't support animation -- yet -- but models mapped this way can be exported to other programs that do.

Speaking of export, we have to mention import. FBX, 3DS, Maya ASCII, Wavefront OBJ and, of course LightWave .lwo are supported. FBX and .lwo seem to be the best options, but we did get problems with missing polys, as is always the case. One ray of light is that Luxology is working directly with Google's SketchUp to produce a native .skp importer -- that would be a formidable combination.


As we hope we've demonstrated, Luxology is a company that does things differently, and modo 202 is a prime example of that. Another example is the delivery of the program. While your money can get you a DVD copy, download is the preferred route. The Help system is extremely extensive and built directly into the program, including a PDF manual and an in-line HTML manual, linked to an incredible number of tutorial videos -- a download package of around (gulp) 1.5 gigabytes. Your $895 will also get you not one, but two licenses for modo: one for Mac, one for Windows. Thus we were able to get two copies of modo running simultaneously on our Mac Pro -- one under OS X and the other under Windows XP in Parallels.

05 - modo 202's HDRI rendering engine is capable of some truly gorgeous results. This image by Jeff Jacobs makes heavy use of modo's emitter materials to simulate light sources.

While it's still a product in its infancy, modo 202 displays a maturity way beyond its three years and we wait with baited breath to see the new features -- can anyone say animation? -- that will doubtlessly be rolled into a future release.--- TIM DANAHER, Associate Editor.

For more information on Luxology's modo 202 go to:

Published: 15 Dec 2006


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About Tim Danaher

Tim Danaher trained as an architect at the Architecture schools of Bath and Oxford, United Kingdom. Currently resident between London and South Wales, he specializes in visualization using SketchUp and a number of rendering programs including Cheetah3D and modo 202. Since leaving architecture school he has also written extensively for the UK press, including MacUser(UK) magazine and the Architect's Journal and has also been a visiting lecturer at the University of the Arts, London and London City University.


Home > Features > Product Review: Luxology modo 202




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