The surface you scratch may be an Event Horizon.
I decided it really was time to give Modo another go. I had a play way back in version 201 or something like that, and thought “meh…”
There didn’t seem to be anything in there that really replaced LightWave Modeler, which at least had the virtue of being really familiar, so bashing stuff out in it was quick at least… and if the meshes were a bit dirty, who cares? I’m modeling for the shot, not trying to pass exams for cleanliness of polyflow. All very true at the time, but I’d heard really good things about current versions of Modo, and figured it was worth giving it another go.
Well, I had a bit of time in hand this weekend, so I bagged the Modo 501 demo from the appropriate location, found a very basic tutorial on modeling a mug. Yes, a mug, of all things… multimegagon cars! Million-poly starships! And I’m modelling a freakin’ mug? Well… turns out it was a good move to stop being a smart-alec who knows everything and just wanted to pound a new toolset into doing things His Way. I appear to have picked at a flake of paint on the wall and found a new world underneath it.
The main thing that had piqued my curiosity was the concept of a “Construction Plane”. I had a vague sort of idea that this was an alignment system of some sort, but I hadn’t realised quite what a boon it was to be able to – at a keystroke – define a local operations axis-set based on your selection. The most obvious use for this is Yer Basic Nurnie; some kind of tech-panel containing a bunch of primitives, probably a few pipes and what-not. Being able to snap to any orientation on a model, and just draw in details interactively really changes the beat – from detailing being an arduous, neverending slog of buiding, mapping, then positioning to an almost carefree, whistle-while-you-work geometry sketching session. This little wrinkle is going to be part of my playground from now on.
The second thing that struck me were things that are such horrible, glaring omissions, they were only visible once I’d had my nose rubbed in ‘em. Little things like the Local selection center mode. This means you can have multiple polygon islands selected (or UV islands for that matter), and the operations you perform happen simultaneously on each island, centered on each island. This is particularly noticable thus far with scaling. Lots of different bits of mesh, selected, all scaling around their geometric centres with one drag. Luxury! I know there’s an LW Modeler plugin that does this, but as anyone who’s put in a few hours will attest, a plugin is rarely a substitute for a properly integrated part of the toolset.
Then I got around to the Bridge tool and I was properly impressed. Given a little hint as to which direction I wanted my faces to connect in, this clever beastie not only would create a simple, linear bridge, but an arced one – one with the arc defined by the facing angle between the source faces, and modified with a Tension control.
These few things make me really think that Modo’s worth digging deeper into. It’s going to be a haul – I’ve been using LWM since version 2 point something back in ’93, and that’s a lot of unlearning I’m looking at to get the most out of this. In some ways, it’s like learning to model from scratch – right down to the way the data-heavy UI really nudge the user towards the perspective-view/Work Plane build methodology, rather than the traditional quad-view with minimal default data that LW provides.
I’ve got a few modeling tasks I need to attend to – a handful of deities, a battlemech with a photocopied soul at the wheel, the usual. I’m going to be forcing myself to do it the Modo way rather than sticking with things that I know inside out – but may not be the best thing for the task. If it all works out well, then I guess I’ll be giving the hard-working types over at Luxology some of my hard-earned.
That’s it for this particular braindump… I’ve recently gotten my mitts on the latest version of Project: Messiah thanks to PmG’s recent, spiffy Dare To Share challenge. I can’t see myself ditching LightWave anytime this decade – it’s just too damned useful – but having other options is always good. Even if one does find oneself unexpectedly exploring new worlds, instead of just getting a fancy Bevel tool.