It's a bit late for a MODO 901 review isn't it? The thing is as a professional reviewer of software, it can be hard to assess the merits of software when deadlines are pressing to be the first review out there. Thankfully though RGBHQ doesn't have any deadlines, and gives us time to asses what MODO 901 is and has become.
I have been using MODO 901 on a range of projects since launch, either as a standalone application or as part of my pipeline with Cinema 4D, and to cut to the chase quickly MODO 901 has become the most exciting surprise in 3D of the past 12 months. Yes Maya 2016 is an epic release, which makes even this Autodesk denier ponder if it's worth finally biting the bullet and investigating the 'other side' after the dropped ball that is Cinema 4D R17 (The R17 upgrade itself is solid enough just MAXON themselves are a worry!).
However with MODO a lot of the issues that were there are now gone and the years of underpinning by Luxology with the nexus toolset are really paying off.
This review covers the areas of MODO which I have had a chance to use, areas like the advanced baking enhancements I haven't had a chance to use yet, but knowing that they are there, especially with the impending release of MARI 3 could have massive implications for texturing workflows
The biggest improvement with MODO 901 on a day to day basis has been the improvement in the render engine. The speed improvements and the addition of importance sampling in direct lighting tools has brought MODO into direct competition with V-Ray, and it is a matter of taste which look between the two you prefer (of course as native V-Ray is available for MODO in Beta, MODO provides an environment where you can compare and contrast ). As a long term user of MODO the render improvements have made me question whether I need to really think about another CPU based renderer for my needs.
After using MODO for 9 years the fact that I can now use Area Lights without worrying about an exponential render hit is wonderful and the fact that the Global Illumination and Render settings tab have been simplified with the use of dropdowns for new users or those of us who seem to be permanently against deadlines is another life saver.
The other big addition to MODO 901 has been the addition of the Physical Shader engine. I am still getting used to this, and there is part of me that wishes that the legacy material settings which are still available via a dropdown at the top of the material property panel had been done away with to ease the use to a new system, also not all the presets are created using the Physically based system, and aren't labelled as such which can be frustrating.
In certain ways it does feel that the Physically based system implementation was a bit rushed, and can lead to confusing UI issues, for example turning off Area visibility in reflections in the Properties panel of an Area Light has no effect, this is because due to the new new Physically based render system, to make the light invisible to reflections the Area Light material needs to be selected in the Shader Tree and the Affect Specular setting needs to be dropped to 0%. This can be maddening, the logic of it makes sense when you have the answer, but the visible to reflection rays button should work.
That said the whole new 'Physical' system does lead to more convincing materials, especially when used with the enhanced Physically based daylight in 'unclamped' mode, which can lead to much more fidelity in shadowing and falloff as this demo by Brad Peebler from Luxology explains. from an earlier version of MODO.
The modelling toolset has been helped by little tools such as the Infinite slice, which is great at making sure that cuts really do cut.
Deferred meshes are great, and work well especially when working with complex replicator systems, but they can still take a long time to load into memory, but in general UI speed is much improved and in various unscientific benchmarking MODO is second now only to MAYA in terms of viewport performance.
This is especially true if you are using NVIDIA GPU's while MAYA seems to run better on AMD systems, there is a definite hit to using MODO on AMD GPU's both in terms of viewport performance and overall app stability.
It's not as noticeable on my MacBook Pro running the AMD R9 M370X, but it's enough of an issue that I would rather used MODO with GeForces on both my PC and Mac workstations rather than the Firepro W8100 which should sing with MODO....but it doesn't.
The ultimate MODO experience I have had was with the NVIDIA M6000 which provided amazing performance and stability especially with the Advanced viewport, and so it should for a GPU priced at over £3,500.
The animation toolset is progressing nicely, and for the first time I can now confidently say that I would rather start to build out new animations in MODO rather than C4D with the exception of Mograph, as the whole experience of using MODO on a day to day basis is more fulfilling.
While I have yet to explore the rigging toolset fully, I have seen enough to asses that my '2016 year of rigging' may well be best handled in MODO rather than having to relearn the wheel in MAYA.
While Mograph tools are still lacking the new deformers, they are still useful and can be used in a method which would be familiar enough to C4D users who are considering the switch.
One of the more enabling improvements have been to the UV toolset, especially with the ability to spread UV's out over multiple UDIM's quickly, which can be easily transferred into MARI or another 3D package.
Then of course there is the addition of MESH Fusion into the core app, while the UI can still be fiddly at times, there is still no better boolean toolset in a Digital Content creation app other than potentially ZBrush which has a different underlying technology, and there is is still something magical about moving a solid spiral through a shape as a subtraction object in real time.
MODO 901 has made the leap, in many ways MODO is the most complete 3D package on the market due to the fact that it has a great production ready render engine built in,
The one area that MODO desperately needs improvement in for myself however is network rendering, while the basic implementation works fairly well, and there is the welcome addition of getting each slave to handle a frame of animation indepently of the host machines, THERE IS STILL NO RENDER QUEUE!, which for an application that comes with unlimited render licenses is beginning to become ....annoying.... to say the least, especially when great features like Render Passes are not supported over Network Rendering. Network Rendering can also cause issues when working with image sequences for textures, which I have yet to find a cure for.
While there are 3rd party solutions to the issues such as Deadline, There is a cost implication which I would rather sit out and wait for The Foundry to come up with a decent native solution to use all of those unlimited Render nodes.
Maybe that could be housed in NUKE STUDIO !?! MODO 901 has another big win in its favour amongst other 3D applications in that it is the first release of MODO which is starting to feel truly integrated with the other Foundry products, MODO and MARI work really well together and MODO's render outputs and Alembic output work excellently with NUKE, especially when baking out textures to use for texturing object directly in NUKE.
There are rumours of much tighter MODO and NUKE integration using MODO's render engine, which we will also hope to see utilised in MARI, and its this promising future which makes MODO 901 the most promising 3D application of the year.
So to sum up, MODO 901 is worth checking out, especially with the pace of development (MODO 901 is currently at SP2). The 3rd Party community is recognising MODO fully, with V-RAY, Maxwell, Octane, Fabric Engine and the Substance Designer available with more to come the future for MODO is very bright indeed.