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'The Official Luxology modo 301 Guide': Getting Started with modo 301/302

In this first excerpt from The Official Luxology modo 301 Guide, author Daniel Ablan gives readers a jump start lesson in utilizing modo’s customizable interface on projects.

All images from The Official Luxololgy modo Guide, Version 301 © Course Technology.This month, VFXWorld begins excerpting a new series from the Thomson Course Technology book The Official Luxology modo 301 Guide, which will give VFXWorld readers a chance to build, layer, model, animate, texture and render with modo. Skills are taught using projects that take the reader from simple modeling to complex tasks, taking advantage of various tools and options along the way.

Model Preparation

Before getting started, be sure you're using the default modo 301/302 interface setting. Remember, you can find this by going to the Layout menu, then choosing Layouts, 301/302 Default Layout.

The project you'll be embarking upon in this chapter will give you a working knowledge of modo 301/302. What you'll create is simple, but long the way, you'll get a feel for how to approach most projects in the program. Figure 1 shows the final 3D render you'll create in the upcoming pages.

1. Start up modo 301/302 with a default interface. Then make sure you're in the Model tabbed view, with a Perspective viewport.

2. Click the Tools tab on the top left of the interface (see Figure 2).

3. In the Tools tab, select the Cylinder primitive, as shown in Figure 3

[Figure 1] Simple and effective, modo's tools make modeling and rendering an object like this a piece of cake

4. Hold the Alt/Option key, then with the left mouse button, click and drag in the Perspective view to rotate it. Rotate the view so that the Work Plane is set to the Y axis, as shown in Figure 4. You can view this icon in the bottom left of the interface, and this tells modo that the Y axis is the primary axis when you begin building your model. You’ll see this work in the next step.

5. Now that the Work Plane is set to the Y axis, click and drag in the viewport. You should see a flat cylinder.

6. Now before you go any further, take a look at the Cylinder tool properties that appear on the left of the interface (refer to Figure 5). You can see that modo recorded the position, radius, and axis for the newly created disc. Because you’ve not yet turned off the tool, you can still make changes to the model, either interactively in the viewport or numerically in the properties. Go ahead and set the Sides value to 48 and Segments to 24.

Your radius might not be equal, which it should be in this case, because you don’t want to create an oval mug. Maybe you do, but let’s go with an evenly shaped version for this round. In the Radius setting for the Cylinder tool, you’ll notice a small icon to the right of the numbered value. This is not the arrow icon used to adjust the value, but rather, the icon to the left of the arrow. Place your mouse over this value and leave it there for a moment. You’ll see some options appear, as shown in Figure 4.

Note: If you look closely at the corner of the Cylinder icon, there's a black triangle. You'll see this in a few other primitive tools as well. This is telling you that the tool has more options. Click and hold with the left mouse button, and you'll see a variation of the tools. If you did this for the Cylinder primitive, you'd find the Capsule tool.

[Figure 2] To begin modeling your mug, just be sure you're working in a default 301/302 interface, similar to this. 

Note: While it might not look like the icon representing the Work Plane looks like it's on the Y axis, it is. To explain the Work Plane further, watch the Work Plane movie on the book's disc.

[Figure 3] Select the Cylinder primitive from the Tools tab to begin modeling your mug (left). [Figure 4] Make sure that your Work Plane is set to the Y-axis. 

What you see in Figure 5 is modo 301/302’s new Gang select feature. It’s a tremendous time-saver. There are four options to it, however. The first is Independent, which is the default setting. You then have Copy, where changes are applied to all values. Next is Relative, where changes are added to all controls. Finally there is Proportional, where changes are scaled into the controls. It all sounds more complex than it really is, but you’ll see in a moment how handy this feature is. You’ll find these Gang select options throughout value settings in modo 301/302.

[Figure 5] Hover your mouse over the icon to the right of the numeric entry in the tool properties to see the Gang select variations.

7. Click the Gang select for the X value of Radius one time to change to Gang select Copy mode. As soon as you do, you’ll see the value highlight. Simply type in a new value, such as 250 mm, and press Return. You’ll see all three values instantly change to that amount.

8. Press the q key to turn off the Cylinder tool. Your primitive object is ready to be turned into something more then a chunk of polygons. Note that you can also press the spacebar to turn off a tool; however, this can be confusing if you’re not aware because the spacebar also changes between the various selection modes.

Model Manipulation

With a simple primitive object created, you can use it to generate all kinds of new shapes by editing vertices, edges, or points. This next section will show you how to create the inside of the mug, along with fine-tuning some details.

1. First things first -- save your work! You're probably saying, “What work?” While creating a Cylinder primitive isn't all that complex, remember that the goal of this chapter is to help you learn how modo works and understand the workflow. With that said, you can go to the File menu, then select Save. Since you haven't saved at this point, choosing this option is the same as choosing Save As. Pick a location and save your work as Mug.

2. Now, go to File menu again, and choose Save Incremental. Your model is now saved as a new version. Why did you do this? You saved the original cylinder block as Mug. By then saving an incremental version, that original model is intact should you ever need to start over. Get it? With every significant change you make, save an incremental version. You might find that at some point you just completely mess up your model, and because you've been saving incrementally, you never have to completely start over.

[Figure 6] To use the Bevel tool, first select it by pressing the b key on your keyboard, then clicking in the viewport to activate it. This is the same procedure for most of modo's tools.

[Figure 6] To use the Bevel tool, first select it by pressing the b key on your keyboard, then clicking in the viewport to activate it. This is the same procedure for most of modo's tools.

3. Press the spacebar a couple of times so that you're in Polygons selection mode.

4. Hold the Alt/Option key and then click and drag in the viewport so that you can see the top of your cylinder-soon-to-be-coffee-mug object.

5. Click once on the top of the model to select the large round polygon that makes up the top of the object.

6. With the top polygon selected, you can start shaping the inside of the mug. Now you're going to get tired of hearing this, but press the b key on your keyboard to activate the Bevel tool.

7. Once the Bevel tool is selected, click once in the layout to activate it. You'll see blue and red handles appear, as shown in Figure 6.

8. With the tool on, you’ll notice the Bevel tool properties available on the left side of the screen, just as you did when working with the Cylinder tool. The Bevel tool offers a set of controls, as do most tools. However, modo allows you to work interactively, which is what the red and blue handles are for. Click and drag the red handle to about 20 mm. You can see the value change in the Bevel tool properties. The red handle changes the Inset value, or how far “in” the bevel will go.

9. Next you want to shift the polygon down into the mug itself. However, if you did that now, you’d get a very sharp-edged mug. This is because you’ve only inset the polygon. You need another polygon to build the inside of the mug. Therefore, hold the Shift key and click once in the layout. You’ve just reset the bevel, essentially, copying the selection. If you look at the Bevel tool properties, the Inset value is now back to 0 mm.

10. With this newly created polygon, click and drag the blue handle to pull the selection down into the mug, about -460 mm. This changes the Shift value.

[Figure 7] Pressing the Tab key changes the model from polygons to subdivision surfaces.

[Figure 7] Pressing the Tab key changes the model from polygons to subdivision surfaces.

11. At this point, save your scene. Mac users, press Command/Apple and the s key. PC users, press Ctrl and the s key. You can also use the File menu, and choose Save.

12. So, big deal right? A cylinder with an inside. True, it’s not very exciting. But wait! We’re not finished. Press the q key to turn off the Bevel tool. Then click once in an empty area of the layout to deselect the polygon. That is, don’t click on the model itself.

13. Press the Tab key. The model looks a little different, right? But the top edge got very sharp, as it appears in Figure 7.

By pressing the Tab key, you’ve changed your model from ordinary polygons to subdivision surfaces. Or, for a better explanation, the model is now made up of smooth curves. So why the sharp edge at the top of the mug? Because there was not enough geometry there to hold the curve in place. If you’ve ever worked with Bezier curves in Adobe Illustrator, you know that you need more points for areas within your curve that should be more detailed. The same goes for subdivisions in 3D. In this next section, you’ll begin working with edges to shape the model even more.

Each excerpt from Daniel Ablan’s The Official Luxology modo Guide, Version 301 will help you discover the power of Luxology modo. The book covers the latest version of modo, which features new animation and sculpting capabilities as well as enhanced creative control for the user. Learn step-by-step how to use the modo interface and each tool and feature as you work within the application, from getting started to saving the final product. Skills are taught using projects that take the reader from simple modeling to complex tasks, taking advantage of various tools and options along the way.

The Official Luxololgy modo Guide, Version 301 by Daniel Ablan. Boston, MA: Cenage Course Technology, 2008. 456 pages with illustrations. ISBN 13: 978-1-59863-497-6; ISBN 10: 1-59863-497-6 ($49.99)

Dan Ablan’s love of 3D animation sprang from a job as a corporate video producer. Along the way, he discovered 3D animation and within a year, formed his own part-time animation business. Ablan is now president of AGA Digital Studio Inc., a 3D animation and visual effects company in the Chicago area. AGA Digital has produced 3D visuals for broadcast, corporate and architectural clients since 1994, as well as post-production services. In between animation jobs, Ablan writes books on the subject. He is the author of eight best selling international books on 3D animation. He is also the founder of 3D, a website dedicated to 3D learning. He has written columns and articles for multiple magazines and has been teaching seminars since 1995 both across the country and at AGA Digital Studios. Ablan is also editor-in-chief of HDRI 3D Magazine, a magazine dedicated to animation and digital imaging.