Foundry puts the pedal to the metal in Modo 17.0

Speed is the driving force of the application’s updated architecture.

Karen Moltenbrey

Foundry has updated its Modo DCC application to Version 17.0. This new version contains a massive overhaul of the software’s architecture and its core systems, enabling users to achieve greater leaps in performance. In addition to new modeling features, Modo 17.0 also provides users with access to Otoy’s OctaneRender Prime for exceptionally fast rendering.    

What do we think? When Modo was first released, it did not take long for the software to become a favorite to those in the digital content creation space. That was hardly surprising considering the key team members (many former NewTekers) behind its development. This included the person in front of the curtain, Brad Peebler, CEO of Luxology, which brought Modo to life. Unfortunately, but so often is the case with mergers and acquisitions, Peebler eventually left Foundry in 2016 to pursue indie projects. He is currently a director at Apple (and CTO at a passion project, Heirs to our Ocean). For a while after the Luxology-Foundry merger, Modo did not get a lot of mention during Foundry press conferences at major trade shows like NAB and Siggraph, but the company assured us that it was getting a lot of love and attention internally. To be fair, the company had a lot going on at the time, with lots of growth and development happening across its product lines. It’s not unusual for this to happen, given that when Modo became one of several “children” in the house, the parents had to divvy up their time and attention as needed. Plus, they had to ensure that Modo fit optimally within the Foundry family.

In the spring of 2022, Foundry had announced it would alter its Modo release schedule from three upgrades per year to two, saying the change would give them more development time for adding more robust features. As a result, Modo 16 would be released in April 2022, followed by Modo 16.1 in October of that year. However, that second Series 16 release did not happen until February 2023. Then, Foundry announced it was going to a single major release yearly, along with a larger development team whose attention would be solely on Modo, as opposed to across three company lines. While Modo 16.1 was delayed and two veteran Modo developers, Allen Hastings (a co-founder of Luxology) and Joe Angell, exited, not all was lost, as the fruits of the behind-the-scenes work being done during this time are now found in Modo 17. Thanks, Luxology, for adding a nice new polish to this software gem.

CAD car blueprint
(Source: Foundry and Yann Goument)
Modo 17.0, built for speed

It will be 20 years ago this fall when the newly formed Luxology introduced Modo, a polygonal and subdivision surface application for modeling, sculpting, animation, 3D painting, and rendering, which was easy to use by professionals as well as novices. The software quickly rose in popularity, gaining seats at major film studios and receiving various industry awards. Then, much to everyone’s surprise, came the news in September 2012 that Luxology was merging with Foundry. (Prior to this, some in the industry unofficially speculated that Modo would be a good fit for a design-oriented company like Apple—just rumors, of course.)

Since the merger—at the time, Luxology was shipping Modo 601—a number of improvements had been made to the architecture. But those pale in comparison to the significant update to the software’s internal systems in the newly released Modo 17.0, which Foundry calls the largest architectural change Modo has ever seen. This overhaul of the software’s many core systems has resulted in major performance increases that Foundry said gives it the interactivity boost to better handle modern asset creation workflows for all artists.

“We’ve created a system that allows us to accelerate how quickly things are drawn in the viewport and added the ability to push calculations to a background thread. This means that Modo can leverage two threads at once, while future additions should allow for multiple background threads. This marks the beginning of Modo taking greater advantage of modern many-threaded systems,” Foundry stated.

According to Foundry, Modo users working on Apple silicon will see an additional speed increase of 50% on average as a result of Modo’s new native macOS Arm build when compared to emulating the x86 version of Modo for Macs.

Users also will be able to take advantage of additional speed with Otoy’s OctaneRender (Prime version) unbiased GPU render engine, which is now bundled with Modo 17.0. According to Foundry, users can expect an increase of up to 50× when using the OctaneRender compared to traditional CPU renderers—and achieve this straight out of the box. With the OctaneRender license, Modo users also are now able to upload scenes to Otoy’s GPU render farm. Previously, Modo offered the Default (legacy) and mPath (introduced in the Modo 13 series) renderers, which are still being supported but not being further developed. Eventually, those two renderers will be replaced by the Foundry viewport initiative, allowing any third-party Hydra delegate to be used with Modo. The company further said it is working on a long-term native Hydra delegate solution with Modo but will continue to work with Otoy to improve the integration with OctaneRender.

The system overhaul in Modo 17.0—which runs on Windows, Linux, and MacOS platforms—sports the technological foundation to support further performance enhancements, and with

the core improvements and performance updates, Foundry said it has positioned Modo for the next phase of digital content creation. The company said it will be better equipped to build on the new foundation established in Modo 17.0 and plans to return to a more frequent release schedule for the software, accelerating more aspects of Modo this year. Foundry said it will be returning to a three-per-year release schedule, citing the importance of delivering updates on a steady cadence, while the architecture and engineering processes that it put in place over the past year enables the team to achieve more in less time.

Meanwhile, the significant architectural changes in Modo 17.0 deliver tool performance increases to many of its direct and procedural modeling tools, MeshOps (Mesh Operators), animation playback, and rig interaction, resulting in an application that is faster, more interactive, easier to develop for, and easier to test, noted Foundry.

In all, there are 10 Modo modeling tools and MeshOps with significant acceleration changes, including a systemwide change to value objects (VOs). Because of Modo’s modular structure, these updates will also impact other tools. Through the combination of VOs and incremental updates, MeshOps are now processed faster, Foundry said, providing users with quicker feedback. Many of the UX and workflow interactions with MeshOps have been improved in this recent version as well.

With Modo 17.0, users can:
  • Use decals faster and easier.
  • Use clones with primitive slice.
  • Automatically fix broken geometry and gaps with the mesh cleanup tool.
  • Create partial radial alignments.  

Also, with Poly Haul enhancements, artists can combine many of the most-used modeling operations into one streamlined tool, eliminating the need to jump between separate tools.

Modo can be purchased as an annual or monthly subscription. A Modo Individual subscription (for personal use) costs $719 per year (or $89 monhtly). Business licenses for companies with multiple users are also available, as well as free student and discounted classroom licenses.