Review: 3D-Coat 3.5
With multi-res workflow and Auto-retopology, this sculpting package has taken a huge leap forward
3D-Coat is already a proven voxel modeller, but Auto-retopology, used to remesh this lizard, takes it to a new level
Price: Pro edition: $349 / £216 / €248 | Developer: Pilgway | Platform: Windows/Mac/Linux
- Multi-resolution voxel sculpting
- Ptex support
By Scott Spencer
Like many people, 3D-Coat first came to my attention as an affordable voxel sculpting tool.
Voxel sculpting does away with topological constraints, enabling you to change a sculpt dynamically by gluing parts together, carving holes or stretching pieces: an approach based not on surface deformation but on building volumes.
For those of us in the action-figure industry, this technology is a huge advantage when chopping and gluing
parts together to create new models.
However, before 3D-Coat, the only option for voxel sculpting was SensAble’s FreeForm technology, which is locked to its own hardware, and very expensive.
The next level
One of the historic drawbacks to voxels was that you were only allowed a single resolution level. 3D-Coat 3.5 adds an option to down-res the voxel model, storing the high-res on disk.
Auto-retopology in action on a ZBrush model. Manual guide curves help 3D-Coat place the edge flow
This down-resed version can be posed or edited with the sculpting brushes. This allows you to take advantage of the lower resolution to make gross changes to a model, and then restore the hi-res detail
with a single button press.
Don’t expect ZBrush’s multiple levels of resolution, though: 3D-Coat currently only offers a single down-res level, although the fact that you can choose whether the variance should be 2x, 4x or 8x via the Proxy Visualization option provides more freedom than you might suppose.
Other additions include a model browser that will be familiar to users of ZBrush’s Light Box; a primitives library that allows you to build up complex shapes quickly by mixing and matching building blocks; and support for the new Ptex texture format.
There are also a number of bugfixes and interface optimisations that will be welcome to users of previous versions.
But the most impressive addition in this upgrade is Auto-retopology. 3D-Coat has long brought the most effective tools from the major re-meshing applications under one roof – as someone with experience of CySlice, Paraform and Maya, I find 3D-Coat the best all-round retopology app, and worth its price for this toolset alone.
Auto-retopology takes that strength and amplifies it. Working with a wizard-driven interface, the user sets the target resolution of the model, paints areas where polygon density should be higher, and draws guide strokes to help the software to determine the edge flow.
3D-Coat will then recalculate the mesh automatically based on your input and produce the best logical edge flow it can.
The 3D-Coat interface. The app is ideal for working with scan data and converting it into sculptable meshes
Strokes can be adjusted by clicking and dragging on anchor points. This is a huge benefit. While some areas
of the retopologised model may not be perfect, the overall effect is amazing, and even if you need to rework the edge flow manually, it can save hours of work.
I find it perfect when working with scan data, since I can resculpt and repair sections of a model, then use Auto-retopology to generate a new base mesh suitable to convert to a ZBrush ZTool.
While I do not personally rely on 3D-Coat for sculpting or painting, I find it indispensable for voxel sculpting or retopology work, and a good complement to ZBrush in my pipeline.
3D-Coat gives artists total freedom in generating base models using voxel technology, and has reduced retopology to a turnkey process, making it possible to generate a ZTool from any data set in minutes.
Version 3.5 only amplifies these strengths.
• Auto retopology is fast and easy
• Further improvements to voxel tools
• Only two levels of resolution available in voxel mode
3D-Coat is indispensable for using voxels to define forms, and for retopology work. The latest update is well worth the investment
Scott Spencer has worked in the effects industry for 15 years as a physical and digital creature and character designer
on Thursday, March 3rd, 2011 at 3:45 pm under Applications, Reviews.
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Tags: 3D coat, review, voxel sculpting