Review: Autodesk Mudbox 2012
Mudbox has become one of the top digital sculpting solutions, but it’s the program’s unmatched 3D paint system that steals the show
Mudbox’s ability to crunch through huge models quickly has been greatly improved
Price: £700 / $745 / €825
Upgrade: £350 / $375 / €425
Platform: Windows/Linux/Mac OSX 10.6.x
- Multiple joint rigs
- Pose Presets
- Layer masks
- New blending modes
- Opacity channel
- Ptex support
- Hot box and marking menus
- UV-less painting
With Mudbox 2012, Autodesk’s focus has once again been on refining the comprehensive 3D paint system, but it also boasts new features, performance improvements and innovative workflow enhancements.
In terms of the former, this iteration introduces support for Disney’s per-face texture mapping technique, or Ptex.
It’s a radically different 3D painting method that doesn’t require explicit UVs.
Instead, textures are assigned to faces as texels of varying resolutions.
Ptex painting support is a headline feature in Mudbox 2012, allowing you to follow a UV-free workflow
Setting up a model for Ptex painting in Mudbox is straightforward, and the paint brushes and layers work in the same way as when dealing with UVs.
All paint data and map extractions can be exported as Ptex files for a UV-free workflow.
However, the texture files produced can’t practically be edited in programs such as Photoshop, and support for Ptex isn’t yet industry-wide.
Paint layers continue to be improved with the addition of layer masks and new blending modes.
Mudbox’s layer masks are similar to those in Photoshop, but the Mudbox versions don’t export as Photoshop masks and vice versa.
However, the addition of 22 new layer blending modes – making 27 in total, two more than Photoshop – makes it possible to create an endless array of effects within Mudbox.
A boon to productivity is the ability to export multiple paint layers from one or several models in the scene in a variety of file formats in a single operation.
The Solo tool helps you single out details on a layer, which can be handy for making fine tweaks
You can also paint across multiple objects, while the Solo feature helps you quickly isolate data on a specific paint layer.
Mudbox 2012 also debuts an Opacity channel, making it possible to paint transparently.
Mudbox 2012 is the fourth release under the Autodesk banner, but the lack of UV tools has stayed unchanged since the Skymatter days. Yes, Mudbox is designed to be used in tandem with other apps, but it’d be great to have even basic UV tools.
This release does introduce Create UVs, which automatically creates a UV map for any model.
However, the result (based on Ptex mapping) is useless for painting in external applications; rather, the purpose is to produce a quick and dirty UV map to get started.
Textures may be transferred later to a model with good UVs using the new Transfer Paint Layers option.
Improved posing tools
Pose Presets make it possible to non- destructively store joint transformations as presets. Artists can now sculpt and paint in different poses
Posing is improved: you can now create multiple joints so that, for instance, an entire limb can be rigged, weighted and posed. Also new is the option to create joints symmetrically – a great time-saver.
Yet it’s still not practical to fully rig a model in Mudbox, and we observed joints connecting to the wrong bone.
The best way to take advantage of the posing tools is still to import a fully rigged model.
The Pose Presets functionality makes it possible to easily save and apply different poses.
This is useful for checking out your model in different positions or for getting to those hard-to-reach areas while painting or sculpting.
The sculpting brushes themselves remain largely unchanged, although the Grab brush features new options.
The Grab Silhouette option, for example, does a modestly better job at deforming a model while minimising stretching.
For better control while adding high-frequency details, stencils can now be edited with the sculpt or paint tools to better conform to models.
While there aren’t extensive new features, Mudbox 2012 still has an unparalleled array of sculpting tools.
The new Transfer Details option will transfer sculpted details (and other data) from one model to another.
At first glance it may seem as if this feature will transfer data from any model to another, but it was implemented as a pipeline tool so that a model can be updated in an external application, then re-imported into Mudbox and the existing details on the original transferred to the revised model.
Rebuild Subdivision Levels is a new feature for working with dense subdivision surface models.
Once a high-res model is imported, it looks for and rebuilds lower subdivision levels.
This restores the natural sculpting workflow, making it possible to sculpt at the appropriate subdivision level.
Due in large part to a new texture and tile management system, artists can more efficiently display, edit and save massive texture data sets
As data sets swell, Autodesk’s doing what it can to help Mudbox get the most from CPUs and GPUs.
Topping the list is the ability to load, display, edit and save massive texture data sets more efficiently.
Also key is improved management of high- res models in terms of importing big data sets and better performance with native subdivisions.
In informal side-by-side testing with Mudbox 2011 on the same workstation, performance gains in Mudbox 2012 were consistent.
Mudbox 2012’s interface has also been streamlined with a Maya-like hot box and marking menus.
The space bar displays icons for accessing the major sections of Mudbox, such as sculpting and painting, while right-clicking displays contextual menus for the scene or the model.
What’s more, the Freeze, Weights and selection tools now feature standard lasso and marquee options for better face selection.
While the interface improvements are good, the Objects list still doesn’t allow objects to be moved or grouped and there’s no contextual menu to quickly create new objects.
If you already own Mudbox, the upgrade price is worth the new features, but it may be a tough sell if you’re looking for a new sculpting/painting suite as it sits at the more expensive end of the spectrum.
• New posing tools
• Improved interoperability with Maya, 3ds Max and Softimage
• Ptex support
• No UV tools • Posing tools can be quirky
• Relatively expensive
Support for cutting-edge technologies coupled with fast performance plus one- click interoperability makes Mudbox 2012 a genuinely impressive upgrade
on Monday, August 22nd, 2011 at 2:12 pm under Applications, Reviews.
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Tags: Autodesk, autodesk 2012, blending modes, digital sculpting, hot, joint rigs, Mudbox, Mudbox 2012, PTex, uv-less painting