Moment of Inspiration – Nurbs for the artists

Moi3D

Moi3D

In every year I used to spend some time with testing applications, covering different areas of content creation. Sometimes this period is dedicated to virtual reality, sometimes it is 3D modeling, video editing and so on. It helps me to check the improvements and quality level of  apps compared to my mainly used packages. It also helps to understand different logics in work-flow. There are ‘returning  guests’ for me like Gimp and Blender, but this year my first guest was Moment of Inspiration – or as it is called shortly –  MOI.

All of us who ever worked with any CAD-like 3D package, heard already about nurbs based modeling. For beginners – especially for those who has some 2D vector graphics experience – I would say that modeling with nurbs is like drawing with vectors  in Adobe Illustrator or CorelDraw instead of using the pixel-based PhotoShop.  Nurbs modeling results very precise models with ‘infinite resolution’ and with a good implementation of the technology it could give a wonderful tool to any modeler for some specific tasks. The main part of usage – besides of CAD-like precise design – is making objects with curved surfaces, multiple chamfered/beveled edges, etc, with the easy and fast opportunity to create high-poly and low-poly versions as output.

I’m a 3D Studio user since ages and I have to say Max sucks in nurbs.  Bad, non-intuitive implementation – one of the reasons an app could fail. On the other hand I always had the wish to know more about this area, so I started to look for a handy nurbs modeler.

As industrial standards there are several excellent packages on the market like Rhino. The main problems with these apps that they are not budget friendly at all, especially for a beginner or an indie developer who just need some ‘complementer’ tool for her/his main package. Furthermore –  it is based on my very basic experience with Rhino – they are deigned more for being a tool for an engineer than for an artist. Michael Gibson, former developer of Rhino3D recognized the lack of an artist-friendly nurbs package and released MOI3D.

So let’s see, what can MOI offer to us. I will not make a tutorial for it (check the links at the end of the post).

For any tool I use I have the same expectations. Itshould be stable, logical/intuitive, bug-free, cost-effective, fast and have to offer the quality we can expect. In some cases being cross-platform is a must; data exchange with other apps is a must always.

All of the next infos are based on my personal experiences.

1. Stability:
It is stable. Their website offers 2 different trial packages (one without saving and one with a 30 day usability). I used it for one month daily for sketches and I had problem only once. That’s fine for me.

2. Logic/Interface:

It has an easily recognizable ‘inner logic’, but it is definitely not similar to 3D Studio or other packages I tried/used before. One of the big backsides  is not using RMB (Right Mouse Button) menus for speeding up the modeling process. Of course you can have hotkeys, but for someone like me it is just not efficient and comfortable to keep all the different hotkeys in mind for 8-10 different apps used for a complicated project. So for the main packages I like to use hotkeys, for complementers (like a tree creator or normal map maker) I prefer a well-organized menu-based solution. Fortunately the GUI itself is well-organized.

I missed some functions, like ‘alerting’ when a task cannot be executed because of a user error. With an example: giving a too high value for the ‘chamfer tool’ just doesn’t do anything instead of alerting the user. The way of naming modeling elements and switching them on/off is not efficient, compared to 3D Studio work-flow.

From orthogonal view you cannot change to perspective with using the orbit tool. First you have to change back to ‘3D view’ mode, what wastes your time.

In general I don’t like apps with their own interface instead of following the platforms default one. I understand that it helps cross-platform usage, but it  has serious backdraws. I will explain it in another post.

3. Bugs:

It has some.  It is not easy to judge what is a real bug and what is a user error, but here is the list:
– Sometimes when the app starts, all of the GUI elements are missing. Dragging the mouse over the GUI, the icons appear. Weird.
– Sometimes specific commands for creating surfaces result a messy geometry. It could be user error, but a ‘smart’ app alerts you in these cases, especially when the mistake is not obvious.

4. Price/Performance

Counting/judging the price of a product is not easy, i will explain my logic in that later.

It costs  USD 295.  In my opinion that is a little bit too much. The affordable price for me would be about USD 150, even if I were an artist I would pay that amount for it. About USD 300 it is a no go for me, just if it earns this money back immediately (which means that for commercial usage it is acceptable).

5. Quality
In general it offers good quality as output.
For exporting nurbs geometry as polygons it offers an interactive export module with ‘trianle/quad’ options, welding, division rules, etc.
I could imagine more reducing possibilites when I want to go for a lower poly count.
I think it should also have some ‘fake retopology’ tools on the export (I have an idea for that), because I didn’t had the feeling that I have enough control over the mesh when exporting.
The exported mesh – I used OBJ format to export – is fine, but in some cases I was not able to understand the logic of face divisions.
I found some backfacing normals, smoothing errors in some cases (usually it was easy to fix).

The user have to be careful to export the parts of an objects separately in some cases, depending an the geometry of it.

6. Support and user base:
MOI has a quite useful forum with active users. I found tutorials or answers for the most difficulties I had to face with. 
The developer, Michael Gibson answers questions personally very often, which is very-very good thing.

7. Other:
MOI runs both on Win/OSX. Good point.

8. What other things should be improved:
Data exchange should be improved. Users need a handy import module (OBJ, 3DS, DXF) for poly-based geometry, using the imported objects as a reference/helper for designing stuff.

LINKS:

MOI3D official website:
www.moi3d.com

Resources/Tutorials:
http://moi3d.com/resources

MOI3D Gallery:
http://moi3d.com/gallery/

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