Baking Maps in Modo

Part of any texture workflow is generating and baking various maps. In this article you will learn about the process behind generating maps and how to bake both Normal and AO(Ambient Occlusion) Maps in Modo.

Modo Occlusion Effect Baking

Getting Started with the Baking UI Kit

Included free of charge as of Modo 801, The Foundry released the Baking UI Kit to streamline the process of baking maps. If you haven’t done so already, log in to your account and go to my products page; then download and install the Baking UI Kit.

Setting Up for Baking Various Maps

Hi Res Shield Model to be used for Baking
Hi-Res Shield Model to be used for Baking

Before we can pull up our Baking UI kit and start the process, we need to setup our scene. If you haven’t given thought to it yet, lighting is a very important part of the overall baking process and should be taken into consideration before baking. Once you are satisfied with the lighting of your scene you are going too, need two things to begin.

  1. Often a poly mesh that has adequate UV’s
  2. Hi Resolution Mesh(s) that data will be transferred from.

The figure above is a model sculpted in ZBrush and imported into Modo as an OBJ. Before importing this mesh, we optimized to work in Modo with little performance impact. However if you find Modo slowing down or nonresponsive while importing, select the static option when importing your mesh and Modo will automatically optimize itself for Hi-Res models.

UVed Mesh for Baking

As you can see we have a mid-level poly mesh with UV’s ready for our baking process. This mesh was created using Modo’s retopology tools and given a simple UV layout that takes up a majority of the texture space. For the purpose of this demo we’re only baking the front half of the mesh so there is no need to have a more optimized UV map.

Now that we have our hi-res mesh and a lower poly mesh to transfer the details too , we can now begin baking our maps.

Baking Normal Maps in Modo

With the Baking UI window open, lets take a look at what options you will need to bake your normal map. The major sections you need to pay attention to are Output Type and Output Format. Setting your Output type to Normal with telling Modo’s render to capture the normal information from either the source Mesh, if set or all meshes within the Bake Mode > Bake Distance.

Most maps, when baked, can be set to jpg or png, but the normal map has a lot of extra data that needs a special format capable of storing that data. In our case, we are using a tiff, but you can just as well use targa.

Before hitting the bake, the button makes sure the bake will capture correctly. To do so, hit the Preview Render at Proxy Size. We find that if something goes wrong with baking the normal map its typically one of two things. The first and most common mistake is your source mesh(s) are not visible they mush be enabled for the data to be captured. The Second is the bake distance and cage settings. If you see partial details or the capture isn’t getting all of the information then take a look at your cage or bake distance. If are using a cage then make sure your intended source mesh(s) are encompassed. If you are using distance, then try to increase the distance.

Baking AO (Ambient Occlusion) in Modo

The Occlusion map in Modo is a shader tree effect so baking AO won’t be in the Baking UI option. But what’s great about the shader tree effects are they are still accessible via diffuse color.

To add the Occlusion effect, go to the Shader Tree list and click on Add Layer > Processing > Occlusion. There you will be able to make live updates to the AO and view the changes right in the window. In the figure above we are using Modo 901’s new advanced viewport. Once you find the correct settings that work best for you meshes simply bake the map down a diffuse color.

Importing Baked Maps and Setting Effects

To view the maps in modo, you have to import the baked images either by loading them from the disk or the clip browser. For convince, we set the Baking UI Output option Import Baked Images so that we can load the images from the clip browser. Like with all layers in Modo you can control the strength of effects by decreasing the opacity setting. In our case, the AO map is dialed back, and we set the blend mode to add.

AO Map Added
AO Map Added
Both AO and Normal Maps
Both AO and Normal Maps