Software Review - Moment of Inspiration (MoI)

Some First Impressions with Triple Squid's MoI Modeler

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Like any piece of software, Maya has its share of strengths and weaknesses.

Although there might be a more efficient modeling tool-set out there, like Modo or even 3DS Max, setting out to learn a new high-end package is a pretty big commitment that you may not be ready for if you've been using Maya for a long time.

However...

There are quite a few “lightweight” 3D packages out there, and a lot of them are simple enough that they can be learned in just a few sessions.

For our first adventure, we'll be trying out Triple Squid Software’s MoI (Moment of Inspiration) modeler, which is positioned as an easy to use, intuitive NURBS tool-set.

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First Impressions

Many people have a tendency to avoid NURBS modeling in Maya as much as they possibly can, so they'd assume shifting to a piece of software like MoI might be a difficult adjustment to make.

Quite the contrary — thanks to MoI's well-designed interface, it ends up being a pretty smooth transition and the whole experience will actually give you a handful of workflow tricks that you'll be able to carry with back into Maya.

The MoI user experience is dead simple. There are very few menus to dig through, and everything you need to be productive is accessible from a single interface panel. Navigation is virtually identical to Maya's alt-centric scheme, so all things considered the software is amazingly easy to jump into.

There are three video tutorials in the MoI documentation, which provide a very good overview of the software's tool-set and methodology, and we were able to work through them with very little trouble.

When we set out to work on a stand-alone project we initially ran into a few frustrations — modeling with curves requires a very different mindset from poly-modeling, and there was definitely a bit of an adjustment period before we were able to “think” like a NURBS modeler. Obviously, a beginner to 3D modeling probably wouldn't have this issue.

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Speed

As mentioned earlier, we got through the tutorial projects really quickly but were dishearteningly slow when we initially struck out on my own.

At one point we were trying to model a cylindrical form that would have been rather trivial in a polygon modeler, and it ended up taking me about twenty minutes to get the result we were going for due to some difficulties with the chamfer tool.

However, once we stopped thinking in terms of polygonal edge flow, and began experimenting with curves and booleans we were able to model some shapes that would have taken much, much longer to achieve in Maya.

Boolean operators are something we've never really played with much because Maya's system usually doesn't do your topology any favors. In MoI where edge flow isn't really an issue, they work flawlessly and combined with an excellent .OBJ exporter they're definitely one of the software's greatest strengths.

After a few hours in MoI we were quickly coming up with forms that we probably wouldn't have considered in a poly-modeler, which is fantastic. We absolutely loved using the difference Boolean to cut shapes out of a larger form and had a blast experimenting with the technique.

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Complaints

Not too many, really. We had a few issues with the chamfer and filet commands, which isn't really anything out of the ordinary as someone who's used to Maya's much-maligned bevel function, but we figured in a NURBS based modeler the tools would be harder to break.

If we wanted to nitpick, the other issue would probably be MoI's translate, scale, and rotate functions, which we found to be clunky and confusing. We much prefer Maya's approach to object manipulation, but this could easily be an “old-habits-die-hard” situation.

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Final Thoughts

This is a fantastic piece of software that lets beginners jump in and be productive almost immediately. After just two or three sessions we were able to come up with a few models that we were pretty happy with, and we plan to continue experimenting with the software.

The price is roughly a third of Rhino 3D (which was developed by the same person) and is probably MoI's closest point of comparison. It's a good substitution for someone who just needs basic CAD functionality without a whole lot of bells and whistles.

Maya actually has a pretty robust NURBS tool-set, so unless we get really attached to Boolean modeling, we can't see myself ever needing a stand-alone solution like MoI. However, the software is perfect for Cinema4D users, who don't have access to any built-in NURBS functionality, and MoI's .OBJ exporter is pretty amazing, which makes it incredibly easy to get your MoI models into a proper renderer.

For someone completely new to 3D modeling, this is a great place to start experimenting, especially if you're interested in automotive modeling or product design, and that goes double if you think you might want to learn Rhino (or even Solidworks) sometime down the road.