William Vaughan: Kick Starter
The multi-talented head of New Balance’s 3D team says that GPU rendering with Modo’s mpath engine and AMD’S Radeon Prorender will transform artists’ work
William Vaughan is a hard artist to categorise. Currently Senior 3D Production Manager at multinational shoe firm New Balance, he is also a prolific creator of 3D characters, whose work has appeared in Hollywood movies, architectural visualisations, and even as vinyl toys. An author and educator – he was also previously academic director of The Digital Animation & Visual Effects School in Florida – his published output ranges from the likes of guides to 3D modelling to science-fiction novels.
For the past decade, the thread uniting this varied career has been Modo: Foundry’s creative 3D modelling software, and Vaughan’s primary production tool. And what currently excites him about the application is the way that the current Modo 13 Series of releases are able to harness the power of modern GPUS, both through Radeon™ Prorender, AMD’S powerful physically based render engine, and mpath, Foundry’s ground-up redesign of the native Modo renderer.
Modo for character modelling
Vaughan first used Modo on Partly Cloudy, Pixar’s 2009 animated short, on which he worked as a freelance character modeller. “At the time, what blew me away was how interactive everything was,” he says. “I wasn’t keying in numbers and seeing what happened: I was interacting with my model in real time. That and Modo’s selection tools were the biggest selling points to me.”
Over time, Modo would gradually replace other 3D software in Vaughan’s workflow, both on his personal and professional projects. “It’s a complete package: all of the tools are there, they’re easy to use, and they’re flexible,” he explains. “Although I model 3D characters, I think of myself more as a problem-solver – and Modo has everything I need to solve my problems.”
Modo for product design
Vaughan has also been instrumental in implementing Modo in the design pipeline at New Balance. In place of its old workflow of creating designs in 2D, having them manufactured physically, then modifying the 2D designs accordingly, the company now uses Modo to create 3D prototypes.
“One of the big driving forces for introducing 3D was to cut down on physical samples,” says Vaughan. “By doing that, we’re cutting costs, but also reducing the impact on the environment.”
Having now trained over 50 New Balance designers to use Modo, Vaughan praises the software’s shallow learning curve. “It’s very artist-friendly,” he comments. “Most of New Balance’s designers didn’t have a background in 3D, but in Modo, you can get to a nicelooking render very quickly.”
Modern GPUS for rendering
Of all of the changes in this year’s Modo 13 Series of updates, Vaughan is most excited about the way that the software is taking advantage of the processing power of modern graphics cards: a process that began in Modo 13.0 with the integration of Radeon Prorender. AMD’S physically accurate GPU renderer provides artists with fast, interactive, photorealistic previews of their 3D models.