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3D (OpenGL) Viewport

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The 3D viewport is where users will likely spend their greatest amount of time when working in modo; it is the window into modo's virtual 3D world. It serves many purposes, allowing users to generate and manipulate geometry using any of modo's many tools; users can sculpt, paint, animate, deform, move elements about, and position cameras and lights. With so many jobs to do, it's important that it be flexible as well. There are numerous functions within the 3D viewport that allow users to customize what is seen and how it is seen, depending on the task at hand.

GL Viewport

The default 601 interface opens with a large 3D GL viewport set to 'Perspective' view. If your view doesn't match, just select the default layout from the menu bar ("Layout > Layouts > 601 Default") and make sure to select the 'model' tab across the top, located directly below the menu bar.
First notice there is a dark grid moving in perspective off into the distance some, with another coarser light grid perpendicular to the dark one. The dark grid represents the ground plane; the zero position of the y axis. Each square of that grid represents a fixed distance, since this grid is dynamic depending on the zoom level, a small display in the lower right corner gives users the "real world" equivalent measurements for each square, in the case above it is 50mm. The lighter grid represents the Work Plane; also dynamic depending on users rotational orientation to the world. While the ground plane is purely for reference purposes, the Work Plane's purpose is to show the user where in 3D space will objects get created. Think of it as a construction plane, dynamically adjusting to the most appropriate angle. Also within the 3D viewport, there are "heads-up" displays that give users pertinent information with regards to items visible within the viewport as well as guides to selections and the selected tool.
In the upper left corner of the window is a small dimple, called the Thumb, followed by three capsule shaped buttons. The Thumb will usually be a dark gray until a viewport becomes active in which case it will turn orange (To make any viewport 'active', simply click anywhere within the window frame). RMB+clicking on the thumb will present users with a series of options regarding the frame. Refer to the 'Layout Controls' section for further details regarding it. The left most 'capsule' button is meant for choosing the way the viewport sees the scene (detailed in the dedicated '3D Model View' section below) LMB+click and hold for a popup menu that allows the user to choose from the available options. The next button contains all the settings that will let users choose from a variety of scene display options meant to accommodate a wide variety needs. From here users can change the display style, helpful to many modeling and painting tasks, among others. Users can also change how items in the background are displayed (items that are visible, but unselected are considered background elements), and set the visibility of viewport elements. The viewport options are also available by hovering the mouse pointer anywhere over a 3D viewport and hitting the 'O' key. The third 'capsule' button allows users to enable the Ray GL in-viewport rendering preview option.
The upper right corner has several small icons. The first three let users manipulate the view itself, move, rotate and adjust the zoom level of the active viewport. LMB+clicking and dragging over any of the icons (also called 'hauling') will make the appropriate view adjustment providing an intuitive way for users new to 3D to manipulate the position of the viewports virtual 'camera', though most users will want to learn the viewport navigation controls for easier navigation (detailed in the navigation section below) The tiny arrow icon to the right, called the 'Widget', when RMB+clicked will present a pop-up menu allowing users to select from the many various types of modo viewports. Selecting any of these items will convert that window into the chosen viewport. Don't select anything now, as viewport changes aren't an undoable action. See 'Customizing modo' for more information regarding viewports customization.

On the lower left, there is an XYZ axis gizmo, giving users an iconic visual reference to the orientation of the window as well as the current workplane orientation. For orthographic views, the icon will display the axis plane the viewport windows faces toward, or in perspective view, users can rotate the view and see the widget update in real time.

The lower right corner has several informational displays that dynamically update, displaying the current number of selected items, channels and deformers. The 'GL' display references the number of live polygons active in your viewport (including Sub-D surfaces) and the number at the bottom gives the real world size reference to the squares within the grid of the ground plane. The information displayed is controlled in the 'GL' section of the preferences.


modo provides a number of functions to aid in the navigation of GL viewport allowing users a number of ways to travel around in 3D space. Most are invoked from a mouse button and keyboard combination. Shortcuts are based on the default interface values. Additional navigation options are available within the Preferences section.

Alt+LMB = Rotate view
Alt+MMB = Rotate viewport Z axis (bank) view
Alt+RMB = 'Flick' Rotate (also called Free Wheeling) view slows down when mouse is released.
Shift+Alt+LMB = Pan View
Shift+Alt+RMB = Up/Down Pan only
Ctrl+Alt+LMB = Zoom to mouse position
Ctrl+Alt+RMB = Box Zoom (drag box to zoom)
'.' & ',' = zoom in & out (easier to think of < and > key)
G = Center view (Current mouse position to viewport center)
/ = Turntable (Spinning view of scene)
Shift+/ = Upright Turntable
Mouse Wheel = Zoom View in & out to mouse pointer

A = Fit (Zoom to scene extents/all Items)
Shift+A = Fit Selected (Zooms to selected elements)
Ctrl+A = Align Selected (Aligns view to current selection)
Ctrl+Shift+A = Fit and Align Selected (Zooms and aligns view to current selection)


modo provides a way for users to modify the visibility of object in the viewport directly. While generally users can toggle visibility of items in the Items list, that changes visibility of the entire layer. These commands allow the temporary toggling of visibility of only the selected element, including components, dependant on the selection mode. Once hidden, geometry will be un-editable, meaning it cannot be selected or moved. To apply, simply select the geometry component you wish to hide and invoke the menu bar command "View > Hide Selected" or press the 'H' key. To make the geometry visible again, invoke the "View > Unhide" command or press the 'U' key. When a file is saved and re-opened later, all hidden polygons will be visible.

H = Hide Selected (Hides all if nothing is explicitly selected)
Shift+H = Hide Unselected (Hides all the unselected Geometry)
Ctrl+H = Hide Invert (Toggles visibility, inverting the present state)
U = Unhide (Makes all hidden geometry visible)


Providing a similar function to hiding, Locking allows users to fix a selection of geometry so that is is immovable and unselectable, effectively un-editable, however it will still be fully visible. Unlike hiding, this locking function is limited to the component selection modes. To apply a similar function to item layers, use the locking ability of the 'Items List' or 'Assembly' viewport. To apply, simply select some geometry, and invoke the menu bar command "Edit > Lock Selected" or press the 'J' keyboard shortcut. Users can unlock any locked elements in an item layer with the "Edit . Unlock" command or by pressing 'I'.

J = Lock Selected (Locks all if nothing is explicitly selected)
Shift+J = Lock Unselected (Lock all of the unselected geometry)
Ctrl+J = Lock Invert (Toggles locked state of all geometry)
I = Unlock (Makes all locked geometry editable)


View Types
While viewports have no camera per se, modo does provide users the ability to change how a scene is viewed through the viewports. The options can be selected from the 'View Type' menu in the upper left corner of the viewport. LMB+click on the button will open the menu where users can choose alternate options, Notice the name changes for each different view below. The following Orthogonal views provide users viewpoints free from perspective distortion of all the cardinal viewing planes -Front, Back, Top, Bottom, Left and Right.

Top View

Front View


Bottom View

Left View


Back View

Right View

Perspective views are similar to viewing the scene through a real-world camera, where the displays have perspective and a vanishing point. The amount of perspective distortion can be controlled by the "Preferences > Display > OpenGL" setting 'Flatness of Perspective' (This is for the perspective view only, the Camera and Light views are controlled by the items settings). Additionally user can view a scene from the Cameras point-of-view, mimicking the field of view settings of the item. When in the 'Camera' mode, typically translucent black bars appear over the frame to represent the rendered frames aspect ratio, for when it doesn't match that of the viewport frame. Finally, there is also the Light view that displays the scene from a particular lights point-of-view providing users an easy way to see what the light is pointed at and illuminating. It should be noted that when navigating in the 'Camera' or 'Light' views, users are actually moving the positions of the elements within the scene.

Perspective View


Camera View


Light View



Ray GL
The Ray GL viewport option leverages modo's render preview functionality overlaid with the standard viewport options to provide a hybrid display of the rendered scenes, providing users the ability to model and interact with the rendered scene directly. To use, simply LMB+click the Ray GL toggle button in the viewport , enabling the function.
For simpler scenes, shading is near real-time, just like in the render preview, but for more complex scenes, there is a lag between edits where the system temporarily reverts back to the standard GL view. Users can control how Ray GL updates based on options available within the Preferences ("System > Preferences > Display > Ray GL"). Additionally, users can choose which elements are taken into account when rendering. Useful for say when you want to disable Fur rendering to speed up the preview when modeling a werewolf.

RayGL viewport



3D Viewport Styles
modo provides a number of ways to visualize a scene using viewport styles, these are basically, in-viewport shaders that display the geometry in specific ways making it easier to visualize certain aspects of a model or scene. Users may choose from the available options by using the 'Viewport Options' button within the viewport (the second button from the left on the top) by LMB+clicking to open the contextual menu and choosing from one of the available options.

In the Wireframe drawing style only vertices and the edges that connect them to make polygons are visible. The actual polygon faces are not drawn and as such you can see through the model to vertices and poly edges on the backside as well.


Solid shading mode renders the geometry without shading. This mode is most useful when combined with a wireframe overlay, resulting in a flat rendered "sketch" mode.


Vertex MapVertexMap
Vertex Map shade option uses the currently selected vertex map to shade the model. In the case of Vertex Color maps, the color of each vertex will be blended with the colors of the neighbor vertices. For weight maps positive values shade red while negative values shade blue. Any vertex with a value of 0 or no value at all will shade green. If Color and Weight type vertex maps are selected, the Color vertex map will take precedent.

The Shaded style shows meshes with their basic material definitions such as Diffuse, Specular and Transparency. No image maps will appear in the Shaded style.
'Texture' style shows the mesh surface with only the most basic material attributes including any image map textures. In 'Texture' style RGBA images can be seen with their alpha blending them into the material beneath. However, limitations of standard Open GL force the image map itself to draw without shading (aka full bright). This is a reasonable view style for 3D painting or placing image decals onto a model. The Shaded Texture style can shade the image texture but can not use alpha channel. The Advanced OpenGL view will correctly alpha blend multiple image texture layers and shade them appropriately.
  Shaded Texture
Shaded Texture
In the Shaded Texture view, image maps are visible as blended with the light shading effects. Due to OpenGL limitations this mode cannot show images with alpha channels so any RGBA image will appear as an opaque RGB image. To see alpha channels from the image users will need to use the 'Texture' or 'Advanced OpenGL' view styles.
Advanced OpenGL
Avanced OpenGL
"Advanced OpenGL" will allow users to see many more effects than the normal Texture view. With Advanced GL mode you can see the following types of image maps: Color, Bump, Specular, Luminous and Transparency. It will blend multiple layers of each (though Bump will only use the first layer). However, the total number you will actually see at a time is based on the resources of your graphics card. These resource limitations are per Shader Tree surface so if your card has 8 texture units, each Material can have up to 8 image maps.
Aside from simple alpha blending, each layer's opacity is respected as well as the base material settings - so you can, for instance, set the material to be 50% transparent, then create a clip and apply it as a transparency map and paint in areas of complete transparency or complete opacity.
  Gooch Tone Shading
The "Gooch" shading mode is a vertex shading algorithm that displays the geometry using a technique known as tone shading. Rather than relying on the traditional light to dark shadow style shading, which can obscure parts of the model while working, tone mapping represents the curvature of the geometry, shading warm-to-cool where the warm areas are those that would traditionally be lit and the cool areas are those that would normally be in shadow. This shading mode allows you to check the surface of your model for proper contouring while still seeing the entire mesh evenly lit.
  Cel Shading
Cel Shading
The Cel Shading style creates a stepped shading on the model to appear as if it were a cartoon with a fixed number of shading zones.
The Reflection Shader displays your geometry as if it were fully reflective. This shader uses a cubic reflection map, and mixes in some of the original material properties with a small amount of shading to properly show object contours. This mode is very useful when performing visual review of a models surface as it assists in finding surface irregularities.


Viewport Options
Allowing users to further customize the display of elements within a viewport, modo provides a multitude of option available to control various aspects. The default interfaces apply varieties of these options for their custom workspaces, however, over the years they have been fined tuned to the degree that many users will rarely need to adjust them. Users can easily access the display menu options by hovering the mouse pointer over the target viewport and pressing the 'O' key to open the popover menu. Acting as a standard dialog, edits can be made normally. As soon as the mouse pointer moves away from the menu, it will disappear. Many options are also available from the 'Viewport Styles' menu.

Drawing and Control

Display MenuView and Shading--

View Type: Users can choose from the various view types covered above -Top, Bottom, Front, Back, Left, Right, Perspective, Camera and Light.

Orientation: For the Orthogonal views only, users can control upright rotation angle in 90° increments.

Shading Style: Users can choose from the available view styles covered above -Wireframe, Solid, Shaded, Texture, Shaded Texture, Advanced OpenGL, Gooch, Cel and Reflection Shading.

Independent Item Draw Styles:

Wireframe Overlay: Determines the style of geometry wireframe display. Users can adjust the colors of the wireframe using the preference setting "System >Preferences" and then "Display > Colors". Once a color scheme is created in preferences and saved as a named preset, it must be applied to the active viewport with the menu bar command "View > Viewport Color Scheme".
None- No Wireframe display. (Shortcut = '/')
Uniform- By default this is a white wireframe outline. (Shortcut = Shift+/)
Colored- By default this is a black wireframe outline. (Shortcut = Ctrl+/)

Wireframe Opacity: Controls the opacity of the wireframe overlay display.

Vertex Map: Defines which type of vertex map is displayed when in the 'Vertex Map' viewport style-
Selection- Displays the most recent Vertex Map selection.
Weight- Favors Weight Maps for display.
Vertex Color- Favors Vertex Color Maps for display.

Smooth Shade: This option toggle overrides the material 'Smoothing' setting, only changing how smoothing is displayed in the viewport, not the rendered output. When disabled, individual polygons will shade flat, appearing faceted, when enabled, polygons will shade according to the material 'Smoothing' setting.

Overlay Drawing: For custom draw items, such as locators, cameras and lights (that have no inherent geometry) this option allows an X-Ray style of viewing, meaning users can see these elements through polygons when enabled.

Enable Silhouette: When the 'Enable Silhouette' option is enabled (the default state), any mesh item designated in its display properties as 'Show as Silhouette' will display as a flat solid shape with no interior details. This option should be thought of as a global enabler only, where the actual display of the silhouette itself is determined by the options of the items 'Display' properties.

Topology Mode: The 'Topology Mode' option is meant to aid in the process of retopologizing a mesh, sometimes also called simply 'topo'. This is the process of converting a high resolution mesh to a low resolution mesh by creating new polygons against the high resolution mesh set as a background element. Generally this process creates intersecting geometry that is difficult to see. Enabling the 'Topology Mode' option will force the drawing of vertices and edges to always draw in front of whatever background elements may be visible in the scene. Polygons will draw as semi-transparent shapes with solid blue edges. Vertices will be enlarged for easier visibility.

Show Weightmaps: When the 'Show Weightmaps' option is enabled, any selected weight map will be visible as an overlay to the shaded elements in the 3D viewport when displayed as 'Advanced OpenGL' for the viewport display style. This included the automatic weights associated to bones and deformers.

Tip icon

TIP: The 'Enable Silhouette', 'Topology Mode' and 'Show WeightMaps' options are all incompatible with each other and therefore cannot all be enabled at the same time. The 'Show Weightmaps' option will supercede the 'Show Silhouette' option and the 'Topology Mode' options will supercede both.

Replicators: The 'Replicators' options allow users to control the shaded display of any replicators in a scene. In previous versions of modo, Replicators were displayed only as bounding boxes. Users can now adjust this setting to view shaded Replicators never (None), or always (All) or only when a 'Replicator' item is active (Selected). Otherwise the Replicator clones will be displayed as bounding boxes.

Independent Point Size: The 'Independent Point Size' option is a per-viewport override for the display size of selected vertices. When users enable the 'Independent Point Size' option, they can then specify the actual display size with the 'Point Size' option.

Point Size: This option determines the display size of selected vertices when the 'Independent Point Size' option is enabled.

GL Background: Users can choose from several viewport specific environment background options-
None- Defaults to the flat background color as defined by the preferences.
Gradient- Displays gray shading from light above to dark below.
Environment- Displays the settings as determined by the 'Environment' item of the shader tree simulating the rendered background.
Image- Users can define a custom image for use as a viewport background. When this option is selected, a file requester will open, users can then select or navigate to the appropriate image.

GL Reflection: Users can choose from several viewport specific GL reflection options for controlling the display of reflective surfaces-
None- Displays no reflection, ignoring surface material settings.
Gradient- Displays a gray gradient shading on reflective surfaces.
Environment- Displays the settings as determined by the 'Environment' item of the shader tree simulating the rendered output.
Image- Users can define a custom image for use as viewport reflections. When this option is selected, a file requester will open, users can then select or navigate to the appropriate image.
Same as Environment- Reflection options are determined by the 'GL Background' settings.

Inactive Meshes: This option determines the Shading Style of Inactive or Background mesh items, defined as items that are visible in the 'Item List', but not selected (selected items are considered foreground and are denoted by highlighting in the item list). The options are-
Wireframe- Displays Inactive meshes as wireframe, only showing vertices and edges, but no solid polygons.
Flat Shaded- Displays inactive meshes as Flat Shaded, displaying only basic material attributes such as color, diffuse and specular.
Same as Active- Displays inactive meshes the same as active foreground meshes as determined by the viewport style.

Camera Item: In the case of multiple cameras in a scene, wherein the viewport is set to 'Camera' view type, this option determines which camera item controls the viewport. Selecting alternate cameras will change the viewport to that cameras point-of-view.

Light Item: In the case of multiple lights in a scene, wherein the viewport is set to 'Light' view type, this option determines which light item controls the viewport. Selecting an alternate light will change the viewport to that lights point-of-view.

Viewport Independence--

Independent Center/Scale/Rotate: To ease in viewport navigation, it is sometimes desirable to link/unlink grouped 3D viewports, so when changing the position, size and angle of the viewport view, associated viewports will move in sync with the active viewport. These three toggles allow users to control the syncing of the view properties 'Center', 'Scale' and 'Rotate'.

Master Viewport: Determines the linking of viewports, on a per viewport basis, options include 'Orthographic', which will link all associated orthographic viewports and 'Perspective', which links associated perspective views (does not include camera and light views).

Background Imagery--
For scenes using 'Front' type texture projection method, either from a 'Camera' or 'Light", the background imagery options control the display of the projected image in the viewport. To use, apply an image to the 'Environment' item in the shader tree, and in its associated Texture Locator, assign the 'Front' projection type, specify a camera or light if necessary.

Invert: Inverts the RGB values of the projected image, producing a negative effect.

Overlay: The 'Overlay' option, when enabled draws the projected image on-top of the viewport, obscuring its contents. When set as such, changing the 'Transparency' setting below will allow users to see the viewports contents.

Contrast: This option adjusts the 'Contrast' of the projected viewport image, modifying the visual difference between light and dark values in the image. Positive values increase the contrast, while negative values decrease it.

Brightness: This option adjusts the 'Brightness' of the projected viewport image. Positive values will brighten or lighten the image, while negative values will darken the image.

Transparency: The 'Transparency' option changes the opacity of the viewport projected image. When set to 'Overlay, this affect the visibility of items in the scene through the image, when overlay is disabled, this value reveals the settings of the 'Background' options.

Mouse Controls--

Oscillate: When in a 'Perspective' view type, users can enable the 'Oscillate' option, then using the 'Alt'+RMB button combination, users can drag the cursor moving the view, and let go of the mouse button and modo will continue to bounce back and forth oscillating over the previous mouse movement. A neat little trick to view a model in motion.

Trackball Rotation: Users are provided several options for the orbiting behavior when navigating the viewport. Trackball style navigation is a common way to rotate the view of a scene, as if the viewport itself was a giant trackball, allowing multiple axes rotation based on the mouse's viewport position. Disabling this option limits viewport rotations to only two axes. The options are--
No- This option disabled trackball style rotation in favor of standard upright orbiting.
Yes- This option enabled trackball rotation for the specific viewport.
Default- This option uses the preference setting, available in "System > Preferences" then "Display > OpenGL > Viewport Rotation"

Orbit Selected: When this option is enabled, modo will automatically orbit around the selected element, using the selections bounding box center as the center of rotation.


Hot Scrubbing: With 'Hot Scrubbing' enabled, animated items in the scene will update continuously when dragging the timeline, producing a smooth motion. When disabled, items will only update when the mouse pauses, or isn't moving, providing slightly faster performance.

Enable Deformers: The 'Enable Deformers' toggle allows viewports to display the results of animated morph and vertex map deformers in the viewport. This option is typically disabled for the modeling viewports, and enabled for animation viewports.



Visibility popoverItem Visibility--

Show Lights: This toggle determines the visibility of the light item representations in the current viewport.

Show Cameras: This toggle determines the visibility of the camera item representations in the current viewport.

Show Locators: This toggle determines the visibility of the locator item representations in the current viewport.

Show Texture Locators: This toggle determines the visibility of the texture locator item representations in the current viewport.

Show Meshes: This toggle determines the visibility of mesh items in the current viewport.

Show Instances: This toggle determines the visibility of instance items in the current viewport.

Show Pivots/Centers: Visibility for Pivot and Center representations can be determined by these criteria-
None- Only shows the Pivot/Center when in Pivots/Centers selection mode.
Selected- Shows the Pivot/Center when any item layer is selected in the Item List.
All- Always shows the Pivot/Center for all items.

General Visibility--

Show Vertices: Toggles the visibility of unselected Vertices (selected vertices are always visible unless 'Show Selection' is disabled).

Show Cages: Toggles the visibility of the Subdivision Surface Cage representation, this can be considered the original polygons that were smoothed.

Show Guides: Toggles the visibility of guide lines that draw between the Subdivision limit surface and the cage geometry.

Show Work Plane: Toggles the visibility of the Work Plane in the current viewport. (keyboard shortcut = Num Pad ' * ' .

Show Grid: Toggles the visibility of the Ground plane grid at the 0 position of the up axis.

Show Backdrop: Toggles the visibility of any Backdrop items in the scene.

Show Indices: Toggles the visibility of the component index values display. Each number represents the particular component index. Visibility can be especially helpful when working with geometry constraints, where constraints require specific index values for input.

Show Weight Values: Toggles the visibility of weight map value display. A numeric value representing the current vertex weight amount will display next to each selected vertex in the 3D viewport. Weight Map usage is covered on the 'Working with Vertex Maps' page of the documentation.

Selection Visibility--

Show Selections: Toggles the visibility of selection highlighting.

Show Selection Normals: When enabled, this option displays normals for any selected polygon(s), displayed as a small dashed line pointing outward from the center of the polygon. Normals represent the facing direction for polygons.

Show Selected Filling: Toggles the visibility of the selection highlight overlay.

Show Selected Outline: Toggles the visibility of the selection highlighting outline.

Show Selection Rollovers: Toggles the visibility of selection rollover pre-highlighting.


comment balloon Comments (4) RSS Icon

Dominiek De Ridder April 8, 2012 at 2:44 AM

Independent Point Size (Thank you a modo mio for this tip!):

Not only specifies the actual display size, but also makes selecting verts easier : see video tut :

Dominiek De Ridder April 13, 2012 at 10:34 AM

Video tutorial on how to setup the viewport lighting and on how to setup a "headlight" in modo :

Dino Zanco April 14, 2012 at 5:33 PM

3D View Control and Settings (01-06) - older stuff, but helpful:

Dominiek De Ridder April 27, 2012 at 7:26 AM

Video about viewport navigation shortcuts :


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