A few weeks ago, I was given an opportunity to add InstaLOD Studio XL to my 3D creation pipeline. This is the big brother, standalone version of InstaLOD that is integrated into Character Creator 3. Since that time, I have used it on a few props, accessories and characters mainly using re-meshing versus optimization.
My initial thoughts were along the line of... "How feature-packed can it be? It's a poly cruncher so how many features can it have?"
Turns out... quite a few. The best part being most of the interface and tools are straight forward without the need of a lot of explanation. Over the years I've developed some bad habits by not watching introductory videos or reading documentation... that thing that's called... now what is that again??? Oh, yeah... the manual.
Like a lot of 3D'ers, I am self-taught, self-righteous and don't need no stinking manual to get started. If I do happen across software that requires reading any documentation before jumping in, I place an incredibly high threshold on it just for that factor.
Fair? I think so.
Like a lot of us reading this I've spent decades learning Windows convention so if a developer wants me to spend hours learning "their way" it had better be good. Damn good in fact.
That is just another reason one of my cardinal rules of good software is ease of use... right out the box so to speak.
InstaLOD Studio XL is that type of software. The kind you can just dive into.
If you are using this type of tool then we can ascertain a few things about you. That you are knowledgeable in 3D and quite possibly very proficient at it. That you searched out a tool of this type or at the very least became extremely interested once you became aware of it. Or maybe you are a 3D newb, we all were at one time, and just want your models to skinny up without giving a damn about the nuts and bolts.
Those of us that have grown up with 3D, particularly gaming, have spent a lot of our careers in low poly work. Those fantastic characters we seen in still image renders, created with flowing robes, long hair and grand beards were only a dream to us for most of our career.
Sure, we could make a great looking 2D or 3D image renders, but we couldn't animate with them. Too heavy for real-time.
Starting off in high poly and working our way down was tedious but necessary. Our end result never looked as good as the high poly prototype. After a while we started working with a low poly mindset from the very beginning and for some us... that is where our creativity bottomed out.
Starting off in low poly, staying low poly is a buzz kill but a faster turnaround. The joy of creation was lost because of the necessary compromises for a real-time environment. You want to give them a bitchin' sword and shield but the poly budget won't allow it. Buzzkill. You want them to have flowing hair and beards but real-time wouldn't allow it at all back then. Buzzkill. You want to add some period jewelry but you are already near the top of your poly budget. Buzzkill, buzzkill, buzzkill.
Not exactly an environment that induces creativity.
Since adding InstaLOD Studio XL to my pipeline I no longer have to be so stringent in low poly worries as I learn the breadth and the width of this poly cruncher with its amazing ability to retain form while drastically leaning weight.
If ease of use is number one in general terms then leaning my models to less than 10 percent while retaining the form and most of the features is number one on my list for poly crunchers.
Lest you think I've not used a lot of crunchers and re-meshers then let me assure you that I have combed the web for many years. Tried many forms of optimization from expensive to shareware. ZBrush's re-mesher from the 2019 release is second but not a close second.
Simply put nothing I have used can lean down your models without sacrificing all the precious detail you so painstakingly added. We don't use greebles or nurnies because they are fun to place! We use them for detail and poor optimization can lose that detail.
InstaLOD Studio XL can retain most if not all of that detail as long as you don't get ridiculous in the optimization.
Going forward I will write about my learning curve and usage of this tool in specific real world, real usage situations. In the long run, will it turn out to be the great tool it appears to be?
Stay tuned and we'll find out together.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.