Testing 3D software on Macbook Pro M1 Max

I just bought M1 Max MacBook Pro for production work, here are some tests with 3D software on M1 Max. I want to see if I would be able to use this as a truly portable 3D creation machine. Truly portable meaning something that actually can do 3D on battery power, also without the fans getting wild.

My initial 3D software tests on M1 Max are following:

  • Substance 3D Designer runs very well currently via Rosetta 2, iRay renders also working fast, similar speed to modern gaming notebooks. Native version is coming according to Adobe.
  • Substance 3D Painter runs amazing. Just tested painting on 10 UDIM tile VFX model. The model has around 1 million quads. I was able to paint across tiles in 4K smoothly on battery power. Ambient Occlusion baking was the only area where this fell (significantly I must say) behind Nvidia powered computer. Currently Substance 3D Paintel runs through Rosetta 2.
  • Marvelous Designer is defunct on M1, does not work with system hanging on complex garments.
  • ZBrush works very well, similar to high end desktop such as 3950X based machine. Single core performance of the machine is really that good.
  • Maya runs fine, similarly to other modern notebooks. If this gets native M1 code could be amazing.
  • Redshift under Maya host was a bit disappointing, unsure for the reason why, unsure if the plugin runs native under non-native Maya.
  • Blender runs okay. I tested M1 version. Completely usable for high-end 3D work and high end cycles renders, well render fine, although not very fast. Maybe the M1 optimization is not maybe in ideal state yet.
Testing 3D software on M1 Max. Substance Designer will have Native M1 version coming.
Downloading Substance 3D Designer from Adobe will give this note – Apple silicon version is coming.

I will keep testing different 3D software in more lengthy tests, but the initial tests are mind blowing. Especially what Substance Painter was able to pull off, 10 4K UDIM texture sets on multi million quad model is not easy feat for a notebook. While working on this model the fans did not even spin up, and I could do such work in a cafe if I really need to.

Even in it’s current state I cannot see why I wouldn’t be able to use this in production. And if the apps get optimized for M1 this can change the industry.

See also

Here is a handy website for checking which apps are M1 ready.

Stroke Interpolate in ZBrush 2021
I created this in less than a minute using Stroke Interpolate in ZBrush
I created this in less than a minute using Stroke Interpolate in ZBrush

The new Stroke Interpolate feature in ZBrush 2021 offers complete new workflows. It is super easy to use, just one click at the Interpolate button found in Stroke palette. It will then, well, interpolate between the two last strokes and you can adjust the number of strokes.

For example the mace style cylinder I created took me less than a minute to create. It is not hard to imagine how this can also be used creatively.

Stroke Interpolate in ZBrush offers new ways to create patterns.

Doodling this kind of patterns for example is super intuitive.

We can also draw a straight line and a curved line and the interpolation with create strokes in between that transform from curved to straight.

Stroke Interpolate in ZBrush

Another interesting recipe is to combine radial symmetry with this. It is easy to create repeating organic details such as this.

I this also works with all kinds of brushes. I was able to create this alien pod using clothc brushes with interpolate and symmetry.

Alien pod created with the help of Stroke Interpolate and radial symmetry and cloth brushes.

Experimentation is definitely recommended and you can discover new ways to sculpt as you go. Totally fantastic stuff.

It is still possible to break this by making the two strokes too extreme so its better to avoid making them too extreme

Also there can be no undo between the two strokes as Undo seems to count as a brush stroke which is a bit weird. You need to get both of the strokes right at the first try or else the interpolate doesn’t work. You also can’t rotate the object between strokes which is a bit limiting I should say.

Check out the Pixologic documentation of the feature here.

ZBrush is getting more and more cool features. It is amazing that all of this has been free since the version 4.

The new knife brushes in Brush 2021.7 are amazing. No more we get the strange uneven surface when cutting in. This can now be used as a true modeling tool and the resulting cute geometry is also very good and even.

This works especially well when using it in conjunction with dynamesh or retopology.

Quick modeling using knife brushes and Dynamesh in 2021.7

I was able to created this engine piece very quickly by using the knife brushes and booleans.

Quick materials in Substance Painter

Throwing the model to Substance Painter with some fast automatic UVs gave me this piece.

Along with many other features, knife brushes are a must have. It is amazing to have decade worth of free upgrades.

Here is a video tutorial I made about using ZModeler and Dynamic Subdiv in ZBrush 4.7. ZModeler, although it has a bit of a learning curve, is surprisingly powerful way to come up with new ideas and shapes. This combined to dynamic subdivision is great for hard surface objects.

The secret of Dynamic Subdivision is QGrid and Coverage settings. These allow corner volume to be maintained and adjusted dynamically. Radical, I’d say! This is a great way to model hard surface shapes where parts of the shapes must appear seamless, kind of welded together.

I used to make these kinds of shapes using Dynamism and Booleans, but that process can now be at least partially bypassed. We can come up with soft transitions between shapes while maintaining edge volume. And preview it dynamically.

Thanks for great comment Marco (mkdm).

I would like to share my point of view about this. Does release of ZBrushCore put 3D-Coat into a position where they have to perhaps lower their price point?

Well, I would argue that perhaps not. Core has severe limitations that make it almost completely unsuitable for game artist or anyone who want anything to do with textures. It doesn’t have texture support or UVs. No baking whatsoever, no mesh projection. None. The surface noise is a render effect.

3D-Coat can do PBR. There are no ZBrush that can do that at the moment. What you get with 3D-Coat is a complete tool for retopology and unwrapping and on top of that also PBR painting. 3D-Coat may not be as polished as some of the ZBrush counterparts are, but there are workarounds to those quirks for the most part.

And what comes to the near 100 dollar market, 3D-Coat already has Amateur version (which can’t be used for commercial use) but which is still way more capable than ZBrush Core.

Piggyson at Youtube gave explanation how to use PanelLoop Presets v1.0 plugin in ZBrush. Looks super useful.

I love using panel loops in ZBrush for variety of things. They can often help in displacements too.

Oh boy seeing news of ZBrush 4R8, my excitement level is over 900%. Owners of ZBrush 4 got one more free update, 4R8.

Being so long time ZBrush user and having used it from the early 4 version, I feel like I’m on luxury yacht with Pixologic’s software with these free major updates. This is one investment that has truly paid off, to say the least.

Basically why ZBrush 4R8 is happening seems to be that Pixologic wants to give out the features in Core for us ZBrush owners before Core is released. This is very nice. According to Pixologic some of these new features include those that would have been (and will be) in ZBrush 5.

zBrush prop modeling

a prop being modelled using zBrush sculpting tools

This version of ZBrush will get the new transform gizmos and ability to create one’s own gizmos, also localisation to several languages.

Biggest thing for me personally are introduction of vector displacement maps (3D displacement maps). New version can c0nvert any mesh to these 3D maps and these can be used with brushes kind of like 3D alphas.

There’s also new real-time Boolean system which appears to be basically just a render effect, but one can convert or create mesh by using Make Union Mesh.

I am also very interested how well this will take advantage of larger memory via 64 bit support. We’ll have to see how this will be, it seems Core will be only 64 bit. I have been occasionally using 64 bit version of 4R7 for meshes that required a lot of memory, but the experience has not been always completely, ehm. stable. I wish that 4R8 would be more stable and truly 64 bit.

At this time Pixologic has not provided us a date when ZBrush 4R8 will be out, but I would guess before end of October.

ZBrushCore in Pixologic

Some details about ZBrushCore are out.

To me this looks kind of like ZBrush version for everyone. They said it was going to be streamlined and it sure seems that way. When I think about ZBrush 4R7  it sure has tons of systems in it and itself it could use some streamlining. It’s crazy, it has ZSketch Armatures, ZModeler, Dynamesh and Dynamic Subdivisional modelling engine, just to name a few features. You can do so much with it that it’s mind blowing, and the automatic retopology ZRemesher (post R6 versions) is crazy awesome good. But there are just so many different features that for a newcomer learning this program can be like uphill battle.

ZBrushCore in Pixologic Website.

ZBrushCore in http://www.pixologic.com

So  having more simple to use if less featured program for those who mainly work for 3D prints and such makes sense. And ZBrushCore has new features that the “full” ZBrush doesn’t have, such as one click optimisation for 3D printing and advanced export settings for 3D printing. If you only work for 3D print it doesn’t make much sense to have UV mapping tools I suppose. ZBrushCore still has basic 3D painting capabilities though and it can do basic BPR renders and Keyshot integration which is cool (but it lacks multi-pass export).

The other advanced features that are missing are mainly SSS, AO, and the like, ZSketch, ZModeler, Fibers and Shadowbox and others. The number of brushes is limited to 30 vs 300+ in the bigger brother. The full list of differences is in Pixologic site.

What is ZBrushCore really?

So what is ZBrushCore really? I would say it is entry level ZBrush optimised for serious sculptors who come from art school and want to get into sculpting anatomy and figures. This is great for that and costs about a hundred dollars. So I don’t know, why not I guess, although for game artist, the lack of re-topology and limited texture size would be problematic factors.

ZBrushCore now available for pre-order (discount for a limited time for a $119.95) 

Here’s a youtube video I made about this.

What are your thoughts? Please write to the comments below.

Are you going to join 2016 zBrush summit? I can’t make it to LA, but I’ll be there virtually. I’m mostly curious about zBrush Core. Is this a lower cost alternative to the full zBrush or something completely different?

I have been extremely glad about my zBrush 4 investment. It’s been so many years since I bought it and there have been so many upgrades that have been completely free for me. And now there is even 64 bit version. Seeing the difference from the version that came in the cool Anniversary edition metal box is quite something. It feels like I have been part of this software’s development.

zBrush prop modeling

a prop being modelled using zBrush sculpting tools

If you are a sculptor or someone who comes from traditional art school, zBrush is definitely a worth to check out, even though recent versions of 3D Coat gives it run for it’s money . It all comes down to the very 3D sculpting tools built into zBrush that just are the best thing there is at the moment.

You can stream summit in http://pixologic.com