92 people found this review helpful
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Recommended
0.0 hrs last two weeks / 15.6 hrs on record (4.6 hrs at review time)
Posted: Oct 5, 2021 @ 1:15am

Early Access Review
TL;DR: The best polygon-based VR sculpting software out there. Having tried it, I would have easily paid double. 10/10, can't wait to see what the next updates bring.

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I'm normally too lazy to write reviews, but I overcame that for SL.

If you are a 3D artist, or an aspiring one like me, do NOT ignore this tool. I've tried pretty much everything that is out there in terms of VR creation tools; Adobe Medium, Gravity Sketch, Quill, OpenBrush, Kodon, and of course, ShapeLab.

Currently I make use of a mix of Gravity Sketch, Medium, and now ShapeLab, on a daily basis.

As a guy who is most comfortable in Blender, ShapeLab feels very familiar to me, almost like a subset of Blender's sculpting features, but in VR form, which is just unbeatable for letting your creativity run wild.

The dynamic retopo that it does automatically for you is really great, as well as the regularize, decimate, and smooth functions that can be applied to the whole mesh.

The ability to use one of the many provided materials is great for visualizing the final outcome.

The newly added alpha support is a lot of fun; again, similar to using alphas in Blender.

In terms of performance, I haven't seen any stability issues and my computer hasn't caught fire even when working with a high resolution mesh. I've pushed it quite high and had no issues, 500k - 1 million polys. I can't say the same for Medium, where as soon as I get into the higher voxel numbers, I start to feel like I'm watching a stop-motion movie. I'm running a Ryzen 3300X 4.2 GHz paired with an Nvidia 1650 Super, and it's been smooth as butter. I did have a crash when trying to import a multi-million + poly model made in Medium, but that is probably just asking too much, and I should have decimated when I exported from Medium.

Speaking of Medium, obviously, its voxel modelling offers some advantages that polygon sculpting can't provide, namely the ability to disconnected material anywhere, and on the same layer.

You can achieve something kind of similar now using ShapeLab's multiple objects and boolean operations. The boolean operations are still in the early stages. They've been working well for me so far.

The brushes are all very sensible and useful. The trim brush has actually been better for me for flattening than the actual flatten brush, but both have their place.

A note on the trim brush: don't neglect the "lock plane" option in the trim brush settings, it's very useful for hard surface type sculpts. I found that I can use the flatten brush to create a flat spot, and then using the trim brush with the "Dynamic" and "lock plane" settings enabled, I can extend that flat spot and create a perfect surface. Great for mechanical stuff or sharply angled planes. Even just with this tool combo, I've found ShapeLab so much easier to use for hard surface sculpting than Medium, since Medium really wasn't designed in the proper way for that.

The masking is insanely useful and powerful, and is one of the things sorely lacking from Medium that is really a core feature of any sculpting tool.

The ability to mirror on 1, 2, or 3 axes at the same time is really key and it's something missing from other software I've tried. Really appreciate that.

The UI/UX is great in my opinion. I especially like the ease of using the left thumb stick to quickly switch between brush mode and object/layout mode. The undo/redo placed on the left/right stick axis makes it really easy to undo your mistakes, a feature I use probably 20 times per minute.

The object mode tools are efficient to get to, and in particular the clone tool is so quick and user-friendly. The clone tool would be the perfect partner of the boolean operations, if only we could apply booleans to more than 2 objects at a time. I made a note about that below.

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Some minor gripes and wants that I hope will be rectified in an update down the road:

- The documentation and tutorials that are available are pretty skimpy, I'd like to have more of those to help me better take advantage of everything ShapeLab can do. But I think I read that the devs are working on that. The ShapeLab Youtube channel has a few nice videos where you can watch some pros work with the program, but they aren't voice narrated and are quite sped up so I found myself pausing a lot to zoom in and squint to find out what tool/setting they were using to achieve some effect.

- I've noticed that the pinch/crease brush tool doesn't remember my setting for "To Point" or "To Line" when I change to a different tool and then come back. This is annoying because it also happens when I use the alt trigger to quickly smooth something out, and then I have to always remember to switch it back.

- I wish I could select more than 2 objects for boolean operations. Ex. if I put down a bunch of primitives, it would be nice to be able to select them all and run a Union on them all at once, to make some quick base meshes to work from. This might be computationally really heavy, not sure, but it would be a nice-to-have.

- Would be nice to be able to detach a specific menu box from the controller. Ex. in Gravity Sketch, when I know I will need to change settings around often, I can grab and drag out the brush settings panel and leave it floating off to the side so I can quickly change things.

- Scrolling between tools by pressing left and right on the right thumb stick seems a bit misplaced to me. I think I've seen that in other programs, the up/down on the right stick controls brush size, as in SL, and left/right controls the falloff/inner radius of the brush. Or you might consider letting us switch back to the previous brush with left/right. My problem is that I can't remember the order of the brushes in the tool panel, and so I always end up switching to the wrong brush, haha. But it's a minor issue.

- Down the road, the ability to define different face sets for masking would be really handy (it's something I use in Blender a lot). Again, a minor nice-to-have.

- Some additional options for painting colors would be nice, like different color modes e.g. darken, multiply, dodge, screen, etc, would be nice.

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Over all, a really amazing tool that is currently unmatched in the VR world. I could really only see a couple of competitors down the road: Substance Modeler (Adobe's remake of Medium, currently in private beta), and possibly Kodon, which has amazing marketing videos, and which I also recently bought, but it's a constant crashfest and half the functions don't work yet.

Thanks for your hard work, devs, you deserve more recognition for this software, hopefully as VR design becomes more and more mainstream, you'll all become millionaires and retire to private islands.
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1 Comments
minininjas2000 Oct 24, 2023 @ 5:02am 
looks like they took this quite seriously... now double the price :gng: ... and definitely still worth it :happyleon: (adobe modeler doesnt even load up, and all other options are featureless compared) ALTHOUGH Kodon Vr is another excellent option.