Most modern 3d programs are quite extensive: animation, rendering, polygons, nurbs, rigging - you name it they do it all. Consequently, working with them involves a steep learning curve and often a cluttered interface.
Not silo, it does one thing and it does it extremely well, namely modeling using subdivision algorithms. As a result the interface is refreshingly spacious and straight forward. If you ever worked with a 3d program before you will be up to speed with Silo before you know it. If you are new to 3d modeling, Silo is easy to learn, but the manual is keeping it from being the ultimate starting place for new 3d modelers.
The main drawback of the manual is that even though all the functions and tools of the program are well described, it is lacking a good introductory for the newcomers. Luckily there are more and more 3rd party tutorials to be found on the web, and help can always be found on the developer's forum.
Modeling in Silo is fun and intuitive, navigating has a close feel to Autodesk's Maya. The alt key together with the mouse buttons navigate your 3d space, and the space bar will switch between different projections. But if this is not to your taste, everything in Silo is customizable. It is very easy to make your own interface, including the way buttons look, what is on screen, color-code and defining your own key-shortcuts.
In my experience as a 3d modeler I found that the workflow of any polygonal 3d modeler is mostly determined by the ease with which you can select your vertexes, edges and polygons. Silo is an absolute winner in this respect. You use the a,s,d and f keys to switch between the different selection modes. Selecting loops, growing and shrinking selections, soft selections - Silo has it all, and everything is quickly accessible through keyboard shortcuts or by clicking your right mouse button.
The toolset for modeling polygons is very complete. And since polygons are the basis for sub-D surfaces, these are the tools you will spend most of your time in Silo with. Besides all the basic tools like bevel, extrude, join etc. you will find a few very nice and inventive surprises. For example, Silo allows you to draw a pattern over an existing surface, and by doing so generate new geometry, which is more or less dense according to the drawing you made. An ideal tool when you are modeling for a real-time environment, and need models in a progressive level of detail.
Silo allows you to slide a loop of edges along the surface of an object while preserving the original shape as much as possible. A tool I use quite often to rearrange the geometry on a surface.
If you are into organic models, Silo 2 now has the possibility to sculpt your surfaces. This means that with a brush you can push and pull on the surface and sculpt it as if it were clay. This is a great way to add detail or even to model the entire object from scratch. The speed, with which Silo handles this heavy task, is amazing. Even on a modest computer with a modest video card you can work fluently with a highly subdivided surface.
No model is complete without a good UV-map for painting and Silo allows you to layout your uvs in a very intuitive way. The method used is a bit different from what you might be used to but works like a charm.
And when you're done modeling silo lets you export to many popular 3d formats. I had no problems bringing my models from Silo into Maya or 3d studio for rendering and animation. That brings us to the only thing missing in Silo, a build in renderer. You can choose a few external free renderers to link to from Silo, but this requires some downloading and configuring.
To sum it up: Silo is a great modeler for an amazingly low price. $159 for the pro version is a steal. Be not misled by this low price, Silo is a professional modeler and can be used in any real production environment .
- Intuitive interface
- Complete set of subdivision modeling tools
- Sculpting tools
- Good developer support
- Supported formats
- You need an external renderer
- The manual could be better for beginners