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Import and Export File Formats in Modo

Users rarely work in a single application, so it is important to support multiple input and output formats. Modo supports a wide range of formats for transferring data. You can read the various formats by opening them directly by clicking File > Open and selecting the proper file, or by importing it by clicking File > Import.... The difference is that opening files makes them their own scene, while importing merges the saved file into the current scene.

You can save a scene to a specific format with the File > Save As or the Export command. The difference between them is that saving a file in a specific format replaces whatever is in memory, and subsequent saves continue to overwrite the saved file in the same format, while exporting keeps the same scene in memory, only writing the selected format to disk. Additionally, you can right-click on any layer in the Item List and choose the Save Selected option from the contextual menu for control over saving individual parts of a scene.

The supported formats include:

LightWave Object (.lwo): Modo reads and writes .lwo2 format for geometry, supporting a full array of features including UV, weight, morph and color Vertex Maps. Equivalent surfacing data is translated as well, when applicable. Unsupported information is encapsulated and retained, as long as you remain in the .lwo format. Saving to any other format discards the extra data. The loading and saving of LightWave's scene files is not currently supported.

Wavefront Object (.obj): .obj is a file format developed by Wavefront Technologies for its Advanced Visualizer software package. The file format, being open, has been adopted by many other 3D applications because of its simplicity to implement, and for the most part has become a universal exchange format. .obj supports geometry, layers and simple surfacing. Vertex normal maps are also supported. The .obj format provides only a single UV map per object, and all vertices must be mapped (no partial UVs are allowed and they are ignored on export). Modo loads and saves .obj format.

Alembic (.abc): Established by Sony Imageworks and ILM, Alembic is an open computer graphics interchange framework. Alembic distills complex, animated scenes into a non-procedural, application-independent set of baked geometric results. The format currently supports the import and export of both static and animated meshes, including subdivision surfaces and camera data. While the format does not directly support material information, part and material tags are exchanged with the mesh data. WHen importing an .abc file, the files will remain external to the scene, streaming in on an as-needed basis. When importing files, Modo displays a dialog.


Import as Static Meshes: converts the loaded scene items to the more efficient, though non-editable Static Mesh Item type. This does not apply to items with deformations.

Make Instances from Matching Mesh Items: creates instances in case where identical meshes are encountered during loading.

Combine Transform and Mesh Names: with this option enabled, the resulting mesh node will be a combination of the names of the two items, the transform and the mesh. With it disabled, it will just use the name of the mesh alone.

Import All Frames: when loading an animated scene, enabling this option loads the transformations and deformations for the entire sequence. If disabled, Modo only loads the scene for the frame specified in Import Specific Frames.

Store Animated Morphs with Meshes: if enabled, Modo loads all the mesh deformations into the scene file directly. If disabled, the deformations are referenced from the original Alembic file and loaded as necessary.

Import Specific Frames: loads the scene with the transformations and deformations for the defined frames only.

Subdivision Level: when loading subdivision meshes, this value defines their current subdivisions level amount.

Protein Database (.pdb): these files represent the three-dimensional structural data of large biological molecules, such as proteins and nucleic acids. PDB files are common interchange format for displaying these structures and can be readily found on the internet for most any molecule type.

Scalable Vector Graphic (.svg): SVG is an open standard xml based vector image format, that supports both curve data and image map data. Modo reads the vector data stored in the format and import files as bezier curves into a scene. SVG files are generated in a vector drawing package such as Adobe Illustrator. Once imported the Mesh Item layer is stored in a folder named after the SVG file. Imported curves can be converted to Curve Polygons or converted to regular polygons using the 'Freeze' command. Additional enabling the render curves option will also make the resulting curves visible to the render engine.

McNeel Rhino® (.3dm): Rhino is a NURBS-based 3D modeling application. It has the ability to internally convert its curve based NURBS models into a triangulated polygon model. Modo reads the triangulated polygon data from any Rhino 3DM format file (Modo cannot read NURBS data directly). Modo can both Read and Write to the .3dm file format.

COLLADA (.dae): COLLADA™ is an open source 3D interchange format managed by the Khronos™ Group. The Modo COLLADA exporter can read and write geometry with normals and multiple UV texture coordinate sets, materials, lights, cameras, effects, and transform animations, all using a common technique that is compatible with a wide variety of third-party tools. There are a number of File I/O Preferences that support this format.

Autodesk® fbx (.fbx): .fbx is originally a file format developed by Kaydara for their FiLMBOX® application, now owned by Autodesk. It has been adopted as a universal exchange format between digital content creation applications, because of its robust support of object and animation data. Modo reads and writes the libraries supplied by Autodesk, that support interchange of geometry, lights, cameras, basic material and surfacing, UVs and transform animations.

Autodesk® dxf (.dxf): .dxf is a simplistic geometry format developed for the interchange of data between CAD applications. .dxf does not support surfacing, materials, Vertex Maps or animation. Modo both reads and writes this format.

Web3D Standard (.x3d): .x3d is an XML-based 3D standard and is the successor to VRML on the internet. It supports geometry and basic surfacing. Modo is only able to write out to this format.

VideoScape (.GEO): Aegis VideoScape 3D was an early 3D rendering and modeling program on the Amiga (precursor to LightWave). You can both read and write geometry in this legacy format, though it is most useful for reading, as very few modern programs support the format.

Stereolithography (.stl): The Stereolithography format is the language of 3D printers and CNC milling machines, commonly used with rapid prototyping and computer-aided manufacturing. .stl only describes the surface of the geometry, ignoring any shading or surfacing values. The STL I/O preference options allow you to define how unit values are interpreted and what format the resulting file is written in binary format (Save as ASCII option disabled), or in the ASCII text format (Save as ASCII option enabled).

Encapsulated PostScript (.eps): .eps files are a 2D vector format developed by Adobe® for exchange of vector drawing information created in their Illustrator® application. Though generally used for print applications, .eps files are imported into Modo as curvesand you can freeze them into faces for further manipulation, render the curves directly, or use them as a basis for patch modeling. Modo does not export into .eps, except for the Export UVs to EPS command in the menu bar: Texture > Export UVs to EPS.

HPGL Plotter File (.plt): .plt is a 2D vector-based plotter format originally devised for use with AutoCAD®. Modo only exports to this format.