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Old 21st June 2009
Rich_Art Rich_Art is offline
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Hier
Posts: 11,121
Default UVLayout review "English"

This time a review on a program that is not designed for use with Cinema4D alone.
I already was a C4D user back in 2005 and I encountered lots of problems with unwrapping an uv-map from my objects. This was caused by the lack of good unwrap tools within BodyPaint.
BodyPaint was not that advanced back in 2005. One day I stumbled upon the website from Headus and I read about a tool called UVlayout. This UVlayout was still in an early beta phase.
I decided to sign up as a beta tester and from that time on I could not leave it alone anymore.
UVLayout is an UV-Unwrap program and does the job like no other program can.

UVLayout (UVL from here on) is developed by the Australian company Headus run by Phil Dench and Jill Smith. UVL started as a part of CySlice, also a tool from Headus.
Because of the enthusiasm from the people who saw the UV-Tool in CySlice, Phil decided to make a standalone version of this UV-Tool and UVL was born.
In August 2005 was the release of the first public beta.
Now 2009 UVL is grown to one of the best UV-unwrap application of his kind. You can read underneath why I think it is.

The installation is a piece of cake. After downloading the installation file you can start the installation. The common installation questions will come by and that is all there is.
There are 3 types of licenses.

UVL is available for 3 operating systems. Windows, Mac OS X and Linux.

There also is a demo which you can download. With this demo you can test the above licenses. This demo is save disabled but there is also a default mode. When starting the demo in this default mode you be able to save. Keep in mind that starting in this default mode you only have some very basic tools to play with and you have to download a new installation file after every 40 days.
The license is valid for 40 days, after that period you need a new license.

The professional version has 3 license types. An USB-Dongle, a Floating license or an Ether ID License. After the payment is received your Dongle will be send via postal service.
With this Dongle you can use UVL on every workstation you’ve put the dongle into. The floating license is for use on multiple workstations in a network environment. This only works when you logon to the network.
The Ether ID license works with a generated key from your network card. this reduces the use of UVL to 1 workstation.

The hobbyist/Student version has no hardware locked protection and can be used on multiple workstations. Because of the lack on security protection those two versions have limited possibilities and tools.
I limited the different versions in this review to the most advanced Pro version.

After filling in the needed license we can start.
UVL uses the OBJ file format to work with. If you want to unwrap an object you’ve made with Cinema4D you have to export this object in OBJ format.
I highly recommend the free Riptide plugin because the native OBJ exporter in Cinema4D is less good than Riptide.

To open the OBJ file you can drag and drop the OBJ file onto the shortcut of UVL. This will open an option screen.
You also can start UVL with a double click on the UVL shortcut and after the program started, you can load a file with the load button.
Personally I prefer the first option.

As you can see on the image above UVL has no Fancy Windows Vista look. Don’t let the looks fool you. Behind this kind of old fashion looking layout operates a highly advanced program.

On the screen on the left you’ll find all the needed tools. On the screen on the right (the working screen) you will see the object you just have dropped onto the shortcut. Ready to be loaded.
Underneath the right screen you see a few “load” options. In this option screen you setup the wanted options for your file. Here you can tell UVL if the object is a SubD one or a hard surface one.

You can set the layout to your needs and store this settings. The next time you start UVL these settings will be loaded again.

UVL has 3 major screens to work with. UV, ED and 3D. After opening an OBJ file UVL starts with the ED(Edit) screen.

UVL is based on shortcuts and the use of the 3 mouse buttons. There are a whole lot of them and it will take some time to master all those shortcuts and key combinations.
Don’t let them scare you, they all are obvious and within a hour you get the hang of it.
In this ED screen you have to tell UVL where you want the seams/cuts. You have to cut the object in order to be able to flatten them.
In UVL it is like Cinema4D, you have to decide where you want to have the seams. Once you have an idea you can start cutting the object.
This “cutting” goes as follows,
With the mouse pointed at the desired edge you push the C key and UVL will mark that edge with a red/yellow color.
Red is the start point of the cut and the yellow edges are the cuts UVL chooses.
In the left screen you can tell UVL how much edges you want to cut at once. There are 3 options. 0, 1, and 10.
With the 0 option selected UVL cuts 1 edge (red). With the 1 option selected, UVL cuts 3 edges. The one you’ve picked (red) and 1 above and 1 underneath the start. (or left and right) The one UVL chooses are marked Yellow. With the 10 option selected, UVL cuts 21 edges. The one you’ve picked and 10 above and 10 below. (or left and right).
UVL will try to follow the edge loops. Whenever UVL can’t find a good edge loop UVL stops at the point where UVL does not know which direction to go. From this point you can help UVL to pick an edge where you would like to see the cut.

If you by accident picked a wrong edge or you’re not happy with the result of the cut, you can weld it back with the W key. With the “Shift+W” key combination you can weld a whole loop at once.
With a few simple mouse/keyboard clicks you have made all the necessary seams.
When you’re ready with the cutting/seams part it is time to drop the shells to the UV screen. This is done by pointing the mouse on a shell and press the enter key.
This will detach the shell from the main object and is now ready to be dropped to the UV screen for flattening. The boundary edges turns green so you can see that this part is detached.

On more complicated objects there could be a problem to see some parts of the mesh. When this occurs you can move detached shells out of the way or even hide them.
You don’t have to worry that you’re destroying the object. Even if it looks like you change the appearance of the object, the object stays intact under the hood.
It is just a visual thing. They object stays in the shape as you’ve imported it.

On the link underneath you can view a video which shows the workflow on the “cutting/seams” part.

Cutting a Subd mesh. 21MB

When you’re happy with the seams you can drop the shells to the UV screen. After the detachment you point at that shell with the mouse and hit the D (drop) key.
The shell disappear from the ED screen and appears on the UV screen. You may drop all the shells in one go or you can drop just one shell and flatten that one. You can repeat this until all the shells are flattened. It is just a matter of personal taste.
With the SHIFT+D (undrop) you can undrop a shell from the UV screen back to the ED screen. It could be that you accidentally dropped a wrong shell.

The above technique is mainly used for SubD objects. A hard surface object need a different approach . In the latest version of UVL you’ll find a new tool to unwrap a hard surface object.
In this example we use the Cinema4D “oil Tank” primitive. In the ED screen we point with the mouse on the object and tap the G key twice.
The whole object turns green.

After this, you click on the segment button in the left screen. There are a couple of options to choose from.

I won’t explain all the option because this is a review and not a tutorial. J But that it does the job very well I show you on the image underneath.
When we click on the “Segment Marked Polys” button, UVL will start with the calculation and calculate the best possible way to unwrap this object.
On the image underneath you can see how UVL thinks the flattening is on its best. (in just a few seconds)

As you can see UVL has done the job excellent. This is a distortion free UV map and this kind of UV maps makes me a very happy guy. This UV map is perfectly for painting a texture onto.
On the two links underneath you can watch 2 videos which shows the workflow of this hard surface unwrapping.

Segment 44MB

Segment2 18MB

This screen is the most important of all. In this screen the UV-map will be actually meshed down to a flat UV-map. This flattening of the uv/mesh is done by mathematical formulas which I guess makes my head turns around.
To access this UV screen you can tap the 1 key on the keyboard. Or you can access this UV screen via the left (main) menu. Under the button “display” you will find the buttons to switch between the 3 different screens.
After you’ve dropped one or all the shells to this UV screen, you can start the actual flattening.
This can be achieved on a couple of ways. You can point on a Shell with the Mouse and tap and hold the F key. Or you can let UVL do this for you automatically. You then have to set a time in the left menu and click on the “run” button. UVL will go along all the shells and flatten them until the time you’ve set is passed.

Before the unwrapping,

After the unwrapping

The amount of distortion is indicated by colors. Green is no distortion, Red is an over stretched UV and Blue is a pressed uv.
As you can see this uv-map has almost no distortion at all and does not need a lot of tweaking.
Not all the shells will start out as good as the example above. Don’t worry, UVL has a whole range of excellent tools under the hood to minimize the distortions.
As said before, I can’t show every tool because this review will occupy several pages so I’ll pick a few tools to show the power of UVL.

UVL has a symmetry tool. If you have an object which has the same amount of polys, points and edges on both sides, you only have to worry about one side of the object.
This symmetry tool makes it possible that you just have to cut and unwrap one side of the object. The symmetry does not only work in the UV screen but also in the 3D and ED screens.
It is a matter of telling UVL what the centre line of the object is. UVL then searches the whole object and will find the symmetry for you. Once it have found the symmetry UVL will darken one half of the object so you easily can see which is which.
Now when you alter one of the 2 sides you just have to tap the S key and the other symmetrical side will change to be symmetrical again. That is slick isn’t it.

On the 2 links underneath you can watch 2 videos which will explain the symmetry tool deeper.

Symmetry : 31MB

Symmetry2 : 31MB

Sometimes UVL can’t unwrap a part of the mesh/shells as it should be. This can be caused by the fact the mesh is a bit to complicated. To avoid this you may cut the object into smaller shells.
This way UVL has a less hard time to flatten the shell correct. In the UV-screen you can weld the parts back together.
On the shell which you want to weld back you mark the edges. The edges you’ve marked (with the W key) turns to red indicating the weld seam.
On the other shell where the shell will be welded will the red seam showed as well. This way you get a visual idea where the shell will be welded.

In Cinema4D you have to rotate and move the uv’s by hand. UVL does this for you. After you’ve selected/marked the edges you hit the M key and the shell jumps to the correct place.
Next thing you have to do is to hit the enter key and the shells are welded to gather. The last step is to use the Brush tool to flatten out this part again.
The three steps can be seen in the three images underneath.

After the M key

After the Enter Key,

After relax with the brush tool.

On the link underneath you can watch a video about welding shells

Welding-Shells : 29MB

Copy uv’s:
This is a very Handy tool. If you have a couple of the same objects, the wheels of a car for example, you only have to unwrap 1 wheel and copy this uv over to the other three wheels.
It is not necessary to do all the wheels apart. A real time saver. If you have a house with 30 window frames for example, in Cinema4D you have to unwrap all 30.
With UVL this is not necessary. Just do one and copy the uv to the other 29.

With this function you can let UVL search for overlapping uv’s. UVL will do his best to minimize this but sometimes it is insurmountable.
When you click the overlap button, UVL will search all the shells and when finding a problem it will mark those problem areas.
With a button on the left screen you can jump to these problem areas and fix those by hand.

On the image underneath you can see such marked problem.

On the link underneath you can watch a video on overlaps.

Overlaps : 26MB

This option will distribute the shells over the UV space. It will calculate the most economical distribution of the shells on the UV space.
You also can do this by hand of course. If you just have a few shells this is OK but if you have a whole lot of shells this option is a real time saver.

There are a number of options for you to set so the distribution can be arranged at your will.

For a more advanced explanation you can watch the video on the link underneath.

Stack and Pack : 12MB

Subdivision Targets:
This is a special option. In some cases there will be a noticeable distortion after flattening. If we look at the wing of an airplane for example.
UVL calculates the UV from a non subdivided surface. In some cases when you put the object under a Hypernurb (Cinema4D) it will distort some of the uv’s.
This is caused by the change of size of the polygon.
The image underneath shows an object after flattening.

The next image shows the object with an attached texture under SubD,

Here you clearly can see the distortion caused by the SubD.
With the “calc subdivision target” option you be able to solve this problem. When you click this button UVL starts calculate the problem area.
When UVL finished the calculation you can reflatten the shell. The problem area will be scaled bigger than it truly is.

On the image underneath you can see the problem area in red after the calculation of UVL.

After flattening again, the Shell looks as seen on the image underneath.

You can see that the problem polygons made bigger and on the image underneath you can see that the texture is almost distortion free.

A very handy tool which help to eliminate this kind of problems.

A video of this example can be watched on the link underneath.

SubD-surfaces : 14MB

This option is an option that I commonly use. With this option you can straighten edges of the shell. This can be very handy for arms and legs for example.
When you unwrap an arm you will see the edges of the seam never lay in a nice straight line. This causes a nasty seam.

On the image underneath you can see an Shell from an arm.

When we take a look in the 3D view screen on the spot where we see the seam can see the texture does not connect nicely.

UVL has a couple of nice tools to minimize this seam problem. You can use the pin points for this, or the straight edges axis aligned.
Or you can use the edge straight unaligned.
With these tools you can make a nice straight edge.

On the image underneath another before and after example.

There also is an option to straighten inner edges of a Shell.
These are just a few of the tools within UVL. As said before, I can’t review all the available tools otherwise this review would take a lot of pages to complete.

On the link underneath you can watch 2 videos that explain more of this tool.

Edge Straightening : 16MB

Inner edge Straghtening : 30MB

This screen is used to view your object and progress thus far. You can view your object with a texture to see if you’re happy with the uv. With a tap on the T key you activate the texture.
There are 2 standard textures. A black/white checkerboard and a black/white with numbers on it. If you like you can add a own texture. This can be set in the preferences.
You can scale the texture up and down with the + and – keys. And there is a Smooth SubD option as well.

The green Lines you see here are the seams you’ve made in the ED screen.
There are more option in this 3D view screen but it gives you an idea what you can do in the 3D view screen. All the options are explained in the manual and in the videos which you can find on the website from Headus.

With this option you can save the uv-map as a texture for use in a paint program like Photoshop.
You can give the image a name, set the size (square) and if you want to have AA on the lines.
The size can be set from 16X16 to a 4K size max.

Reshape is a specialized variation of the copy uv’s tool. With this tool you can copy uv’s between morph targets.
For a clear explanation about this tool you can watch the video on the link underneath.

Reshaping : 28MB

This option can be used to save the uv-map to a DXF or EPS file. Also it is used to save a morph target.
When saving a morph target there will be 2 obj files saved. One that contains the 3D object and 1 that contains a flattened version of the mesh.
You can use these two files to animate a transformation between the 3D mesh and the flat mesh.

Underneath an overview of some of the tools/options I did not mentioned in this review.

There are 3 file formats to choose from. OBJ, UVL and PLY
-Temp buttons.
There are 5 tmp buttons which can be used to temporarily store the current scene. If something goes wrong you easily can restore one of these scenes.
-Axis choice
You can tell UVL on which axis the up vector is. In case of Cinema4D this is the Y axis.
-Light slider
This can be seen as the autolight in Cinema4D. You can change the position of the light and turn it on and off.
This can be used in the UV screen to pack shells in a green box. This box makes it easier to move shells around on the UV space
-Grid snapping
This makes it easier to align shells.
UVL has the possibilities to store shells on multiple tiles.
Is used to stack shells upon each other. If you have a couple of the same objects you can stack those to win uv space.
This is obvious
-Fast weld
When this option is enabled UVL shows a red ghost shell where the shell will be placed before you actually place the shell. See image underneath.

The above options are a couple of options/tools that I not covered. Be aware that there are more tools and options in UVL but I think you have a good idea of the capabilities of UVlayout.

Even though I did not cover all the options and capabilities of UVLayout, it is clear that this is an outstanding program that every professional 3D artist should have in their pipeline.
The unwrapping of the uv’s is a quick and easy task with UVLayout. It contains more than enough tools to make a nearly distortion free uv-map.
The funny part is that I always had a very hard time to unwrap an uv-map. In Cinema4D it is just not that easy and it takes a lot of your time to make a good uv-map. The tools in Cinema4D are not that advanced compared with the tools of UVLayout.
Now with UVLayout I have a great time and I really enjoy the unwrapping.
With the earlier version of UVLayout I encountered some problems with unwrapping hard surfaces because UVLayout was intentionally designed for unwrapping organic surfaces. In the latest version this is history. In version v2.05 there is a new tool for hard surface unwrapping and it does the job better than well.
The price for this beauty is reasonable.
The Professional license cost US$300 or €215,=
The Hobbyist license cost US$200 or €143,=
The Student license cost US$100 or €71,=

UVLayout ships with a manual and an installation guide in PDF format.
On the website from Headus you can find a whole range of video tutorials. Not really tutorials but more explanation tutorials on how to use the tools.
There also is an user forum for all your questions etc.
If I have to rate UVLayout than it will receive 9 out of 10 points. Highly recommended.

For more information you can visit the website of Headus.

Thanks to Phil Dench.

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Old 22nd June 2009
Rich_Art Rich_Art is offline
Join Date: Mar 2009
Location: Hier
Posts: 11,121

Hi everyone,

I forgot to mention something. Some of the vids in this review are from older versions of UVLayout.
Due to this there are slight changes of options in the left screen.

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