In a recent article, I mentioned unwrapping and a tool I use in 3DS Max, PolyUnwrapper, which saves a lot of time and aggravation. One thing worse than skin weighting is unwrapping so your shiny new 3D object can be textured to not look so shiny and new. An auto unwrap tool eliminates a lot of twisting and turning in the viewport to draw out the unwrapping.
This brought up questions about a standalone UV unwrapper… like… is there an affordable and usable one out there? Face it… manually unwrapping is another buzz kill to the creative flow.
It sucks up the juices and brings creativity to a halt until the mesh is unwrapped good enough to move on to the next task. This could be hours or more and that streak you had going… the one where you could do no wrong and everything was flowing… just went straight in the toilet.
An auto unwrapping tool does exist… sort of.
It’s a rather cool, ethereal tool from The Ministry of Flat. At first, I wasn’t sure if that was the name of the tool, the website or a new political movement but watching the tool work is worth the visit to www.ministryofflat.com to see the action.
The tool is Automatic Unfold… version 2.7.2 to be exact.
You can download a demo… drop your mesh into the UI and watch it miraculously flatten in seconds or less. You then see the UV Map the object “explodes” into. Just watching the object explode into the map was entertaining for a little while.
Two screenshots. Drag and drop the 3D Object on left and after exploding into UV Map on Right.
No interaction on the user other than loading the model. It is truly an automatic unwrap tool from the looks of it. That is also a problem of sorts in that automatic unwrapping IS very subjective as the developer states. We can manually unwrap as we see fit but automatic is another story that must take a lot of variables into account.
If I remember right I believe the developer states there are over 30 algorithms at work accessing the geometry and cleaning it up as we asset creators can be a messy bunch when it comes to clean, readable topology… with no flipped faces, rats nests and uncapped holes.
From what I read in the FAQs what you get out is not the same as you what put in due to that process so if you are morphing your polycount might not match up to pair the morph. Apparently there is no degradation in the overall look of the mesh after this process.
Now here is where the frustration comes in.
UV Unwrappers are rare. I first tried Ultimate Unwrap 3D Pro and got absolutely nowhere except frustrated. From there I went to the Ministry of Flat and was fascinated before being frustrated by the fact you must contact the developer to get a quote! These are things that cause teeth to grind which I’m sure the dev did not intend to happen.
Also… when I first landed on their homepage it looked blank on my widescreen monitor, but I scrolled to find the info a good way down the page. Got no idea what that is about either. Maybe it’s just my wide display. The info is there if you don’t see it right away.
Further digging on the Youtube video page showed a comment saying the license was $100 for freelancers and $250 for studios. I have no idea if that is the actual price but there nothing disputing it.
Also of note… there is a tweet on the site announcing the first 7 figure licensing deal with the tool. That is very good to see and gives one hope about its continued development.
Normally I wouldn't post an article on software you can't get immediate access too but this is a very interesting tool that could possibly solve a lot of problems for asset creators that struggle with unwrapping. From what I saw… it seems to be worth that (tentative) $100 price for freelancing as it would pay for itself quickly in asset sales. So, if UV Mapping Unwrapping is not your thing but a necessary part of your production pipeline… gravitate over to the Ministry of Flat and check it out.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.