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LightWave 7.5

The first look at NewTek’s latest By Stephen Schleicher

LightWave 7.5 will be available Thursday. Registered users will be able to download the upgrade from the NewTek website.

Rumors have been running around LightWave user groups and forums for almost a month concerning a new LightWave 3D release from NewTek. First it was going to be 7.3, with only a few minor tweaks. Then just a week before NAB, the rumor changed to a 7.5 release at the convention. No official word from NewTek was heard during NAB or in the days following the event.

Last week NewTek announced they would be demonstrating LightWave 7.5 in New York on Thursday April 25. With that announcement, users believed they would see a downloadable version sometime following. The good news is you don’t have to wait a week to find out what the new features are, nor do you have to be in New York to see it for yourself. Here is your first look at the latest upgrade to LightWave 3D.

LightWave7.0 had improved upon and added a lot of features when it was released nearly ten months ago. While a patch release was made in September, there were still some quirks left to work out. After working with LightWave 7.5 it looks like a lot of those issues have been addressed.

To fully test out LightWave 7.5 I used Faye, my 1.4GHz AMD system with 512Mb of RAM running Windows 2000. I also tested LightWave 7.5 with Nadia, my Dual Gig Mac running OS X.

One bonus of the new release is I am able to test LightWave 7.5 in full working mode on both platforms thanks a dual USB dongle that is shipping with all new versions of LightWave. If you purchase a new version of LightWave 7.5 starting Thursday April 25, you not only get the cross platform dongle, but the shipping version contains an install CD for the Mac and an install CD for the PC. Ultimately you are getting two versions for the price of one ($1595), allowing for easy movement across operating systems. This is an excellent move by NewTek!

It’s all about speed
Skull Radiosity
The skull head Radiosity test also showed speed improvements. The image rendered in 5m 44s on OS X, 9m 49s PC7.5 , and 9m 57s on PC7.0
Speed is always a concern when dealing with many of the high-end features of LightWave. HyperVoxels, particle systems, soft body dynamics, Radiosity, and the like eat up a great deal of processor power. The first test I ran was with the Nebulae scene that shipped with LW 7.0 and appears again in 7.5. This is a great benchmark scene to test out the render power of HyperVoxels. Faye was able to render the scene in LightWave 7.5 in 3 minutes 36 seconds. I immediately closed 7.5 and launched into 7.0 (separate directories, same hard drive). The same scene took 7 minutes 32 seconds in the old version.

In the words of the late Harey Carey, "Holy Cow!" To be honest I thought there must be something wrong, so I ran the tests again. Same results.

I ran several other benchmark tests with the same speed revelations. LightWave 7.5 is fast, very fast. Even a small savings of ten seconds will add up over time. While animators will continue to push the complexity envelope of LightWave’s render engine, those who are doing common animation tasks, will have a lot more free time for creativity.

LightWave Benchmark ScenePC LW7.0 PC LW7.5 Mac OS X 7.5
Nebulae7m 32s 3m 36s3m 59s
Radiosity Reflective Things 3m 31s 3m 22s 1m 41s
Raytrace5m 19s 5m 0s 3m 58s
Variations (HyperVoxels)4m 20s 4m 17s 5m 18s
Variations Thickness 1m 22s 1m 22s 1m 32s

It appears from early tests that LightWave 7.5 does make use of the second processor of the Dual Gig Mac when rendering. Note that NewTek has optimized LightWave to run on PC systems with the Pentium 4 processor and my machine is an AMD.

Trying to say which platform LightWave 7.5 runs best on would be pointless. I don’t have access to a 7.0 version of LightWave for OS X so I will take NewTek’s word when they say speed improvements have happened on both platforms. I can, however, say that all improvements and new features have carried over to the Mac version of LightWave 7.5.

With the speed tests out of the way, let’s take a platform agnostic look at some of the other new features and improvements in this latest release.

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Related Keywords:Lightwave, 7.5, newtek, animation, 3d, graphics, stephen schleicher, digital animators, keyframe, powergon, luxigon, mesh, alpha channel, lightwave, 3d

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