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LightWave 9.6: NewTek's latest update to its flagship 3D product

By Jon Carroll

NewTek's LightWave 3D 9.6 update offers some new functions and bug fixes over 9.5, which shipped around SIGGRAPH 2008. I'll admit I'm a long-time user of LightWave, having worked as a freelance LightWave artist for 10 years in various capacities. Some of the new features are easier for me to understand, while to others they may be obscure.
      
LightWave sees a lot of use in television visual effects, as well as being used in feature films. It was first used for the Emmy-award winning visual effects for Babylon 5, which it is probably best remembered for. Most recently, LightWave was used in The Dark Knight and in the Fox series, Fringe. Unfortunately, a lot of people still picture that as being what LightWave is good for, despite its subsequent use on other TV series and in feature films.

LightWave's strengths lie largely in its straightforward workflow which make it possible for a single artist to take a shot from conception through modeling and animation on to the final shot (hence why so many LightWave artist positions at visual effects studios are 'Generalist' positions instead of the specializations of some other 3D applications) and its powerful and easy to use modeler. LightWave was one of the first commercial 3D packages to implement subdivision surfaces, and implement global illumination as a standard feature. LightWave also has its place in the small shop because you can find a generalist who can do most of what you need, and the learning curve isn't so harsh that you can't pick it up yourself for simple shots.

Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Photo: A SkyNet Machine on the verge of destruction in "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." (Image courtesy of Zoic Studios on behalf of Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc. and Fox)


Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles Photo: A SkyNet Machine on the verge of destruction in "Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles." (Image courtesy of Zoic Studios on behalf of Warner Brothers Entertainment, Inc. and Fox)
      
      Before we get into 9.6, let's take a quick look at things that were changed with previous updates to LightWave 9. 9.5 was a drastic increase in stability over 9.3, and added many new features including new global illumination options, new light types, and added the capability to use IES light profiles for precise duplication of real-world light sources. 9.5 also added FiberFX, a tool for creating polygonal and/or volumetric hair in LightWave. Guide hairs can be used to style and animate the hair, which can react to forces and interact dynamically with objects in the scene. 9.5 also added Collada import, and vastly improved existing Motionbuilder .fbx format support, making it possible to import bone structures exported from other 3D software in this format. The Global Illumination model was rewritten for 9.2, adding a new Final Gather mode. GI is traditionally difficult to use in animation because of flickering from differing GI solutions from different systems at render time, so 9.5 added the capability to cache GI solutions from a single system, which helps to eliminate that problem.
     
 9.6 New Features

 FiberFX Cloning

Greg Stafford's Jar-Eel the Razoress, (c) 2008 Dan Barker Image courtesy NewTek


FiberFX is the fur/hair system that ships with LightWave. 9.6. It adds the capability to have dissimilar types of hair on the same object.

Carpaint shader

Carpaint interface

84 Ferrari GTO model, with BRDF and Fast Fresnel; GI illumination, render time 2m 2s

Same model, with Carpaint nodal shader;
GI illumination, render time 3m 14s.

 

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Related Keywords:3D animation, 3D modeling,

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