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LightWave to After Effects

RPF and RLA explored By Stephen Schleicher
It is no surprise when I say 3D animation is everywhere. Nearly every show, commercial, and movie you see has some type of 3D work in it. While processor speeds have increased our productivity, those speeds also cause us to want to do more, which just so happens to increase render times. One of the more render intensive aspects of 3D animation is applying Depth of Field. This greatly increases render times and if done wrong guarantees youll be going back to re-render again. What would be better is to take a single frame (or series of frames) and apply DOF in a compositing application. In order to do this, you need to save it in a RPF or RLA format. In the first of this three part tutorial, well create an animation in NewTeks LightWave 3D (v. 7.5) so we can then take those frames into After Effects for 3D depth work (part 2), and even add some 3D text using Invigorator (part 3).

What is an RPF or RLA file? In applications like LightWave and discreets 3dsmax, the RPF and RLA formats save the rendered frame with RGBA data, but also saves information relating to the depth of the elements in the frame. This Z-depth information can then be taken into a program, like After Effects (and even combustion) for further manipulation. Unfortunately, not every 3D application saves the same information. LightWave not only saves Z-depth information, but it can also export Object and Material IDs, Surface Normals, Transparency, and more. However, it can not (as of this writing) export camera, light, and null information or at least not easily. Even with this shortcoming, we can still achieve great results.

In this portion of the exercise, Ill show you how to export in the RPF or RLA formats, and Ill also show you how to use one of the particle effects in LightWave to create a large number of falling pills.

NOTE: Im not going to go into detail on how to build the pill model used in this exercise. It is nothing more than the basic capsule shape created in Modeler, adjusted slightly to add the stripes, and surfaced. The model for this exercise is provided at the end of this exercise.

Step 1: Open Layout and add a Particle Emitter (Items>Add>PFX>Add Particle Emitter). Name the emitter Falling Pills and make the emitter a HV Emitter.

Step 2: Set the Birthrate to 10/sec, and set the size to 3, 1, 3 (X, Y, Z). Also set the Particle Limit to 90.

Step 3: Under the Particle Tab, you may/will need to make adjustments depending on how long your animation is going to be, etc. For this exercise, I set the Lifetime to 600 frames.

NOTE: You will also need to set the end frame for your scene to 600 as well.

Step 4: Finally, under the Etc. Tab, set the Y-axis Gravity to -1.

Step 5: Position the Emitter above and in front of the Camera so when you scrub through the Timeline, you will see the particles fall from above and in front of the view. The reason we created such an emitter with a z-axis of 3m is so we have adequate depth for adding DOF, etc.

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Related Keywords:lightwave, after effects, rlf, rpf, Stephen Schleicher, particle fx,

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