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NewTek Reveals More Details on LightWave 8

Private demos show extensive enhancements By Dave Nagel
At the Macworld Expo in San Francisco last week, NewTek held private demonstrations for users and the media showing off several more advances in the development of LightWave 8. The new version is presently nearing completion and includes a wide variety of new tools and workflow improvements. Here's an overview of some of the new features I had a chance to see in my demonstration.

Of course, NewTek has been previewing new features in LightWave 8 ever since its debut at the Siggraph convention back in July. Some of the previously announced new features include enhancements to dynamics, character animation, modeling workflow, animation workflow and texturing tools. It offers new hard body dynamics for physical simulations, as well as improved cloth and soft body dynamics. It also gains improvements to character animation with faster inverse and forward kinematics, an improved control system and dynamics for character skeletons. Other new features include an improved workflow in Layout and Modeler; improved character setup workflow; new Particle System Tools; animatable UV coordinates; and improvements to Lscript scripting language and to the API.

A collision object deforming a soft body

In San Francisco, users also had the chance to see some new features that had not been previously announced. NewTek provided its LightWave 8 demonstration on both a G5 and a G4 PowerBook, showing that the software would support older and newer hardware. Included in the presentation was a look at some of the major new features in Layout, particularly relating to character animation. These include vast changes to bones an IK setup, such as the new IK Booster, which provides one-click IK setup and new tools for setting up restraints. It also offers an entirely new collection of tools for bones, including conversion of Skelegons to bones, joint move, tip move, bone twist, unparent bone, bone split, bone connect and bone fuse. It also offers the ability to scale a hierarchy (an entire bone structure or just portions), copy, mirror, rename, delete (individual bone or hierarchy) and align. It can also record pivot rotation and pivot position. And, significantly, it now allows users to export and load complete or partial rigs so that they can be used on multiple objects without reconstruction. It uses a new .rig file format for the purpose of saving rig functions.

A new sewing feature in cloth dynamics, allowing cloth to be joined and also cut, as by a collision object.

Workflow has also been enhanced with several new features, including a Scene Editor that provides a Dope Sheet function for accessing and managing all aspects of a scene (with a timeline), as well as a Dope Track for working on aspects of a selected object, which offers the ability to bake keyframes locally and globally and includes a "soft apply" mode, which provides interpolation for new keyframes added between baked keyframes.

Also in the workflow category is the new Expression Editor, which provides a graphical representation of expressions in LightWave for controlling various elements. (LightWave 8 also provides full access scripting for those who prefer to work with raw code.) The node-based Expression editor allows users to generate expressions, connect elements and copy and paste elements for easier manipulation.

It also includes enhancements to Morph Mixer, such as the ability to create new groups on the fly (rather than through naming conventions) and reorganize morphs across groups interactively.

NewTek did not focus too heavily on new features in Modeler, though I did have a chance to see a few of the improvements. These include an array of new selection tools, including Select Loop, Select Poly, Select Points, Select Outline and Select Ring; new layer tools, including the ability to clone objects across multiple layers, insert and delete layers between other layers and condense selected layers into a single layer; a new Bridge tool for joining sets of polygons; the ability to add, reduce and remove edges in polygons; and the addition of a textured wireframe view mode.

Textured wireframe view mode.

In the miscellaneous category, it also includes enhancements to particles, with the ability to manipulate individual particles (including the ability to change their motion and delete individual particles) and the ability to convert particles to polygons.

We'll continue to bring you more details about LightWave 8's features as they become available.

In other LightWave news, NewTek had two announcements for the Macintosh market at the Macworld convention. First, the company says it's transitioning LightWave to the Xcode development environment, moving LightWave from a Carbon to a Cocoa application to take better advantage of performance improvements on Apple hardware running Mac OS X.The company says that the optimizations, which will affect LightWave 8, include performance enhancements for rendering, calculation-intensive functions, forward and inverse kinematics and other areas.

Second, NewTek has also extended its Mac-only "LightWave for Print" offer, which allows users who work in print to purchase LightWave 7.5 at half price. (Qualifying users must have a valid copy of Adobe Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign or PageMaker; Macromedia Freehand; or QuarkXPress.) The offer has been extended up to the point when LightWave 8 ships, which will likely be in this quarter.

For more information, visit

Contact the author: Dave Nagel is the editor and producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Apple DVD Studio Pro, Mac OS, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications. You can reach him at [email protected].

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