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Putting the Light in LightWave, Part 2

How to fake radiosity for fun and profit By Kevin Schmitt

It's been quite some time (six months, which might as well have been during the Nixon administration) since the first installment of this series, so there's no time like the present to press on with our whirlwind tour of various lighting features in LightWave. Today, we're going to go through a fairly simple technique that can add a hint of radiosity to your scenes without the usual associated rendering hit. Intrigued? Of course you are. So let's begin...

Couple things before we start

For those who may be new to 3D and unfamiliar with radiosity, here's the 10,000 foot view: radiosity is a type of rendering solution that calculates "how light works" comparably to the way light behaves in the real world, offering extremely photorealistic results when applied correctly. Radiosity rendering bounces all the lights in a scene, even ambient lights, off of every object until the result is the nice, soft graduated lighting you're accustomed to seeing in the world around you. Figure 1 shows the result of the three-point lighting setup I introduced in part one of this series (which you can read here if you need to catch up), rendered with radiosity:

Fig. 1
Figure 1: Radiosity rendering can give even the mostest boringest of scenes that nice touch of extra realism.

Now, on the flip side, Figure 2 shows the same scene, only this time with radiosity turned off:

Fig. 2
Figure 2: Uh, I don't think so. What to do, what to do...

About the only plus Figure 2 has going for it is that it rendered in 2.9 seconds as opposed to the 4+ minutes that Figure 1 took (yeah, I've got a slow machine. Dual-G5 PowerMac donations will be happily accepted). So the challenge becomes this: how does one go about approximating some of the subtler things that make radiosity what it is while not eating up so much time on the rendering end? The answer can be staggeringly simple, which is the kind of answer I, as a lazy person, do so enjoy.

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Related Keywords:3d animation, radiosity, 3d lighting, lightwave, newtek


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