Review: LightWave 10
Industry veteran NewTek has brought out an update to its 3D application. 3D World finds out whether it’s worth the upgrade
Newtek has updated LightWave at NAB 2011 – find out what’s in LightWave 10.1.
Using the Piranhalien from the LightWave 10 content. Unlike the VPR equivalent (right), this final render includes motion blur and depth of field
Full version: £599 / $895 / €695
Upgrade: £339 / $495 / €395
- Viewport Preview Renderer (VPR)
- Linear workflow
- Improved I/O
- 3Dconnexion support
The last time 3D World reviewed LightWave was version 9.5 in December 2008. LightWave 9.6, widely considered the best yet, was released just a month later. NewTek then announced a next generation of LightWave called CORE. This isn’t that LightWave.
NewTek decided that since creating a worthy version of CORE would take a lot longer than envisaged, a new ordinal version of its flagship 3D software would be released, with CORE available to those who want to help beta test it and included in all LightWave 10 licences when finished.
LightWave 10 is a solid release, with new features that are mostly well done, if a little raw. The most immediately obvious is the Viewport Preview Renderer, VPR, which transforms any 3D viewport into a rapid iterative renderer that can have snapshots saved from it – meaning that often you won’t even need to hit [F9].
There are certain things it can’t see at the moment, notably depth of field, motion blur and preprocessed nodal surfaces.
VPR can be used in more than one viewport at once and at different resolutions, as show here. FiberFX can only be shown in the first viewport, though. NewTek has added a snapshot button that enables you to save the viewport image to disk
However, it does see some things that LightWave’s most famous interactive renderer plug-in, FPrime, can’t, such as Hypervoxels, FiberFX and volumetric lights.
FPrime owners will need to weigh up this and the fact that VPR pays attention to LightWave’s own radiosity settings and linear workflow tools to make the decision whether to upgrade.
LightWave now has an easy-to-use end-to-end linear workflow system, with centralised global controls and individual overrides where necessary, that compares favourably to packages such as 3ds Max and Blender.
For new scenes created in 10, leaving all the controls set to linear should be all that’s needed to get richer renders that are ideal for further post-processing – although bringing in older scenes will require some thought for best results.
You can now see anaglyphic stereo in OpenGL and in VPR, including animated previews. This feature supports toe-in and parallel-style stereo, but doesn’t yet offer the possibility of off-axis or parallel axis asymmetric frustum, or changing the colours of the lenses in the glasses used.
While these omissions mean that it’s similar to the anaglyphic system added to LightWave 5.5 in 1997, the added VPR functionality means it’s a lot more useful than having to render separate frames and composite them.
Toe-in is really the only physically possible choice available for compositing LightWave with live action, but for all-CG shots either of the other two mechanisms would be better.
Another addition to Layout is the Virtual Studio tool. It’s an interesting concept for those with the opportunity to exploit it.
Imagine a hydra with an animator for each head and someone else controlling the camera that’s filming it, all in one copy of LightWave.
Using a 3Dconnexion SpaceExplorer enables you to set your shot quickly and comfortably, while VPR, new to this version of LightWave, can show volumetric features such as light and voxels in the viewport
Using 3Dconnexion devices and InterSense’s VCam, this is in theory possible, but the Virtual Studio is in its
infancy; fragile and poorly documented.
Support for 3Dconnexion’s 3D mice is a welcome inclusion to Layout, though. With the device set to Walk, you can specify a ground plane through which the camera or other chosen object can’t pass and a bank limit to steady motions, whereas Fly allows you full aerobatic possibilities.
Right now, you can’t customise the various buttons on more advanced 3D mice, which makes it awkward for use in Modeler, where keyboard shortcuts are more necessary.
LightWave’s MDD system has been in use for transferring point-level animation between 3D apps for a long time and plugins such as PointOven are well-established in other 3D tools.
MD Scan and Bake have been updated for Autodesk’s Geocache equivalent to be used and to bake multiple items at a time. Importing and exporting Geocache vertex data caches between LightWave and Maya works well and there are no longer any scaling issues.
Exporting FBX or Collada formats using defaults ruins this scene because of rotation order issues. However, the Geocache format works just fine in both directions
While inter-application data exchange is a major focus of this update, LightWave is still hampered by the fact that it uses a different rotation order to other prominent applications, making transferring higher-level animation between LightWave and other packages less easy than it should be.
Although the Valkyrie suite of I/O tools received a lot of work in the development of 10, moving a character from one environment to another using FBX or Collada is problematic if you aren’t using the strict rigging and naming conventions imposed by MotionBuilder.
LightWave’s ZBrush compatibility has also been improved, with better OBJ exporters creating their own MTL files and handling scaling more effectively.
The major problem with LightWave 10 is the documentation. It’s an ugly mix of the manuals from 7, 8 and 9, with new bits from 10 thrown in.
Screenshots aren’t uniformly updated and often the text refers to an older way of achieving a task that hasn’t been possible for a number of years.
Previews can be rendered rapidly with VPR and the window undocked for more resolution flexibility, giving very accurate animation tests
Some of the new features can’t be found easily or at all, and the page layout is haphazard and inconsistent.
If you’re on a 64-bit Windows or Mac machine and already have 9.6 and FPrime, you might wonder whether you should upgrade.
If linear workflow, better communication with other packages and improved MDD controls are important, then it’s a yes.
Should you primarily be a 9.6 modeller, though, version 10 offers nothing useful you don’t already have.
However, if you’re still using a version prior to 9, we’d say go for it, particularly for the easy linear workflow, powerful and artist-friendly render engine and increased accent on decent I/O.
For those who’ve never used a 3D package before, LightWave has a shallow learning curve and one of the friendliest communities around – and the price is outstanding.
Our main concern with this version is that NewTek finishes what it’s started and these new features don’t wither on the vine like Motion Mixer or IKBoost have done.
What about Core?
CORE was originally announced in February 2009 and was expected to be released by the end of 2010, as reported in 3D World 133, but the decision was wisely taken to keep it in beta and temporarily switch focus to
a new version of LightWave 3D.
People buying into LightWave 10 now get it at the original price of $895 and are entitled to a complete version of CORE version 1.0 when it’s released later on in 2011.
People who buy in once CORE is released will need to pay the increased cost of $1,495.
CORE will feature a modifier stack, history and the ability to nodally connect anything to anything in the same fashion as Houdini, but for those outside NewTek’s HardCORE programme it’s all been a bit of a damp squib after the excitement of the initial two-week viral campaign.
3D World verdict
• End-to-end linear workflow
• VPR feature speeds up texturing and lighting immensely
• Good-looking new UI
• Extensive bug-fixes throughout
• The manual is extremely poor
• A difficult decision if you already have 9.6 and FPrime
• Still no major Modeler updates
LightWave 10 isn’t a huge update, but it’s one that we hope will be consolidated over the course of this version
on Friday, April 15th, 2011 at 1:01 pm under Applications, Reviews.
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Tags: Core, LightWave, LightWave 10, NewTek