Computer-Music.com contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music. Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com

Computer-Music.com  contains articles and product reviews related to making music using computers and creating 3D computer animation in sync with music.
Computer-Music.com is also the home page of  Donald S. Griffin, an experienced professional composer, sound effects designer and audio consultant with an emphasis on computer games,  video games and internet music and sound effects. For pricing and contract availability send email to: DGriffin (@) Computer-Music (.) com



 

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Lightwave 3D

It has been a few months since I have used Lightwave 3D. What?! you say. Yes, its true, there are always other programs to investigate, not all of them graphics applications. However Lightwave 3D (LW for this article) was not a disappointment. I was particularly thrilled with the polygon modeling tools. If you are into polygon modeling then Lightwave is certainly one of the very best. It allows you to do just about anything you can imagine never seems to say no. Although NURBS modeling received a lot of attention for its easy in creating curved surfaces another technology called Subdivision Surface modeling (variously called Subdivision Surfaces, Subdiv., SDS or SS) seems to be the wave of the future. Properly implemented it provides the complex curves of NURBS with the absolute, fine control of polygon modeling. From what I can see its only weakness is that NURBS seems to allow curves and surfaces to be very accurately defined whereas results from SDS can be a bit less predictable. If I am correct then you may prefer to design a real boat in NURBS but may find it easier to design a fantasy boat for animation using a good implementation of Subdivision Surfaces. Basically SDS involves subdividing the surfaces of a polygon model into more polygons while, at the same time, rounding the overall shape. The polygons that you create yourself are called the control structure and the additional polygon detail created by the SDS algorithm is what you get when you render. By changing the the low complexity control mesh you can produce all kinds of changes in the resulting detailed SDS mesh. Better SDS implementations like those in Lightwave and Realsoft 3D allow you to further control the mesh by applying varying tensions to the points of the control mesh allowing you to change the curviness of the resulting mesh without adding any addition polygons to the control mesh. Lightwave does this by way of a weight map.

Lightwave is actually two programs. Modeler where you... well, you model. And Lightwave where you animate and render your scene and objects. Starting with version 6 they tried to bring these programs closer together by creating a network paradigm where files are shared so you can update a model and that update will be immediately reflected in your animated scene. I still found this a bit more awkward than I would have liked but I can see how in a production environment with multiple people working on a scene it could allow parallel work flow.

After coming fresh from trueSpace I was a bit disappointed to find out that Lightwave is quite similar in that it seems to be a big plug-in machine. The basic functions of the program function as plug-ins just like the large number of 3rd party plug-ins. But Lightwave handles them better than trueSpace. Still, I would have preferred the functions to feel more built-in.

Strangely, the dark interface of Lightwave bothers me. It seems so depressing. I would not ordinarily even mention something so trivial but it always comes back to haunt me. I can not figure out why the interface is so depressing. I could probably change it quite a bit if I looked further into the inner workings of the program so this is not a hot issue, but an oddly interesting one for me.

LW is really packed with an awful lot of features and capabilities but I felt a bit like a race car mechanic. You often really need to know what you are doing under the hood in LW to figure out how to do something. If you are using it 40-60 hours a week that is probably no problem at all. But if you are a musician trying to make a music video it may be more complication than you are prepared to deal with.

Even as I was waiting for my copy of Lightwave to be delivered I found out that the new (at the time) version 6 of Cinema 4D XL would have 3D audio rendering! This was exciting news. I arranged to receive a review copy of the program because its audio abilities and reputed rock solid, even bullet proof, performance would appeal to the musicians and composers who read this web site. I can not remember which came first but I remember reading the Strata Studio Pro 2.5.3 and the Lightwave 3D 6 and the Cinema 4D XL 6 manuals all within about 3-4 weeks. A total of roughly 10,000 pages!! Boy did my head hurt after that!

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