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Lights, Dynamics, Animation, Rendering, Getting Help in LightWave 3D

Lights

You will set the lighting for your scene in the Items workspace. There are several types of lights - Distant, Point, Spotlight, Linear, Area and Convert Luxigons which allows you to create polygon-based lights. Each light has many properties controlled from the Light Properties dialog box. For example on the Shadow tab, you can set the shadow type to Ray Trace for sharp edged shadows or Shadow Map for soft edged shadows.

Dynamics and Animation

Dynamics is a word you will hear a lot in the 3D community. In the Dynamics tab of the Object Properties dialog box, you can assign dynamic characteristics that span a range of flexibility. For example, if you set an object as a hard-body object, it will be unchanged (inflexible) when it collides with other objects. A soft-body object will be more flexible and a cloth object will conform to the shape of the object it collides with.

There are several ways to create animations in LightWave. An easy method is to use morph objects. This feature works much like tweening in FlashR. First, you create the starting morph, called a Source Object, and then add one or more other morphs, called Morph Targets. Then open the Morph Mixer in the Layout workspace and string these morphs together as major frames or Keyframes (Keys) along the Time Line. For those of you familiar with Flash animation, you will recognize the familiar Keyframes and Timeline features. Another option is to begin building the animation in the Modeler workspace as an Endomorph (morph vertex map) and then transfer that to the Layout workspace via the Morph Mixer to finish the job.

LightWave has several features to automate building animations. In the Auto Key Mode, a Key or Keyframe is created automatically every time an object is changed in the scene. The Motion Options dialog box has another auto feature called Modifiers which are presets for common movements. Once you choose a modifier, you can customize its properties. Finally, there is the Graph Editor for creating precise curved animation.

As with most 3D software, LightWave has its own version of a hierarchal system, called Bones, which you can use as a "skeleton" to control animation of objects. The Layout workspace has some features to help you create Bones. For example, when working with bi-lateral movement, you can use the Mirror Hierarchy dialog box to make parts of an object, such as the arms of your character, move in the same way. Also, once you have built a Bone system for one object, you can use the Copy Hierarchy dialog box to apply the same hierarchy to another object. Although you can build a Bone system completely within the Layout workspace, you have the option to begin with a polygon-based hierarchal system called Skelegons which you create in the Modeler workspace and then convert to Bones in Layout.

Rendering

Finally, your scene is complete and you are ready to render. Rendering is another word that you will hear a lot in the 3D world. It is the process of creating a 2D image from your 3D scene or animation. The type of rendering engine and the quality settings you use will have a significant affect on the final product. One of the reasons LightWave has remained so popular is its powerful rendering engine which has been improved for version 9. But before you start the rendering process, you will need to make some final adjustments to your scene.

You can think of the Backdrop of your scene as a blue-screen behind your scene. You have several options for what will appear on your blue-screen. On the Backdrop tab in the Effects dialog box, you can set a solid color, a gradient, an image or use one of the Environment features such as SkyTracer which creates some interesting cloud effects. On the Volumetrics tab, you can create Volumetric effects such as fog, fire and smoke.

Getting Help

Because LightWave has been popular for so many years, it has an extensive online community and many websites for LightWave and associated products. Besides the programs's help system, the NewTek website has searchable online documentation and free technical support. There is also a large section of the site dedicated to LightWave containing written and video tutorials, a member forum and free downloads.





Screen shots used by permission of NewTek, Inc. LightWave 3DR is a registered trademark of NewTek, Inc.

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