Kat’s Toolbox : Lightwave 3D

Down to the real core of my toolset today: NewTek’s Lightwave 3D.

Lightwave is my main go-to bit of software for 3D modelling, rendering and texturing, so it’s the central bit of kit around which all the other bits of software orbit. I’ve been using Lightwave for about fifteen years now and, though it’s not a popular package for Second Life creators, I think I’m too old to go learning new tricks now ūüėČ

Its user interface is…well, different, if you’re used to other 3D applications. There’s almost no icons anywhere, and where there are they’re tiny, almost entirely unrelated to the function they perform and without tooltips. You just have to¬†know the Tao of Lightwave. Or read the manual. As for the rest of it, you’re golden so long as you can read and know what “Fast Triple Traverse” means.

Also adding to the strangeness is the way it’s sectioned into two separate applications: Modeler and Layout.

Modeler is used for building individual models and layout is used for laying out scenes, lighting and rendering. Sitting between them is the Hub which keeps changes synced up between the two.

Modeler interface

Modeler interface

Once you get used to this I think it’s a good way to work because you’re never fighting through the rest of the objects in your scene to see what you’re working on.

Layout user interface

Layout user interface

All of these oddities to one side, though (and God knows all 3D packages have their particular personalities – Maya always seems insufferably smug and Blender just wants to watch the world burn, if only you could find that button that was totally right there in the previous version) Lightwave is a very powerful piece of software. It gets used in a lot of TV and movie work and, though it’s lost some ground to 3DS and Maya due to a few lacklustre versions (I’m looking at you, Lightwave 9!), the latest version is back on track with some excellent new features.

You’ll probably be seeing a lot more of Lightwave in future posts showing progress on items I’m building. I’ve just bitten the bullet and upgraded to version 11.5, so I’m still feeling my way through a few of the changes and trying to work out where a few options have gone to.

Website: https://www.lightwave3d.com/

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