View Full Version : Is it me or...

09-29-2003, 07:48 AM
is the new Lightwave Manual pretty poor. The last time I used Lightwave was version 5.5, it was my first time in 3D back then so anything really complicated would have totally thrown me. I found the manuals really good. You had your tutorial manuals that would take you through things step by step. And then you had your reference guide which was good to just have a quick glance at something if you weren't quite sure what it did. I managed to learn Lightwave really well with these manuals alone. I'm reading through the version 7 manual and it's just one big reference book...well so far, it also says reference on the front. To be honest I've only read about the first ten chapters and just flicked though the rest to see if they have any tutorials. I didn't spot any so maybe I should look more thoroughly, ordon't they have any hands on tutorials in it like they did in 5.5?

Because I still remember a lot of Lightwave from the past I'm managing to understand the manual to an ok standard. But I can't see how you'd ever get any where with it if you were a beginner. I know you can buy the Dan Alban books and all but you really shouldn't have to. If you paid for what essentially is a very complicated and expensive package then you'd expect to get a nice manual that eases you into how it all works.

I've just read the bit on the spreadsheet editor and although most of it was ok some of it left me just scracthing my head. It's the same with the graph editor. The manual just breezes over some really complex stuff with out putting it into real world use. I can only imagine how complex this must seem to someone who doesn't even know the terms used in a lot of 3D work.

On a positive note, the free dvds I got are excellent so far. I've only watched the head modelling one and it's already taught me bits that are new from version 5.5.

Feel free to flame me if after the 10th or so chapter it then starts to explain things by getting you to do stuff.

09-29-2003, 11:50 AM
I know the manual has come in for a lot of criticism over the past few years, but I don't think it's a problem with the manual per se. The manual is really a function reference, and a pretty good one at that.

I think the problem is that the manual isn't supported by a tutorials guide that walks the user through some basic 'beginning to end' tutorials.

So if you're new to LW, or 3D in general, it's a bit of a learning curve sitting there with 1000+ pages of function reference in your lap, and no 'how to make a spinning logo' tutorial to hand. So you have to resort to the web (or the bookshop) pretty much on day one to find out how to actually string the tools together to do something with the package.

And in that respect LW suffers by comparison with some of the competition which ship with both a manual and a tutorials guide.

On the flip side, you could argue that at the price point, you can afford to buy LW and pick up a couple of decent books / CD tutorials and learn from those. And there have been special deals offering LW with a pack of training DVDs which would be a great help to new users.

09-29-2003, 11:55 AM
I think it's fair to say that the LW7 manual is pretty lacking - useful as a reference manual but otherwise pretty damn terrifying for anyone coming to the software for the first time - most newbies are quickly recommended Dan Ablan's "Inside LightWave" series as the way to go for learning the software.

Handily, NewTek has given us an HTML help system which is much more user-friendly and combined with the downloadable Flash Interactive Guides and Lee Stranahan's great video tutorials there's quite a few great training materials available that means we never have to go near the manual :D

Another good resource is www.3dbuzz.com - they recently released their first LightWave 3D VTM which is a real nuts 'n bolts basics overview - great stuff for beginners. NewTek's tutorial section is also quite helpful and of course there are numerous other sites on the 'net with great resources if you're prepared to look.

Here's hoping the LightWave 8 manual(s?) are pretty special...

09-29-2003, 12:00 PM
Well you could argue that if they hadn't ever had a good manual, but the thing is the 5.5 one was really good.
If you want people to get into the package and enjoy using it, you can't expect them to struggle from day one. Just because it's cheaper then most of it's rivals is a really poor excuse not to have manuals that teach you how to use it.

09-29-2003, 12:16 PM
Don't get me wrong, I'm not arguing against a tutorials guide, just saying the manual is a function reference, and a good one at that. Maybe it's semantics, but let's be clear about what we think needs improving - it's the provision of a tutorials guide, not improvement of the function reference.

09-29-2003, 12:44 PM
Yeah you're right there, as a reference manual it is great, it's just a shame they haven't done the same as they used to and supply it with a tutorial manual as well. I've noticed that they're still using objects and graphics that were used back from 5.5. I can't see how it could be that hard to just update the old tutorials and maybe add some new ones on some of the new features like Weightmaps, Skelegons and things like that.

I know the internet is a great place for resource and I think I've learnt more on the net then in the manuals, but for Newtek to asume people are going to use this is a little bit unfair. I know probably 98% of people that are into this sort of work will have internet connection but what about the 2%? You can't just assume people are going to have access to these resources.

Tom Wood
09-29-2003, 12:53 PM
Having come at this a total novice, I can say that the manual was a challenge to get used to. I did buy the Dan Ablan book and use both constantly. But if those were published together in a single volume, I'm not sure it would have been any better. The manual is more "here is where it is" while the Ablan book is more "here is what it does".

I think it is better to have someone from outside the software development team take a fresh approach to the toolset and explain it from a different perspective. Since I have a specific project at hand, the biggest challenge for me is wading through all the things I don't need and finding the 20% of the toolset that I do need. Just about there, I think. :p


On top of LW, I'm also learning VT, Wavelab, Magpie and Acid Music. Massive tech overload. The manuals and books are easily two feet high!

09-29-2003, 01:08 PM
Yeah it's definitly a good thing to have a book like Inside Lightwave. But when I had 5.5 I learnt pretty much all of it really well with just the manuals. What inside lightwave done was to show me how to start being really creative and thinking about how to create realistic scenes. The problem with just a reference guide is that it should be used just like that. You're doing a project, you know roughly what you want and then you think "ohh what does this button do again" or "I'm sure there's a quicker way of doing this" Out comes the ref guide and you get it sorted.
I like to read though Manuals from start to finish, like a book. And I think a Manual should teach you how to use that software, bringing you gently into the world of what you're about to explore. Lightwave just doesn't do this anymore. just reading though some bits there was so much info going on that I just wanted the Manual to say "right so you've learnt the over view and now we're going to put some of that into practice" I agree that an outside influence is always good but you should'nt have to source those books. You should at the end of the manual be able to saftly navigate around the whole programme and have a pretty strong grasp of how it all works, and any loose ends you can then use the ref guide

09-29-2003, 02:10 PM
seems everybody wants spoon feeding these days.
actually, the 5.5 manuals were nowhere near as complete as the latest ones are, not that they are perfect by a far shot.
but come on, do yourself a favor and learn to be a bit more self-reliant, there are tons of tutorials available both commercially and for free. there's just no reason (or excuse) for not doing a little legwork and helping your self. you'll be far better off in the long run.

09-29-2003, 02:41 PM
Being self-reliant doesn't mean that Lightwave shouldn't have good manuals. All the reviews of Lightwave I've ever seen give Lightwave negatives in two areas: character animation and documentation. Lightwave 8 looks like it's improving it's character animation capabilities in leaps and bounds, let's just hope there are some improvements in the manuals. Protons good help docs that he released several months back were definately a step in the right direction.

09-29-2003, 03:13 PM
I have found the following...

The manual answers all the 'what' questions

i.e. what is this tool? what is this button?

The 10 bonus DVD's from Desktop Images by ...him., went into 'what' in much better detail.
(and I could never understand how a Newtek (ex) employee could be making money from teaching basic stuff that should have been in the manual)

Inside answers all the 'how' questions...

How do I use this tool? How does this effect that? etc.

Applied, Lee Stranahans movies, this forum and alot of the good web-tutorials out there, answered a lot of the 'why' questions.

Why does this work this way? and more importantly - why does this not work this way...

To be honest, I agree the manual is the weakest learning tool of the three but still is more essential than the others.

I also agree that it really needs to have certain area really beefed out and re-written, for example the VRML plugin - overcomplicated and unfinished - is typical of a few areas of the manual.

No, it's not just you...


09-29-2003, 03:24 PM
Ursa, to be honest I don't have a problem as I know Lightwave pretty well. But I can imagine how difficult it must be for someone who's new to 3D. I remember when I started, I didn't know what the hell a Polygon was, let alone a vertice. You need to be spoon fed. And to say you should just look up stuff yourself is a pretty lame arguement. It's like giving someone a car that's never had any knowledge of what a car is and asking them to drive it. Give them a Manual that says "when you push the Right pedal it lets in Petrol into the engine that makes the pistons go up and down. And when you push the middle pedal it increases pressure on the brake pads. This is all well and good but if you don't actually know how to drive the thing, it's not much use.

I've been looking though the Manual a bit more and they do have little key excercises, these help but it would be really nice to see some nice "putting it all to use" tutorials at the end of each section. Come on Newtek help out the newbies more for version 8.

09-29-2003, 03:30 PM
It is not just you... I found the learning experience extremely frustrating at the beginning.

For one thing the bundled manual is a reference book, and the order of chapters doesn't guide you how to get started.
I got the "Inside Lightwave 7.0" but it doesn't help much either since it is more a intermediate to advance level book.

Fortunately I found the book Lightwave 7.5 Visual Quick Start Guide, which is very concise and good for new beginners.
Using this along with the manual, I am starting to get more progresses.

I used Max 4/5 and Maya, these two packages both come with excellent tutorials but Lightwave is just lacking in the quantity and quality.

I know there are a lot of 3-rd party tutorials, but it is more handy to have a official tutorial guide so that users don't have to spent time surfing. It is like nothing or too much that I don't know which one to pick.


09-29-2003, 04:27 PM
Hee hee, I re-installed my first time, cos I had been punching the F1 key all night, and then guessed that I had missed an option during the first install. I got pretty worried and intimidated when I discovered there was no help files at all...
I see that'll be fixed for [8] though and Newtek have said that this will be one of the main areas of improvement for [8].

09-29-2003, 04:53 PM
Well that does sound like good news, we'll just have to wait and see.
I think getting manuals right is a very important thing. You want people to feel comfortable using the software right from the start. Especially considering most end users of Lightwave are artists. Artist don't generally seem to be the most intelligent people on the planet (definitly the case in our office) and we need all the help we can get. I also think a good manual will help sales as there's always more and more people getting into 3D. If they hear of a powerful piece of software that's easy to get into then they'll more lightly to buy it over the rivals.