View Full Version : Lightwave Movie Making

01-17-2004, 05:17 AM
Question for Animators/Producers....

I'm becoming familiar with lightwave now, but just wondering more about the animation/movie making process of things...

For example, just watching 'cartoons' like Max Steel, Dan Dare, Xcalibur. How much compositing would take place in something like these?

I would imagine that on static background shots, to save rendering time the background would be rendered once, then the character/vehicle animation rendered over the top. And with a moving background the whole shot just rendered once (with the characters/vehicles rendering at the same time...). Is this along the right lines?

I have tried searching the net for info/tutorials on CGI movie making, and whilst I can find loads of stuff on modeling or specific animation routines (e.g. Walk cycles etc etc), I couldn't really find any good sites on how to actually put the whole lot together to make a finished product.

Can anyone giude me here how to streamline the actual process ...?


Kevin McPoland
[email protected]

01-17-2004, 06:13 AM
Cheat like a basket!

If you can think of a quick way to do something, and it looks good, don't do it 'right', do it fast! That is the best piece of advice!

01-17-2004, 07:37 AM
Fake it! Or more correctly compositing is you friend!

Fore ground and back ground (and some times mid ground as well all) seperate passes then brought together in the comp this not only speeds up render times in big scenes but I have found helps with everything from walk cycle timing to creating great DOF without long render times.

You have a Street Scene with a character walking up it all CGI.

Set the scene up with you charater, lighting etc save the scene load it up again remove the character and render the pass (this is you back ground pass)
Right now do the same thing but remove all the back ground elements and just render the fore ground character (ideally at a 32 bit setting to save the alpha channel)
Open your comp package load both render in and render out there you have you final animation.

BUT why?
Well lets just say your street scene with all its building etc takes a while to render each frame including your character so you set the whole thing rendering go to bed the next morning look and thing pooooo! the walk cyle is not 100% or a client say yup love it but can we have him with a red t-shirt instead of a blue one you get the picture!

And with a moving background the whole shot just rendered once

not really because where the camera is for each pass is the thing so if you don't adjust the camera animation for each pass you can do as above even for moving shots.

Composition is your friend in big productions and movies it is all brought together in the comp skys, background elements, blue scene actors, dust, fire fx, colour correction all of this adds to lots of layers in you final compositon in fact sometimes it can take longer to render the comp than the 3D!!

And finally once had a client who after I had rendered 3000 frames of animation some taking 20 mins each frame! turned round and said yup love it but can we have this photoshop painted sky instead of the blue one we orginally agreed to luckly I render out everything at 32 bit so even the back ground had it's alpha straight into the comp package (back to front) new sky added then background elements and then the fore ground characters. Hit render and away you go too less than half an hour to redo. A lesson learned me thinks:D

01-17-2004, 07:39 AM
Also if you get the Lightwaver 8 upgrade now you can get DFX for free which will really help in your film making :D

01-17-2004, 08:23 AM
I would recommend picking up a copy of Digital Cinematography & Directing by Dan Ablan. It covers a lot of animation/video/movie making info that you don't see talked about a lot.

For compositing take a look at Inspired 3D Lighting and Compositing and The Art and Science of Digital Compositing.

Another good source for learning movie making is DVDs with extra features like behind the scenes stuff and commentary from the Director or the DP. Some of them even have multiple camera versions of the effects showing how they built them up.

Compositing gives you a huge amount of control and flexibility over your final animation and allows for much faster changes. The first animation I did as a composite was 15 minute animation of a train moving through a local power plant. At first I was rendering it as one image with no compositing but rendering times were too slow. I switched over to doing multiple layers and I was able to cut rendering time to about 1/5 the time plus I could tweak each shot. I would do one pass of the background (either a still for stationary shots or a series for moving shots), a pass of the train, a shadow pass, and if there were foreground items or crossing gates a pass for them. In DFX+ I would tweak colors, add motion blur, add headlights, adjust shadow density, simulate haze and DOF. For the stationary backgrounds I would load in the background plate in photoshop and add in tree lines and other background elements like corn fields that I made as a seperate element in Lightwave.

Hope this helps.

01-17-2004, 12:17 PM
Just for those who are looking for a tutorial in this area, go here:


And scroll down a bit and you find details on a 3D Movie Production Tutorial I am planning to undertake.

01-17-2004, 01:31 PM
Wow, great replies people, thanks!

...CoryC (or anyone really), how do I do a shadow pass? Thinking about it, I can understand the plates and even the moving backgrounds, but say I want the figure walking to have the shadow cast on various irregular things (e.g. a person in a room when the shadow may fall on the floor one minute, up the wall the next and then over a table...that sort of thing)

If I can crack this I think I will be on my way....

Kevin McPoland
[email protected]

01-17-2004, 01:33 PM
Paul Boland, I have bookmarked your page...any idea when it will start?

Kevin McPoland
[email protected]

01-17-2004, 02:33 PM
Originally posted by kevinmcpoland
how do I do a shadow pass?

What I do, and this is where the spreadsheet helps a lot, is to hide every object that is unneeded and set the item(s) casting the shadows to Unseen by camera. It will be invisible but still show a shadow. Then set the alpha channel for the surfaces that are receiving the shadow to Shadow density. Render out the animation to one of the 32-bit settings and all you will see is the shadow. You can render the shadow pass with less AA and a higher threshhold number. I've attached a sample. In the final image the engine has had the color boosted and a little motion blur was added. The signal lights were also added. They were done on a smaller image sequence and then looped in DFX+.

01-19-2004, 12:17 PM
Originally posted by kevinmcpoland
Paul Boland, I have bookmarked your page...any idea when it will start?

Kevin McPoland
[email protected]

Hi Kevin.

The project is already underway in the sense that it is being planned out on paper. I'm mapping out chapters, what I want to cover, how I want to cover it, etc. I've done work like this before so that's not new ground but I've never done a 3D Movie Production Tutorial before so that is new ground ;) . Still, it is something I want to and plan to do. I remember when I started out and if I had had a tutorial like the one I am planning to help get me off the ground, it would have been great. Just keep your eyes on the Work in Progress page, it will be the first to be updated with news of the tutorials progress.