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lwtone
07-09-2004, 07:42 PM
Greetings, all. This is my first post to the LW discussion boards. It's partially just to say "hi" and partially to blab on-and-on and ask all sorts of questions that have been on my mind for a while! :) I'm particularly pleased to find a Mac-specific community, since I have a deep affinity for the Mac platform, and would value the insight of others who share this background. I currently have a Graphite G4/450 Dual... a bit ancient by today's standards but I still love it to pieces! (and those pieces have been steadily upgraded over the years - faster HDs, a Gig of RAM, and most recently an ATI Radeon 9000 128MB - woo!).

I'm not currently a LightWave user, though I do have some experience with an older version of the software from back in college (6.5 if I remember). I created some short films at the time and was doing well, but I've been pretty stagnant since graduating. I'd really like to get back into 3-D animation, so I'm trying to evaluate my options and I thought this'd be a good place to start.

For my day job, I work mostly with Macromedia Flash doing a variety of 2-D animation and ActionScript-driven presentations and applications. But my first love has always been animation and filmmaking, so I'd like to get back on track with that. Unfortunately, as I said, I haven't used LightWave much in the past 3 years, so for the most part, I'm pretty much starting over.

And since I am starting over, I thought it'd be good to compare LightWave with other tools available, like Maya, before I commit to a pricey purchase (at least I still have academic affiliation which will help me get started). I realize this is a LightWave forum, so there's bound to be a bit of bias (which is ok, since I'm leaning toward LW anyway). But I do want to make sure I'm going with the tool that's best suited to the Mac (with developers that are enthusiastic about leveraging the OS X Platform). I remember not liking some aspects of LW's interface back in the day. It seemed kind of inelegant compared to what I was used to on my other Mac-based creative apps (like Flash and Photoshop, and some audio and video tools). I remember lots of chaotic keyframe madness in the "graph editor" and lots of weird preferences that never stayed put after I set them. But I have no idea what's changed in more recent revisions.

A while back, I played with the 7.5 Discovery Edition a bit, but I'm so rusty at this point that I didn't do too much with it (apparently, using LightWave is not "like riding a bike" ;)). I'd like to try 8 but from what I can tell, there doesn't yet seem to be a convenient way to get ahold of a demo for the Mac. I'm considering buying Dan Ablan's "Inside Lightwave 8" book (I had the version for LW 6 back in the day). Does anyone know if it comes with the LightWave 8 Discovery Edition like the Version 7 did?

I mentioned Maya before. One of the reasons I've been giving a little more thought to Maya is that I'm extremely impressed by the news from WWDC - the way that Alias has committed to integrating with Tiger's Core Image and Core Video makes me feel like Maya is psyched about the Mac. Which makes me psyched about Maya. :cool:

I've also read that Maya is a great environment if you're interested in Scripting. I've become a very competent scripter over the past several years from all the Web and Flash programming I've done. I'd love to put those skills to use. Can anyone share any experiences they have w/ LScript and LightWave's interface for scripting?

I also wanted to ask one more specific question. Hair and fur rendering is something that's likely to be important to the work I want to do. I notice that the LW 8 feature list mentions the following:

"Hair and fur rendering using Sasquatch rendering engine, also excellent for grass and foliage. The Sasquatch engine is the fastest, highest quality hair renderer in the industry"

Does this mean that Newtek has actually licenced the technology from Worley Labs, or is this just a reference to the plug-in (which would need to be purchased separately)? Has anyone done any work with fur in LW? Can the rendering options be customized to produce results that are less photo-realistic and more stylized (to match up with more stylized modelling)? This is something I've been thinking about.


Thanks for taking the time to read my big, long post. I'd welcome any comments anyone would like to share.

-Tone


PS: Feel free to follow the link in my signature below if you'd like to see what kind of work I've done in the past. There's some Flash work, my LW films, and a bunch of concept art and various screenplays and other writings.

pdrake
07-09-2004, 07:59 PM
worley licensed a "lite" version of sasquatch. i've seen some pretty impressive things from it, but it's still limited in alot of ways. the full version is well worth the money.

riki
07-10-2004, 01:57 AM
Nice site, I like your concept work. Maybe check the next few issues of 3D World. No doubt they'll get the exculsive on the on the LW8 demo.

Beamtracer
07-10-2004, 05:01 AM
I think Maya got it's kudos some years ago when it was the first to come out with good character tools.

Maya has gained some film credits. But none of these credits are for rendering. Nobody who wants quality work renders in Maya's internal renderer. They all use some other rendering package.

Now there are better character tools out there, such as Motion Builder and Messiah.

Lightwave still has the best internal renderer of the big 4 3D apps.

lwtone
07-10-2004, 10:58 AM
Thanks for the replies so far...



Originally posted by pdrake
worley licensed a "lite" version of sasquatch. i've seen some pretty impressive things from it, but it's still limited in alot of ways. the full version is well worth the money.

Ahh I see. That makes a lot of sense. I see that the full plug-in is around $500. Does anyone know if Worley offers an academic price for it? I haven't seen any information on that.



Originally posted by riki
Nice site, I like your concept work. Maybe check the next few issues of 3D World. No doubt they'll get the exculsive on the on the LW8 demo.

Thanks for the tip, and for the kind words regarding my work. My site itself is about 4 years old, with a lot of work from back in school, but some of the Flash animations and most of the character concepts and writings are newer. It's all in preparation to begin work on a larger project.



Originally posted by Beamtracer
I think Maya got it's kudos some years ago when it was the first to come out with good character tools.

Maya has gained some film credits. But none of these credits are for rendering. Nobody who wants quality work renders in Maya's internal renderer. They all use some other rendering package.

Now there are better character tools out there, such as Motion Builder and Messiah.

Lightwave still has the best internal renderer of the big 4 3D apps.

So you mean something like Renderman? Yikes. I give Steve Jobs enough of my money. ;) It's surprising to hear that Maya doesn't have a more exceptional rendering engine. If this is true, though, it certainly scores more points for LW in terms of value.

On the other hand, buying an external character animation tool isn't very appealing either. Do the version 8 enhancements help close the gap? (dopesheet, better bone tools and rigs, IK Booster, bone dynamics). I'll be the first to admit, I'm not even entirely clear on what all those features mean. But I do know they're relevant to character animation.

-Tone

PS: I like your spinning rainbow disc of doom.

pdrake
07-10-2004, 01:03 PM
maya has a demo available from download on their sit.

lwtone
07-10-2004, 01:12 PM
Originally posted by pdrake
maya has a demo available from download on their sit.


Yeah, I have the PLE installed from a while back, but I didn't get very far with my 1-button Apple Mouse. ;) Haha!

jin choung
07-10-2004, 08:23 PM
howdy and welcome,

although i am a lw owner with no intent on purchasing any other 3d app, i use maya regularly at work and am certainly not blind to its charms. so here is what i feel is a balanced view.

i believe that beamtracer's view of maya is accurate but slightly under impressed: "Maya has gained some film credits."

ummmm....

yah.... that's kinda like saying that food is desirable. if you can think of character animation in movies done in the last five years, it was likely maya that was used to pull it off.

maya is the defacto industry leader in the FX biz. bar none. get used to it. it doesn't quite have the unilateral domination of a photoshop or america but it is nonetheless a superpower in the 3d world.

and although maya's native renderer is not used in a great many movies, it IS used... including the particles on the balrog in the lord of the rings.

further, it comes with MENTAL RAY now which is a reyes renderer i believe and has a lot of desirable features like subpixel subdivision, etc. although, it IS a third party app and there still remains some issues where not everything in maya gets passed down properly (or at all to mental ray).

also, if a studio should ask for a package specifically BY NAME, more likely than not, it will ask for MAYA. just check out job listings yourself.

it's maya's world right now and everybody else just live in it. this may not always be the case. but it is now.

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but maya is indeed deep and with that depth is an attendant complexity... to the point where it is simply not possible to do certain things without getting into MEL Scripting... this is quite UNLIKE lw where EVERYTHING THAT IS POSSIBLE TO DO IS POSSIBLE TO DO THROUGH THE GUI.

maya is also very advanced in terms of software architecture and the fact that the GUI 'rides on top of mel' like windows 3.1 rode on top of dos makes mel scripting relatively easy to pick up and is a revolutionarily elegant way of developing almost a '3d os'.

but the technology too can create a complexity that is difficult for a single person to wrangle all by his lonesome. certainly not impossible but not extremely accessible either.

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lw on the other hand is relatively primitive, at times CRUDE even... but for that, it is indeed knowable by a single person. it makes the dream of a one man fx house imminently possible.

and even though it is not as refined as other more modern apps, for what is there, there is an unexpected depth and you'll find that there's lots of flexibility in unexpected places.

also, there is a tremendous resource of FREE plugins that are available from flay and lw's free resources are arguably untouchable by any other app on the planet. whereas other apps can become a money sink with seemingly every plugin costing an arm and a leg, you can scrounge around on flay and more than likely find what you need to little or nothing.

and speaking of PRICE, in thinking about owning your own 3d app, you must think in terms of TOTAL COST OF OWNERSHIP and not just initial buy in.

maya has very frequent updates and upgrades but few are free.... the standard upgrade price to go to new version is about $800. lw is butchered for NOT upgrading so frequently but that fact enables most to stay current without breaking the bank.

also, every upgrade is now $500 and that's still the best game in town.

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almost home....

you can only get maya COMPLETE for mac... you can't get the $8000 unlimited version even if you wanted it.

lw8 has no 'light' version. it only comes in one unlimited, ultra, flavor.

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ask maccers about alias vs. newtek support for the mac version of the product. a lot of times in 3d, mac is the ugly step daughter and gets the scraps.

sure, the companies will reassure you that mac gets top flight consideration... they will say that without exception and with the most serious of faces.

real life tends to end up falling somewhat short. ask around, read magazing reviews in mac mags.

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if you're mister money man, maya is compelling.

if you're a blue collar kinda guy that has to be everyman to everyone, lw is remarkably robust and affordable.

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a balanced view.

jin

lwtone
07-10-2004, 08:43 PM
Thank you for taking the time to share so much feedback. I really appreciate it.

When I have a chance, I'll give a more thorough response to your thoughts, but I did just want to mention one quick thing:

Maya Unlimited will be available for the Mac by late summer - it was just announced at WWDC a couple weeks back, along with the announcement that it'd be heavily rewritten to take advantage of the forthcoming OS X.4 (Tiger) and its Core Image and Video technologies. It's also supposed to have AppleScript support for MEL, Quartz GUI enhancements, QuickTime integration, and support for plugins written in Xcode.

Neat! :)

-Tone