View Full Version : Lightwave a match for me?

Joseph Burrell
02-22-2005, 10:25 AM
I know this is a loaded question, but I really need some guidance. Its a toss up at this point between Lightwave and Cinema 4D XL. I'm impressed at the roster of Lightwave users and that's the direction I'm leaning, but I really need to know how powerful the animation capabilities of Lightwave are. There's a lot of print design that people are doing, but I'm more interested in the animation of the program since I plan on doing fan based film work in my 'spare' time. So, bottom line, how capable is the animation in Lightwave? Like I said, that's a loaded question, but I must ask it.

On a side note, is it a good match for what I already have?

Vue 5 Espirit, Move 5
Poser 5
ZBrush 2

Also, I've noticed some stability questions around Lightwave, but that's no different from any program, I guess. But are there any outstanding issues that crop up a lot that I should be aware of?

Thanks in advance.

02-22-2005, 01:06 PM
Depends what you mean by 'animation'. Character animation or general animation - moving cameras and objects etc.

That really needs clarifying because it could make a huge difference.

Joseph Burrell
02-22-2005, 01:17 PM
Both. I'm looking for a solution for full CGi cinema.

02-22-2005, 02:59 PM
I disagree about a HUGE difference. LW is perfectly capable of doing good character animation, I just think it's not pushed enough - even by Newtek. Case in point: there is no Character Animation section on the forums. There was a big discussion about it but nothing came from it. I would still like to see one. If you're interested in character animation with LW check out Tim Albee. As far as "regular" animation - no problems. That being said there are some frustrations with the current crop of tools. Mostly I stick with the basics and that seems to work just fine. Also - since version 8.2 I haven't had a crash in a long time.

Joseph Burrell
02-22-2005, 03:04 PM
Are there plug ins to support or add functionality to character animation? I'm curious as to what users feel are lacking from Lightwave in this area.

02-22-2005, 03:29 PM
there are - but I personally don't use them. Maybe I'm too afraid :) But there are automatic character rigging plugins that look pretty good - however I don't see many people talking about them. There's another thread talking about Maestro. http://vbulletin.newtek.com/showthread.php?t=33300&highlight=maestro Are you looking for the ability to do a specific thing? Or just in general? There's another thread talking about Maestro.

02-22-2005, 05:19 PM
Are there plug ins to support or add functionality to character animation? I'm curious as to what users feel are lacking from Lightwave in this area.

yeah, sure. There are zillions of plugins and tools free and commercial available for Lightwave. Just check www.flay.com, it's the best recource for Lightwave news and other stuff. I check it every day.

As mentioned there's Maestro for automaticly rigging characters, I never tried it but I use ACS4 a lot which basicly does the same, and it saved me a lot of work. Some other tools that come to mind are SmartMorph for non-linear morphs and a lot of other very powerfull morphing possiblities. I also use keytrack a lot while animating, it sure beats Lighwtave's own dopetrack, but unfortunately it has been discontinued. Relativity is great if you're using expressions a lot. And of course there's G2 or Fprime for fast interactive surfacing and lighting your scene. There's a lot more but besides those there are countless plugins for Modeler available to make working with skelegons, endomorphs, and weightmaps easyer.

Lightwave may not be the best program for character animation, but what keeps me from moving to another program besides it's Modeler is the flexiblity and speed you can setup a character. Even though it does not have cool stuff like history it's much easyer to change whatever you want on your character at every stage of the production then in any other program I know because of endomorphs and weightmaps which are stored in the object file. This means you can add or remove geometry on your character even after it's completely rigged, animated and you have dozens of morphs. You can even replace it with a completely different one with very little fuss, well... a little more if they have different proportions.

I never used Cinema 4D. I've seen some cool stuff done with it too, so I'm sure it's very capable. Donno if Cinema has a demo version, but I'd advise you to give both a try before deciding. And then there's also Softimage Foundation for 495 bucks to make it even harder for you :-)

Joseph Burrell
02-22-2005, 07:41 PM
Gee thanks. :D

I'll probably download and run the demo's, but in my experience, unless they're pretty lenient with the demo product, its not going to be a great indication of what can be done in the full product.

For what I'm wanting to do with the program (again full CGi rendered cinema) I need very capable character animation, moderate scene/object animation, good clothing and hair modelling. What I don't really want to do is spend 1,600 dollars on Lightwave and another grand on plugins. If this stuff is capable out of the box, but with a little time and effort, I'm good. What I need to know is if its even capable or not. I've got all the time in the world since its basically a lone wolf, hobbiest project I want to start.

Thanks for all the advice. :)

Joseph Burrell
02-23-2005, 10:13 AM
Hmmmm.... No other opinions?

It seems there are a lot of additional plugins that I could get for animation, like Messaih's animation plugin. So I think that if I need additional funcitonality, that won't be an issue.

However, looking at both products again, I have some more questions for those of you that have used Lightwave succesfully.

How hard is it to do cloth or clothing modelling. Clothtide really stands out in C4D. It appears to be very functional and easy to use. Is there something similar within Lightwave? The tutorial/waltkthough on this site for clothing modelling doesn't go through any such steps and looks to be rather fickle in comparison.

Also, I am assuming that most of the 'toon' rendering on this site is done out of the box. I know that C4D has 'Sketch and Toon' if you go with Studio, but how easy can this sort of thing be done in Lightwave without an additional application/plugin? Not that I'll need it at this point, but being the anime fan that I am, I won't discount the possibility of needing it in the future.

It seems that LW has the upper hand in animation according to most of the 3rd party reviews I've read as well as having a more capable (albeit somewhat slower) rendering engine.

Again, any help or advice is greatly appreciated.

02-23-2005, 10:41 AM
Hiya... it's a good idea to ask plenty of questions, but the way to go is to try the two of them side by side and see which you get on with.

I use lightwave because i find 'pictured' icons confusing and just don't help my workflow at all.

But in response to some of your questions:

The cloth in lightwave has been put to good use by some people on this forum, but i haven't used it for anything more complex than a flag or dangling rags from a zombie's arm, so i can't really help you there.

Lightwave has a couple of toon shaders available... one that comes in the box, the "Super Cel Shader", and another which is bloody great is BESM (Big Eyes Small Mouth) which is called that for very Manga reasons.

By the way i'm biased towards lightwave, i have tried C4d a VERY long time ago and had problems even figuring out the texturing so i left it alone. :)

As for rendering, Lightwave is SLOW... is good for most things, but when you get to raytracing reflections and refractions it slows considerably. I've heard that C4d is VERY quick, which would be very useful, especially for radiosity... but the quality of lightwave's stuff is still brilliant, so i would say worth the wait.

In the end the decision is entirely down to you and how you work.
I've seen INCREDIBLE things produced in very basic software, using clever workarounds and neat tricks. This is what CG is for i guess, trying to do things as quickly and easily as poss, that will render fast but hold up on screen for the scene being made.

Check out some C4d forums aswell as this one to see what the online community is like. The newtek one is actually quite remarkable and the sheer amount of free plugins available from flay.com is a god reason to vote Lightwave. :)

(i apologise for my biased views)

02-23-2005, 04:12 PM
In my experience Ligtwave cloth and dynamics are not very usefull, unless you use it for simple stuff like a waving banner. But if you're planning on realistic highrez characters with clothing Lightwave dynamics are not the way to go. Also I've never seen anyone doing stuff like that in Lightwave so I suppose it's not just me. I tried it several times but all I came up with was a headache. So if that's an important issue for you, it's no points for newtek here.

Toon rendering was once one of Lightwave's strong points a looong time ago, but I'm afraid other competitors have taken the lead. I've seen the Sketch and Toon renders from Cinema and I don't see anyone doing that out of the box in Lightwave. There are some free toonshader plugins available, but the last time I checked them they were very flakey and not on the same level as a lot of the stuff possible in other programs. On the other hand, there are people cooking up very nice stuff in Lightwave without any plugins. Check out this thread: http://vbulletin.newtek.com/showthread.php?t=33682

For hair you get Sasquatch Light, but that's just a teaser for the real thing which is a commercial plug from Worley you'd have to buy. If you're willing to spend the cash you'll get a very fast and capable hair renderer. But for the long hair dynamics you'd have to rely on Lightwave's cloth, softbodies and bone dynamics agian.

Lightwave's renderer is a little outdated and slow but very stable, forgiving and the output is great. Radiosity is usable for simple stuff but too slow for more complex scenes. Fprime is brilliant and eased the pain for me, but that's another 400 bucks.

geez, when I read back what I just wrote I wonder why I'm still using Lightwave :-) Maybe it sounds a bit to negative. But then I'm mostly modeling and I think Modeler is still the best poly modeler out there, but Modo is slowly creeping up so we have to see how that will evolve.

02-23-2005, 06:10 PM
I used 3DMax for five years before Lightwave, and it's a very capable app, but when I switched to lightwave I found that I was getting things done faster and enjoying the work more.

Its hard to explain exactly why- Lightwave just seems more 'hands on' to me- like there's less standing between me and the end result.

Things I really like about Lightwave;

The modeling process is as near as you can get to intuitive on a computer ( I used to be an illustrator before getting into CG, and I find Lightwaves modeler allows me to translate those traditional skills into 3D far more fluidly than Max ever could.

The surfacing/ texturing process gets that balance between ease of use and complexity just right- I feel just about about any effect I can imagine is possible here, and I don't have to build a ten page flow chart to achieve it.

The Renderer. Again, that balance between control and ease of use is, for me, about right. One of the main influences on me when I chose lightwave was the fact that it had the best user gallery of any 3D App. I'm not saying that Lightwave's renderer is better, it's more that good looking results are easier to achieve, I think, using Lightwaves renderer.

Endomorphs. These are just so nice to have. I animated a realtively simple character in Max, and every different morph target had to be loaded into the scene as a seperate piece of geometry, and it was a real pain having these things cluttering up the workspace all time. In Lightwave all your targets are stored in the object itself- and you can even make changes to the base object which will flow through to the targets automaticly.

Ok. Now the things I am less keen on;

Modeler/ Layout split. There are advantages to this, seperating out the modeling from the animation/rendering process, but coming from an integrated app like Max I do keep bumping into this seperation from time to time. But if you have not used another 3D app this may not be such a problem. From a character animation point of view the biggest drawback is not being able to tweak your characters deformations without hopping back and forth. But this is mitgated somewhat by the fact that Lightwaves bones are more flexible because they can operate either with or without weightmaps, or combine the two easily.

Rigging Characters in Lightwave seems horrible to me, but that may simply be lack of experience on my part. In any case the new Maestro autorigger may have just made this problem go away- and it's very reasonably priced too.

I also think it's fair to say that compared to Maya or XSI , Lightwaves character animation tools are less sophisticated in some ways. But if your intent is to make your own complete films, you need to consider all aspects of the process, not only animating the characters.

In the end, I think it all comes down to workflow, which is a pain when you're trying to choose between apps, because it's the one thing that a list of features or bunch of opionions like this can't really convey- how the tool 'feels', does it help or hinder your ability to realise your vision. The reason I stay with Lightwave, despite various frustrations and (lately) temptations, is because to me it just 'feels' right- It's compact enough to master and flexible enough to do just about anything I can imagine.

Joseph Burrell
02-24-2005, 07:00 AM
Thanks guys for all the sage advice. I bought it for 800 bucks (used) so I figure, I can't go wrong. Now to wait patiently for Fedex to deliver it. :D