View Full Version : Can a single person make use of Lightwave?

09-17-2005, 06:35 PM
I wanting to know if this will be too much software for the tasks that I am charged with.

I've been using computers since the age of 10 (timex sinclair 2kb ram). Even though I am part of a company we are very small and very young. It is my mission at this point to choose and then learn to use a software package that will allow us to create realistic reinactments and demonstrations to be played in courtrooms for a jury. I have some experience doing simple video editing with Final Cut Pro on the Mac. I will most likely be the only person working to create what is needed by our customers.

I need to know how many hours a typical animation ,of much less detail than most that I have seen created with LightWave, might take to create for an experienced user. I wish I had something I could link to as an example but I do not. I'm just concerned that anything less than a team, could not create the necessary product in a timely manner before the court case has already been decided.

Thanks for reading all of this. Oh, as for my skills, I have high mechanical and mathematical aptitude.

09-17-2005, 07:08 PM
This is actually one of Lightwave's saving graces. It's one of the fastest 3D production tools you can get, and it's simple enough for one person to do most tasks. Maya isn't made for speed, it's made for maximum flexibility and power, which involves being more complicated than the single user can ever make use of; it's assumed that each field, animation, modeling, etc. will be performed by a different team member. I've heard several stories, and know one myself, about studios trying in vain to produce a show on a tv production deadline, only to fail, and be rescued by Lightwave.
The Capt. Scarlet series in the UK is an example.

The only alternative to LW I'd suggest would be C4D, it's not over-complicated, but it costs more and it doesn't seem laid out as well, I don't think it's quite up to LW's level. I think it's more stable than Lightwave though. LW is not as stable as other apps you might use on a Mac, but it is about as stable as the PC version.

Lightwave also comes with this fabulous forum!

and goofy icons :2guns: :screwy:

09-17-2005, 07:20 PM
It really depends on how long the 3D presentation is gonna be, but Lightwave sounds perfect for your use. I used LW in Cruiseship presentations, mainly just doing simple presentations and it did what I wanted, and the renders looked great. To put it this way, for your kind of presentations I'd definetly choose Lightwave or Cinema4D. Lightwave is great for "static" animations and modeling. LW9 will give you exactly what you need. I usually don't brag about LW, but for one person/or freelancers, it should be a great application, and cheap. However, if you want to go for character animation as well, maybe 3DstudioMax would be better, as you can use Character Studio to make simple walk-animations, but remember tha tit is much more expensive though..
Hope this answered some of the points :)

09-17-2005, 08:01 PM
Lightwave is used in many film productions as a pre viz tool to get shots blocked out quickly because of it's speed.

09-18-2005, 04:02 AM
>>looks around<<
Well, I'm just one person, as a hobbyist I can say LW will give me all I need to do to produce animations. Well, everything except the talent that is. ;) :P
I have looked at other software but LW just feels so simple to use for me, whilst giving high level results. Certainly it is one of it's strengths for me for sure.

Captain Obvious
09-18-2005, 09:21 AM
I've been tinkering with 3D on and off for the past six or so years, but I never really found an application I was happy with. I've tried Maya, Cinema 4D, Pixels 3D, even Electric Image, and I didn't really like any of them. For the most part, modelling and texturing felt more like something they added without all that much thought to it (except texturing in Pixels; it has the best texturing system I've used to date). When I tried Lightwave, I was instantly hooked, and mostly thanks to how awesome Modeler is. It's easy to use, intuitive and still powerful. The fact that it's a completely different user interface context than Layout also really helped me when I was learning how to use it.

I'm using it to try to learn how to create architectural visualizations, by the way.

09-18-2005, 12:16 PM
I think an "experienced user" could do forensic visualizations in LW very quickly. To me, the biggest issue is how exacting the models and the environment are required to be. If low-res standins can be used, then doing the rest (positioning, gravity, collisions, explosions, etc.) are really quick. You can always refine the models over time.

I'm a one-man shop, and do everything in LW, all the modeling, lighting, scene setup, dynamics, as well as all video editing and compositing, etc. I think forensics is very feasible with LW.


09-18-2005, 12:30 PM
Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that there are lots of premade models available. Say if you are reinacting a car accident. You could purchase models for that farily cheep that you could use for many things over and over again. They would not hae to be very high definition so that would be a help, especially at render time.

There are some large rescources for models out there. Sorry I don't have a link. Do a search here or on google or maybe someone will post one here.

This will speed things up quite a bit in situations where you can get the models you need.

09-18-2005, 12:47 PM
Actually LW has a lot of content that comes with it.
You could use that for the people and other simple stuff.
If the cars have to accurately represent the manufacturer's models then you will have to learn to model - or buy the content.

For court cases I don't think you want to go for hyper-realism anyway.
It will look like you're trying to show a video of the event. It could work against you. So luckily you wil save a lot on render times.

Since a lot of the stock models are made for facial animation - you could also simply those a whole lot - just using a egg shape for the face. Boxes for buildings. very simple cars. A standard lighting setup that you always use.


09-18-2005, 03:00 PM
Thanks a bunch for all the responses, I will definately recomend this be the path to the CFO, I looked at some cheaper programs, but I didn't like the interface. Thanks again.

09-19-2005, 07:05 AM
I found Layout, where you do all the animating, particularly easy to use. Modelling and surfacing took a LOT more time.

But if you are trying to show the relative positions of (for example) cars in an accident, that should be very easy, as no one will complain if your chrome is not photorealistic.

And as was said, a few off the shelf models will be very useful.

It will still take quite a long time to get the hang of things though! Its a huge program with many options.

Budget for some good training DVD's too!


09-19-2005, 07:50 AM
i'd say, for the sort of thing you're after, you could probably get away with the "quickshade" render, which would speed up the time required to render the animation considerably. This is where your main time concern is likely to be in the end, as you can figure how long it may take to model & animate, but then, if you go for realistic rendering with all the toys turned on, that can make a huge hole in your "time budget".
On a scene of a room I have, at 400x300 with raytracingreflections & transparency, the image took 63.5 secs to render. With mapped reflection and raytrace transparency on, it took 54.3 seconds. Using the simple 'quickshade' render, it took only 8.3 seconds.
The downside is, quickshade does not do smoothing, so it tends to look a bit like a 1980's video game. ;)

09-20-2005, 11:21 AM
I have produced court exhibits for trial before and used LW. I had never done this type of work before and had little trouble completing on time. renderings were very fast and got the clients point across. Here is a sample structural court exhibit.

09-20-2005, 01:24 PM
I do exactly what you are looking to do. Let me start off with a few things. 1st, it's hard to get an attorney to spend money on an animation. I been at my current job and so far only have done maybe 10 animations over the past 7 years. Though, it is starting to pick up (finished 3 in the past 2 months) as the price of such things comes down.

Now you ask if Lightwave is the only package you need to do this stuff. I say NO! I can not in a timely manner build an accident scene just in lightwave alone to the accuracy required (we actually got someone elses animation thrown out of court because of improper scales). In the office we actually use 4 software (sometimes 5) to create the accident scene.

I use Autocad and Eagle Points surface modeler to create the actual scene in 3d. Eagle Point is probably the only thing you will need. I use them both because I am very proficient in autocad. I can take a list of 300+ points (NEVER TRUST THE POLICE TO HAVE DONE IT RIGHT!) put it into autocad, draw a scene up, and prep it for eagle point in usually 2 hours. I can surface (with a few key strokes) the entire scene in 10 minutes with Eagle Point and send it back into autocad to export the layers individual to DXF.

In Lightwave I scour the internet looking for a prebuilt affordable model. If I can't find one, I get a similiar one and alter it, or take photos of the vehicle and build it. I built a tractor trailer in less then 8 hours (I am not the best lightwave user, but getting faster every time).

Now this is all fine and dandy if your accident (providing you are doing vehicles) is straight forward (and it usually isn't). We use McHenry's MSOFT program (the father of Crash and Ed-Smac). To run simulations of the vehicles. I then take the spread sheet information produced in the sim and convert it into a light wave motion file and attach the motion to the vehicles. All this (not including the sim and adjustments) takes me less then 30 mins.

At this point I now have a fully created scene with moving vehicles in roughly 10 - 15 hours of time. Then there is the time to look it over, adjust colors and show the attorney and clients and make corrections.

The final toll is about 3 days worth of work (not including render times). Then there is putting through your finishing software (I user Aura 2.5) and put it to DVD with PowerDVD.

Hope that answers some questions.

To see some pre lightwave court stuff check out


and click on the Animation link on the left.