3D Spectacular (CU Amiga December 1994)


Lightwave has two sections to it, these being Layout and Modeler (it’s how they spell it). Objects are built in Modeler and are then coloured, textured, surfaced, positioned and animated in Layout.

Modeler, whilst at first appearing fiddly, grew on me. The tools it provides are simple yet effective and are all in one place (unlike Imagine). Freeform modelling is a bit tricky, but the Magnet tools (which displaces points in a defined box depending on how close they are to the centre of the box) amongst others make this possible. Subdivide, used to create more polygons and hence a smoother object, has a very useful option of metaform. This tries to smooth objects : start with a box and perform metaform subdivide a few times to get a sphere!

One problem that should be mentioned is that the boolean functions are not quite perfect – they don’t produce the expected results all the time.

Modeler provides a tri-view of your object and an either static or moving preview of your object. This preview can be grabbed and rotated with the mouse and is again a very good feature. Polygons that are created in Modeler are given a surface name – to Modeler this is nothing more than the name.

Ten layers (or worktops) are provided. These can be either in the foreground (active), in the background (inactive) or simply off. Another point worth mentioning is that a grid snap is automatically on. I like the grid as it automatically resises when the zoom changes, but it can be disabled if needs be.

Moving into layout, things get really interesting. Animation is simply achieved with keyframing but this leads to very quick development of complex scenes. Lights are either point sources or spot sources and their intensity throughout an animation can be controlled using an envelope. Envelopes are a graphical representation of an attribute of a particular thing and exist for most things, such as light intensity, lens flare effect, zoom factor, fog controls and more.

Lightwave is now famous for supporting lens flares and the effect is simple to produce : the lights menu has a toggle switch to turn a light into one. Lens flares are nice, but overused in my humble opionion (but it didn’t stop me from using them – oops!)

Textures cannot be mixed : you are limited to one at a time. However, every attribute (specularity, colour and all) can have a map controlling it. A good feature is the displacement map (just like Imagine’s strangely named AppliquÈ map) which moves polygons according to the grey value of the pixels closest to the polygon on the map. Another nice one is the diffusion map, which changes the intensity of the objects colour but not the base colour. For example, you can create a pink object and use a green marble map as a diffusion map to get pink marble – excellent.

Motion blur and depth of field (both controllable with envelopes) are available along with field rendering. Layout will also import a wide variety of different formats; many more than the other two.

It’s worth mentioning that buying Lightwave will not allow you to make Babylon 5 – it wasn’t modelled using Modeler or fully animated with Layout.


Family man, international businessman and geek at heart.

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