3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 48: Picture Perfect | WebReference

3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 48: Picture Perfect

Lesson 48 - Picture Perfect - Part 1

Our current series of lessons on Lightscape has turned particularly timely.

Lightscape has just been purchased by Autodesk, the makers of AutoCAD, 3D Studio MAX and 3D Studio VIZ. (Actually, Autodesk bought Dicreet Logic, based in Montreal, which had previously acquired Lightscape with the intent of folding it into its product line.) In the hands of this huge company, the product will undoubtedly see a much higher profile. When people see what it can do, and what a difference the combination of radiosity and ray tracing make to atmosphere and realism, they'll want to jump on board immediately. I just started introducing Lightscape to my students at Cogswell College and the interest has been tremendous. The Lightscape revolution is just beginning, and in a short time it will be a standard (and required) element of the 3D artist's toolbox.

All this well-deserved praise and enthusiasm must be tempered, however, with some cautions. Lightscape is a very difficult program to learn, for two reasons.

The first class of problems can be blamed on the application itself. The interface is unintuitive and confusing. The user is often surprised to find the answer to his or her question hidden in an obscure dialog box, reached in an unexpected way. The documentation is obviously critical, but is available only in an online version (unless you spend an extra $75 on a printed version). In either form, it's a tough read. The tutorials are valuable, but they can be hard to follow and contain occasional errors. In short, the new user should be prepared for some significant frustrations on the Lightscape path to radiosity nirvana.

The second class of difficulties is inherent in the entire nature of this new technology. Radiosity is so fundamentally different than traditional rendering methods that one must learn to rethink the entire modeling, layout and lighting process from the ground up. The greatest advantage of radiosity--the diffuse reflection of light from surfaces such as walls and floors--so greatly changes the rendering process that one must make countless experiments in order to understand the effect. That's what we've been doing in these last two lessons, and what we'll continue to do here. The geometry of an object has enormous impact on the success of the rendering process in radiosity because, as we have seen, the rendering solution is achieved by subdividing the original geometry to create vertices that hold the color information. One cannot casually throw just any kind of geometry into Lightscape, and perhaps the best way to learn to model for the program is to study the models that Lightscape provides in its libraries. There are three CD's in the library, and I highly recommend buying at least the first one.

Let's go on with some more experiments.

The previous lessons have considered only sharp, rectilinear shapes like walls and square tables. Radiosity is perfect for this kind of geometry because the models can be stripped down to absolute simplicity, with vertices only at the corners. Lightscape is then free to subdivide this empty canvas into as many color vertices as the user needs to create the desired effect.

But smoothly rounded or finely detailed objects must have a fairly dense mesh to begin with. How well can Lightscape handle this kind of geometry?

Let's see.

To Continue to Parts 2 and 3, Use Arrow Buttons

Created: Sept. 1, 1998
Revised: Sept. 1, 1998

URL: http://webreference.com/3d/lesson48/