3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 73: Notes From SIGGRAPH 99 | 2 | WebReference

3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 73: Notes From SIGGRAPH 99 | 2

Lesson 73 - Notes From SIGGRAPH 99 - Part 3

Lightwave 3D version 6.0 is not quite ready for release. Newtek is promising October for this product. But it was definitely ready with some impressive demos. The program has been drastically changed, so much so that experienced Lightwave users will have a considerable adjustment period. But the changes are much for the better, and will definitely keep Lightwave in the running with its competitors. Some of the biggest holes in the package have been filled. Lightwave now has editable texture coordinates (uv coordinates), a critical feature that MAX has always offered. Lightwave has been unable to offer this feature until it redesigned its model file format (.lwo) to include texture coordinates. After projecting a texture map on the geometry, you can bring up a widow much like MAX's Unwrap UVW modifier panel in which you can adjust the texture alignment to the geometry, vertex by vertex. It's simple and it works.

Bezier splines are now available in animation graphs—another long-awaited essential—and the entire animation interface is greatly modernized. On the modeling side, Lightwave has implemented a "weight" concept to MetaNURBS, similar to that found in MAX 3's NURMS. In both programs, the "weights" of the vertices in a cage mesh can be adjusted to control the shape of the smoothed and subdivided mesh within. This produces a result similar to adjusting the weight of control vertices on true NURBS surfaces, and provides a lot of flexibility. It's something that longtime MetaNURB modelers will have to work into their methodologies.

But the most interesting new development on the Lightwave front may be the new Project: messiah from Station X Studios. This is an advanced character animation environment that is used as a plug-in for Lightwave. Normally, I'm not very interested in plug-ins but this is a project of Fori Owurowa, one of the leading lights in the development of Lightwave (MetaNURBS, Morph Gizmo, PuppetMaster). The highlight of the show for me was getting to meet Fori and hearing about the new product from the master himself. Project: messiah folds right into a Lightwave scene. When you are working with a character animated in the plug-in, the Project: messiah interface appears. The speed and ease-of-use were striking, using bones, inverse kinematics and expressions. Lightwave character animators will want to check this out at www.stationxstudios.com.

Ever since the appearance of Artisan for MAYA, there's been a lot of interest in modeling tools that are more intuitive and provide a feel similar to hands-on modeling in clay. Amphorium from Play was very impressive. The "Brycey" interface looks may suggest that this is more of a hobbyist product, but don't be deceived. Bryce itself has implemented an impressive method shaping geometry by painting on it, effectively producing real-time displacement mapping. Amphorium takes the same concept much farther, and many artists who find 3D modeling excessively technical will gravitate to this approach. Check it out at www.play.com.

On the publishing side of things, I was pleased to meet Michele Matossian and get a chance to look over her 3D Studio MAX 3 Visual QuickStart Guide. This book is a new member of the very popular Visual QuickStart series from Peachpit Press, in which applications are taught in easy steps with lavish amounts of illustration. As a teacher, I could see that this book will be very helpful to beginning (and even not-so-beginning) MAX students. It's easy to read and easy to understand. It will probably be available by the time you read this through all major book stores, online or otherwise.

Needless to say, I've only hit a few selected highlights of an exciting show in this column. SIGGRAPH is like a magicians' convention, where you see so many marvelous tricks that they begin to blend together in your mind. I know I'm going to receive mail from readers who feel I ignored important things, and they'll be right.

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Created: August 17, 1999
Revised: August 17, 1999

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