• Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint
Share this Page URL



New Riders Publishing is a leader in the graphics publishing industry. Its Inside series of books has been at the forefront of the creative community. Inside books live on just about all artists’ desks as permanent residents. Usually the Inside series of books is updated when software is upgraded, but Inside LightWave 7 is a completely new book. NewTek, Inc., maker of LightWave 3D, has again revamped one of the 3D industry’s most popular and powerful animation programs. Because of that, it is only fitting that this book has been thoroughly updated to provide the most complete, up-to-date information.

Getting the Most from Inside LightWave 7

Inside LightWave 7 is designed differently from other books on the market. Each chapter is tuned to provide key information about a specific topic. The project-based chapters in Parts II, “A Project-Based Approach to Creating and Building 3D Scenes,” and Part III, “A Project-Approach to Animating Scenes,” teach you how to create entire animations, not just portions of them. Because of this approach, you’ll model, texture, light, and animate—all within one chapter! However, taking the book as a whole from start to finish will allow you to make the most of the information it provides.

About the Creation of This Book

Inside LightWave 7 was written on a Dell Dimension XPS 600, Pentium III. The system has 512MB of RAM and a 32MB NVidia GeForce 256 video card. This book’s tutorials were tested on this system, as well as on a Macintosh G4 733Mhz, with 512MB of RAM and a 32MB GeForce video card. The authors worked hard to ensure that Macintosh LightWave users are just as informed as the Windows users, and you’ll see this reflected in Tips and Notes throughout the book. And although with LightWave 3D version 7 very few differences exist between the platforms, we’ve made note of any variances that you should be aware of.

Use the LightWave 7 Software with This Book

Due to a complete rewrite of the LightWave architecture from versions previous to 6.0, and the additions and changes made to version 7, it is recommend that you have the most current version of the LightWave software so that you can take full advantage of the information within these pages. You will not be able to apply the tutorials in this book to LightWave versions prior to 6.0.

In addition, you should check the NewTek web site (www.newtek.com and www.lightwave3d.com) for any current updates. Also be sure to check www.insidelightwave.com for the latest updates and links.

Read the LightWave Manuals

Inside LightWave 7 is designed for use along with the manual that was supplied with your LightWave software from NewTek. Be sure to read through the NewTek-provided manual before working through this book. When you’re comfortable with the information there, dive into this book to become the best LightWave animator on your block. Although previous LightWave books, such as LightWave Power Guide, Inside LightWave 3D 5.5, and Inside LightWave [6], have a tremendous amount of information, the changes in LightWave 7 make the information in this book unique. The Inside LightWave series from New Riders always brings you the best, and will continue to do so in the years to come! Don’t be fooled by imitations!

To get the most out of this book, it is strongly recommended that you study your software manuals and keep them nearby for quick reference.

Start at the Beginning of the Book

Unless you are somewhat familiar with LightWave 6 and/or 6.5, it is important for you to start at the beginning of this book and not skip directly to a project chapter. Although it’s tempting to dive right in, LightWave 7 has a new structure and there are changes throughout LightWave’s Modeler and Layout modules that you should be familiar with before you begin. Do yourself a favor and read about these changes.

Experiment with the Software

One of the best things you can do as an animator learning LightWave is to experiment. This is stressed throughout this book. However, consider this a warning: Experimentation takes you to places within the program that you might not normally go. That’s why this book provides many screenshots of the topic at hand. It is important to have not only a comprehensive understanding of techniques, but also a visual reference as well.

Practice Your Craft

There is no substitute for practicing your craft. If you happen to be driving down the road and notice an interesting tree, practice re-creating it in LightWave. If you decide that you’d love to visualize your dream house, build it in LightWave. Don’t wait until you have a paid project or assignment to work in LightWave. All the extra time you spend modeling and animating will help give you that extra edge.

Use Other Books with This Book

No single book can deliver it all, although we’ll try! And because no single book has all the answers, it’s to your advantage to use additional and, sometimes, more specific references. For example, character animation is a driving force for many of the changes within this program, as well as the reason many of you got into 3D animation in the first place. Inside LightWave 7 covers as much of this topic as possible, but a great number of other resources also are available to you. Some of these resources include books on facial muscles, character design, motion and body studies, figure drawing, and lighting. Books and magazines, along with the Internet, can provide much information; study as much as you can. The Internet also provides many downloadable animations that you can study and/or use as references, or from which you can simply gain ideas. Be sure to visit www.danablan.com for updates and information on this book, and visit www.insidelightwave.com to help you learn. Remember, knowledge is power!

Checking Out the Organization of This Book

Inside LightWave 7 is organized into five parts.

Part I, “Getting Started with LightWave 7,” is an overview of the new features and functions of LightWave 7. This includes 3D terminology, methodology (such as the HUB and Spreadsheet Scene Manager, and Motion Mixer), and other important information about the many changes in the new version. This section introduces you to creating 3D objects, the Layout and Modeler interfaces, and customizable buttons.

Part II, “A Project-Based Approach to Creating and Building 3D Scenes,” takes you through the real-world process of creating animations. The chapters in this section bring you through the necessary steps in LightWave 7’s modeling functions and features, surfacing techniques, lighting, and cameras.

Part III, “A Project-Based Approach to Animating Scenes,” shows you how to push your LightWave software even further through the use of LightWave 7’s Expression engine, and advanced Inverse Kinematics (IK). You’ll learn compositing techniques and work through a real-world project, creating broadcast-style graphics.

Part IV, “Animation Post and Effects,” is dedicated to helping you output your animations and apply post-processing effects to them. In this section, you add to the information you need to create a killer demo reel, from content information, length, and many other important considerations. Also you learn about getting your animation to videotape, getting it to the web, and working with various recording formats.

Part V, “Appendixes,” includes information on plug-ins and on some necessary LightWave-related information on the Internet.

Identifying the Conventions Used in This Book

Throughout this book, you’ll come across Warnings, Tips, and Notes. These areas are marked with a small NewTek LightWave icon, similar to the one that appears on your desktop when you install LightWave. Any control area that opens is referred to as a panel. Fields where you enter values are referred to as requesters, and buttons that have a small upside-down triangle are referred to as drop-down menus. That’s simple enough, isn’t it?

There’s one more thing to remember—always work with the Caps Lock key off! Throughout this book, you will come across many keyboard shortcuts, and there are significant differences between a lowercase shortcut and an uppercase shortcut. The essential and immediate shortcuts used regularly are assigned to lowercase keys, while less-used commands are assigned to uppercase keys. What’s important to remember is that some of the uppercase commands are more complex functions, and if you’re not prepared to execute such a command, you might cause problems for yourself.

System Considerations

LightWave 7 is definitely a more robust program than any previous version of LightWave. Because of this, a good strong system is your best bet for enjoying the full benefits of the program. However, LightWave still takes fewer resources to run effectively than its competing applications. As always, the more RAM (system memory) you have, the better. Inside LightWave 7 recommends that you have at least 256MB of RAM in your system. This is the bare minimum! This greatly enhances your workflow. Larger memory requirements are needed because computations in LightWave 7 are done with floating-point accuracy rather than integers. What this means for you is better renders! Please note that you should consult your LightWave 3D Reference Guides supplied by NewTek for specific requirements.

If you are planning to buy a new system or upgrade your existing one, you can get help through a number of resources. The Internet is your best bet for finding the most up- to-date pricing, power, and performance information. You also can find recommended systems through 3D workstation vendors such as Dell or Hewlett-Packard. The graphics and computer industry is constantly changing, and if the price you find for a system is too high, just wait a few months and the costs will most likely decrease. However, you should not be too frugal when upgrading or purchasing a system. Be smart, but don’t wait thinking that a new and faster processor will be out soon. There will always be a faster, cheaper, and stronger system. Inevitably, you could be waiting forever! Buy a good system, and start making great animations now.

Video Memory

Don’t think that because you have the latest processor on the market, or the fastest Mac available, you’ll have the best computer for animation. Processing power is only one part of the computing process when it comes to creating with LightWave. Your system memory—in this case, 256MB of RAM or more—is very important to a productive system. However, your video memory is just as important.

Given LightWave 7’s expansive interface enhancements, you should have a good OpenGL-compatible video card with at least 32MB of RAM. LightWave’s Modeler and Layout allow great control over viewports, shading, and interface color, all of which will rely heavily on your video memory. Not only can you model in full color in a perspective window, but you also can see your texture maps, UV maps, specularity, transparency, reflections, lights, and more, all in real time. Take advantage of the ridiculously inexpensive video cards available today and upgrade your system. Some recommended cards are the GeForce, Oxygen VX1, and Matrox G400 Max. These cards from NVidia are among those that give you the best bang for the buck. Also Oxygen VX1 from 3D Labs or the Matrox G400 Max, both of which are designed for 3D graphics and cost less than $300, work very well.

The Matrox G400 and the more expensive Evans & Sutherland Tornado support dual monitors from one computer. What this means is that you can have two monitors side by side with your information panels open on one, while you work on the other. Or set up one monitor with Modeler and the other with Layout; the choice is yours. Other programs such as Adobe Photoshop, In-Sync’s Speed Razor, Adobe Final Cut Pro, and NewTek’s Aura2 can definitely benefit from a dual display. With a strong video card, you can move, rotate, and select with instant feedback and no delays. Primarily, you’ll want a video card that is fully OpenGL compliant. Also video cards change often, so be sure to check with NewTek about any new card recommendations the company might have.

Dual Monitors

LightWave 7’s non-modal panels might not mean much to the single-monitor user. But if you have installed a video card such as a Matrox G400 Max or better, you can take full advantage of the non-modal feature. A non-modal panel is one that can remain open while you work. For example, if you’ve ever worked in Adobe Photoshop, you can leave certain panels, such as the Brush panel, open so that you can choose different brush styles as you go. With a dual-monitor setup, you can open any of LightWave 7’s panels and move them over to your second monitor, leaving the primary monitor full screen for optimal visibility. As you work, the panels are updated in real time. Ask your computer dealer for more information on dual-monitor setups.


Windows 2000 supports multiple monitors natively, so you might not need to invest in an expensive video card to have dual display. For example, you can run one AGP card for the main monitor on your Windows 2000 system. Add a PCI card, install the driver, and Windows then will enable a button in the Display Settings panel to “Extend my desktop to this monitor.” Simple and very cool. Check with your system manufacturer and operating system developer for more details.

You also can set up dual monitors on your Macintosh system as well. Macs have been using dual-monitor setups for years, and it’s proven to be a great working environment for video editors, graphic artists, and animators alike.

Words to Work By

It wasn’t too long ago that most of you didn’t even know what 3D animation was all about. Now if you’re one of the lucky ones, it’s your hobby, or better, your livelihood. I’ve seen LightWave grow from a fun and cute little Amiga program to a rich, powerful, and robust animation package.

Like many of you, my background in video and photography has helped me excel with LightWave to create the types of images I couldn’t create in the real world. For others just starting out, you’ve come on board at a marvelous time.

LightWave 7 is for all of you—experienced and new users alike. This book was written to help you learn the nuances of LightWave 7, from its keyboard shortcuts to its powerful character animation and modeling tools, to its smart scene creation through the new nonlinear animation control of Motion Mixer and its scene management capabilities. But more importantly, you’ll gain a valuable resource for just about any project that comes across your desk with the information on these pages. Whether you are a continuing reader from my first four LightWave books, or are brand new to the game, welcome to Inside LightWave 7.

  • Creative Edge
  • Create BookmarkCreate Bookmark
  • Create Note or TagCreate Note or Tag
  • PrintPrint