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                        Lightwave5.0 Preview At NAB
  Bohus Blahut - Modern Filmmaker                

  "imitation is the sincerest form of copyright infringement"
©1996 Bohus M. Blahut


LightWave 5.0 Preview at NAB

  NewTek's booth attracted users from all computer platforms once again,
their demos often being six people deep.  NewTek employees and artists
demonstrated the award winning Video Toaster, the Video Flyer, and
LightWave for both PC and Amiga.  We will publish a full features list of
Amiga LightWave 5.0 as soon as we receive it. 

  NewTek is currently shipping LW 5.0 for PC, and promise to have an Amiga
version 30 days from now.  Though Amiga LW 4.0 came out only a few months
ago, the Kansas company is wasting no time getting Amiga LW 5.0 to market,
and promise reasonable upgrade fees.

  The following is by no means a complete list of the new and exciting
things planned for the Amiga 3D future, but they stand out as being
vehicles for more creativity than ever before.

  One of the most significant improvements of PC LightWave depends on the
PC's openGL architecture.  This allows for color previews in both Modeler
and Layout.   While not fully textured, these stand-ins are in the model's
basic color, and let Layout's lights to play off the models in real time. 
Moving lights has real-time effect on the illumination of the model.
Unfortunately this highly useful feature won't be making it to the Amiga,
due to current Amiga's lack of horsepower.   However all non-openGL
features will be present in both Amiga and PC versions.

  Modeler now features several NURB (Non-Uniform Rational B-spline) based
modeling techniques.  The demo I received was using a tool called "meta
NURB".   The best analog I can draw is to a lump of clay.  While "metaform"
allows the modeler to take rough and squared off shape and erode it in a
wind tunnel, metaNURBS allow you to start with a soft primitive shape, and
use the mouse to tug at it.  The demonstrator modeled the head of a bunny,
and a smooth hair dryer in seconds.  In the September 1995 issue of
LightWave Pro, Stuart Ferguson (programmer of Modeler) cautioned that NURBs
are simply a 3D package "buzzword", and NURBs would probably never make it
to LightWave.  I'm glad that he's changed his mind.  Now if only we could
get Layout's bones only to deform specific surfaces...

  Surfacing has always been limited to a single surface per surface name. 
Now, one may layer an unlimited number of surfaces on atop the other, all
on the same surface name.  The PC also features a surfacing preview bar
that lets you see the surface mapped onto a ball in the surfacing menu.
This gives you a "down and dirty" look at the actual surfacing and image
maps, and the openGL lets you see a single color preview in Layout.

  LightWave has also expanded exponentially its collection of Plug-Ins for
both Modeler and Layout.  Ori Furikawa (creator of FreeForm; a shareware
spline modeler for LightWave) has contributed an interesting plug in for
modeler that allows one to apply a surface in modeler, and also tile and
stretch a bitmap onto the face of your object.  All of this happens
interactively, using the mouse to move the surface around in real time.  No
more fussing around with figuring out the texture's center, and shifting it

  Another highly necessary plug in has finally arrived.  This allows you to
"train" an object to a behavior, and to get other objects to also use this
"training" For example: take a vehicle with four wheels, and rotate one of
them through 360 degrees.  Once this is done, you can set the other three
wheels to follow the first wheel, and get all four to execute turns, go in
reverse, etc.  The example that NewTek had pre-rendered was of six
termites, each with six legs.  The insects all walked toward the center of
the screen at varying rates, backed up, and moved on about their buggy
business.  Setting keyframes for all of this leg action in the past
would've served more as a Zen exercise in patience than effective
cinematography.  LightWave Pro featured an article and a plug-in of their
own that would calculate rotation of wheels on the ground so that the
wheels wouldn't appear to slip.  While a testimony to the innovation of
LightWave modelers out there, this plug in makes those calculations

  Many of the Plug-Ins invoke post-processing effects.  An example of this
type plug-in is the "glow" attribute in LW 4.0.  First LightWave renders
the scene, then searches out the portions of the picture that have glowing
activated.  Then LightWave's image processing takes over, "glowing" the
appropriate parts of the picture in a smooth bath of light.  The fact that
LightWave can communicate polygon location to in-built IP routines has
several important applications. 

  Theoretically, LW could call on an external facility to replace its
motion blur.   The current invocation of motion blur takes the trailing
edge of the object and appears to stamp it down multiple times.  More often
than not, the effect works, but is often quite visible in LW animations
I've seen.  Thought I'm unfamiliar with the programming difficulties that
this might entail, it would be nice if LW could call an actual blur
routine, or perhaps invoke ImageFx's smooth looking motion blur.

  Both Warner Brothers animator Rusty Mills and I found the "cell look"
plug-in to be amongst one of our favorites.  This renders out individual
frames, and through a post-processing technique makes each frame resemble a
hand drawn cell.  Many of the demos of that facility resembled Japanese
style animation.  This style also embraces animating to the 2's or 3's. 

  Current animation most often isn't rated at a full 30 cells per second,
but often every other frame or 3rd frame is created.  This is why classic
studio animation from the 40's i.e.  Bugs Bunny, Disney cartoons, look so
lavish and move so fluidly.   In those days, animation ran at a strict 30
fps.  Today, only Disney, and some Warner's, features that kind of

  It's obviously less expensive to have artists creating only every few
frames.  This "limited" animation style was pioneered by the animation
sweatshops of Hannah Barbera.  Their slogan being, "if a scene doesn't fit
under the crack of the head animator's door, it's too long.  Japanese
animators were able to embrace limited animation as a style instead of a
limitation.  The upshot of this is that if you are creating animation to
emulate the look of Japanese "mango" animation, you only need to render
every frames using LightWave's "frame step" window in the render menu.

  This preview of Amiga LightWave 5.0 should whet the appetite of even the
most seasoned 3D animator.  Many of the cyclic animation features rival
those of the Microsoft-owned package: softImage.  It is to NewTek's credit
that they continue to produce software for their Toaster and Flyer user
base.  In coming issues, look for a complete review of LightWave 4.0, and
then the step up to LightWave 5.0, when available.

Bohus Blahut (BOH-hoosh BLAH-hoot)                 
Modern Filmmaker                                              312.465.5158
Panjandrum/Creative Strategy Director- DraCo Systems