Volume: 24 Issue: 1 (January 2001)
A Closer Look at LightWave
A more specific comment relates to your statement in the section about OpenGL implementation that Light Wave allows users to see shadows. Actually, LightWave does not show shadows in the OpenGL viewports. However, there is a new popup viewport called VIPER that allows interaction with the aspects of the geometry that you are working on in real time.
You also refer to the Scene Editor as a new feature. But LightWave has always had a Scene Editor-since Version 1.0. What is new to LightWave 6 is the Graph Editor, which has the ability to to zoom in and out and give you a better view of long animations. It is the most robust underlying animation curve editor around.
With regard to Morph Gizmo, your discussion failed to mention that this was a tool that changed the way character facial animation is done. Any product you see on the market today that is doing facial animation has an implemented version of Morph Gizmo. In LightWave 6, the developers have built it in and made the implementation work interactively.
You also comment on the lack of logical operators in the Expressions editor. But LightWave does provide you with the ability to have logic operators and variables for a channel or multiple channels.
I agree that LightWave is a very popular package, and it does have a number of strengths, particularly in the area of rendering. This was mentioned in the article.
Regarding the competitive berth of Light Wave 6 in the professional animation market, it is my firm opinion that LightWave has lagged behind other competitive packages (Alias|Wavefront's Maya, for example) in a number of key areas-including expressions, animation editing, customization, and character animation, to name just a few.
In answer to your more specific comments: With such high-end OpenGL features as lens flares, fog, reflections, and textures supported directly in the viewports, I assumed that the Light Wave package also supported a simple feature such as shadows. My mistake.
With regard to the Scene Editor, I checked my old LightWave 5.0 documentation, and in that manual, this feature was called the Scene Panel. I must have mistaken the name change for a new feature. This is a big oversight and I apologize. My critique of the feature, however, still stands: I wish you could zoom in and out within that window the way you can in most other packages.
Regarding Morph Gizmo, Softimage and Alias had multi-target morphing years before LightWave did. Products such as Alias's ShapeShifter put a user-friendly interface on it back in 1996, long before Morph Gizmo was released with LightWave 5.5 in mid-1997.
I had always found Morph Gizmo clumsy, simply because you had to save intermediate files before the animation actually showed up in the viewports. More elegant interfaces for the same technology have always been available for other packages. In this case, LightWave needed to catch up. I'm glad it did, and I think I reported that in the article.
And last, concerning conditional statements in expressions, I tried very hard to find this specific functionality in the product, as I use these statements all the time in my production work. It is not addressed within the current documentation on expressions (pages 3.29 to 3.33 of the Motion manual). Nor were the vendor's tech support people. I spoke with familiar with it. This is an important feature that the company should let users know about.
The Insight image depicting a hurricane off the southeast coast of the United States that appeared on pg. 76 of the September 2000 issue was reversed. A corrected version appears below.
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