Student Experiences with LightWave 3D

West Notts Interactive Media Students Reflect on their LightWave Experiences

Posted: Wed 16 Sep 2015

By Claudia Kienzle

With the guidance of  instructor Anthony Hall, we connect with current and former students of Vision West Notthinghamshire College (affectionately called West Notts) about learning LightWave in a matter of weeks and applying  their skills to a variety of projects. This is a showcase of some of the top students at West Notts and a little background on the projects they created using LightWave 3D software.

Sarah Pilkington, Age 22

I worked on projects for both the NHS and JCB. The NHS render of the hospital and outside area models took me close to eight hours to create and texture. The additional models, including the cars and people, took around 15 hours. When I was creating the people, I used a few plugins, such as Simplify Mesh, which reduces the polys.

Another plug-in I used in Layout was DP Sunsky, which allows you to transform and position objects more fluently. It acts like dome lighting that casts soft shadows. Finally, I placed a few lights in the scene, such as Point, Area and Spotlights with volumetric lighting.

The JCB project was a task we were given by JCB. They provided the tractor and we had to create a scene for it. I chose to create a scientific lab to depict a masculine scene, as the tractor has to be seen as a strong and masculine object. The scene was rendered with a few area lights, luxigons (from the ceiling lights) and dome lights that cover the whole scene on 5% intensity.

The smoke was created using HyperVoxels and animated from the glass particle boxes. The animation was fairly easy to create but the lighting was a challenge for me since there are a lot of lights and the scene is set indoors. I had to find a way to give the lights a luminous effect without overdoing it.

 Conor Jay Rodgers, Age 17

As part of an assessable project, I had to create a robot that would implement into a game adaptation of a movie. I had 2 hours per week, over a 12-week period to complete the project.

In the production process, the tool I used the most was the drag tool because it allowed me to move the points of the geometric shapes to form the structure of the robot.

The next project I worked on was to create a microscopic cell over the course of three hours. The thing I enjoyed the most was editing the preset textures within surface editor to give my cell model a realistic look.  

 Patrick Ryder, Age 19

I recently used LightWave 3D to create an animated advert for a sports company. I used a Low Polygon style to create a landscape in which the sports equipment will be shown and used. I used LightWave’s built-in weight maps and displacement maps to create the shapes of the land mass, followed by the poly reduction tool to create the unique low poly look. This scene took approximately 16 hours create and light, not including the animation.

I also used LightWave on a quick project designed to reinforce our understanding of basic modeling, lighting and texturing techniques after the summer holidays. It took four hours to complete. I used the Boolean tool to create cut-outs of large sections of the scene and to get some of the mass out the edges of the books before creating UV maps for them.

Matthew Higginbottom, Age 26

I’m a new student to LightWave and so the program was a little daunting for me at first. But after a few tutorials and online videos, I found the interface easy-to-use, perhaps because the animation and modeling are split into two distinct applications: Modeler and Layout.

I recently used LightWave on a project for a company based in Nottingham called ‘Fuzzy Frog’. This took a few months to complete as we were learning the program from scratch, while simultaneously learning various other programs that complimented it and that helped in post-production.

I found animation features like the Scene Editor’s “Dope Sheet” very helpful in visualizing and structuring an animation. When it came to designing a background, instead of instancing an object, I decided to use Fiber FX. This was great as it allowed me to populate a scene rather quickly with grass, trees and shrubs—especially useful when close to a deadline—but I can also see its potential for character modeling.

We were also tasked with creating a room filled with objects. I chose a dining room and populated it with a table cluttered with various items, such as coins, cups, a teapot, and watch. The presets came in very handy for this. The teapot, for example, was a bit of a challenge because it’s made of porcelain, which is notoriously difficult to replicate. But with the presets and the ‘Surface Editor’ it gave me a fighting chance at least.

My favorite feature so far is the ‘Lathe’ tool. It creates some rather beautiful objects in a short space of time. A very simple tool, but incredibly useful for constructing rounded objects such as wine bottles or glasses. What impressed me is the speed with which something that initially looks rather complicated, such as a wine glass, can be created with only a few lines and a click. 

 Wai Hung Tsang, age 24

(currently studying on a 90-credit level 3 course in Interactive Media)

For a recent assessable project that took two hours per week for 12 weeks, I created a mecha that would be part of a video game adaptation of a movie. During the production process I enjoyed using the match perspective tool and shadow-catcher node. These two tools allowed me to set a ground plane to the perspective of a 2D image background and apply a shadow to the perspective, corresponding to the original shadows of an image.

I was also given three hours to create an interpretation of microorganism. I chose the flu virus.  The best tool I used for this project was Place Mesh. It allowed me to create the ‘stems’ that come off the virus and then use that object to place around a sphere in the center. This gave the objects the desired bumpiness.

In both projects, I used the Instancing tool. Instancing lets me use existing models to duplicate them hundreds of times without increasing the polygon rate. With this tool, not only can I duplicate models multiple times, I can randomize the rotation, scale and offset of the instances. This is the most efficient way to create scenes, such as forests or landscapes, because you can easily create hundreds of objects from just one.