Getting Started With LightWave Cheaply

LightWave logoLightWave licence transfers and upgrades – quick, easy, cheap.

Thanks to NewTek’s liberal licence transfer and upgrade policies gettings started with LightWave for less than the standard retail is quite easy. If you’re lucky or patient you can get going with LightWave very cheaply. But first let me start by offering those of you that don’t know much about the program a few reasons why I think it is so great.

On why I think LightWave rocks

LightWave is a great 3D modelling, animation and rendering package, and it has quickly become my tool of choice. This is largely because it has solid modelling tools, a great easy to navigate interface, a fast and competent render engine, a strong community with lots of resources (such as tutorials and free plugins), and the program is relatively inexpensive when compared to the many of the other big name applications. Since releases 10, 11 and the recent LightWave 11.5 it seems clear that NewTek are dedicated to a bigger, better, stronger, faster program that is better able to deliver results and go toe-to-toe with its larger rivals (did I just write a marketing pitch?).

I haven’t even mentioned the rigid and soft body dynamics, particle system, amazing rigging tools such as Genoma, real-time Raytrace preview, instancing, and a powerful node based material editor. Oh, and I forgot to mention it is big with TV. See YouTube vid below for a taste.

But for me in particular I am very happy that NT seem to be indicating there will be some attention to updating their modelling tools in the coming releases. 11.5 brought in some of the time saving goodies that have been kicking around for some time in other apps. The addition of UV seam unwrapping in 11.5 is also a much needed addition to the program’s ancient mapping tools – as much as hardcore LW ninjas swear by their complex black magic. I hope to see more modelling and UV tools and enhancements included in 12.

…but let’s move onto why we’re really here

The final kicker that got me hooked into LightWave was that when it comes to upgrade policies and licence transfers NewTek is very accommodating. Far more so than many other software companies. I doubt this has much to do with the goodness of NewTek’s heart, as holy as it doubtlessly is, but just one small part of their strategy to earn some market share. Whatever the reasons for NT’s liberal policies, it is a definite win for starving artists, and hobbyists. Any version of LightWave, back as far as version 5, can be upgraded for the same price as it would cost to upgrade from 9, or 10. That’s right, you can use a copy of LW that’s almost 2 decades old to get started. Put this up against upgrade policies like what you get from E-on or Autodesk, or just about any software house out there and you can’t fail to appreciate just how great this deal is.

lightwave object fracture and bullet dynamics

All image elements created with LightWave 11.5

Finding a licence or copy for the right price

This is how I got my start with LightWave. I had a chance to pick up version 5 off eBay but given that I wanted to be able to use the program right out of the box without having to upgrade, I wasn’t willing to spend much on such an archaic copy that would have to be upgraded right away. Again, NewTek are very generous with their upgrade price, but it was more than I could afford it at the time. I tried to haggle with the seller, but what I was willing to pay probably just made them laugh. Eventually I stumbled upon a section in the LightWave forum that is actually dedicated to selling unwanted/disused licences. That’s right, not only does NewTek allow users to transfer licences, but they actively encourage it. So, from time-to-time you can pick up older versions of LW for very good prices.

The very same seller that had those LightWave 5 copies up on E-bay is still there trying to unload them. The current price is currently US $335 which, if you’re only looking for an upgrade pathway, is very reasonable. If, like me, you’re after something to use out of the box it would be best to stay clear unless you have a machine running DOS and Windows 95. Of course I can’t say with full confidence that these copies are free from molestation, and still have their dongles intact (yes they are actually called dongles), but the seller has a good customer approval rating. It also says in the product description that the boxes are unopened. Presumably this means unregistered too, which simplifies things. The final good omen is that 3 copies have sold and apparently no one has had cause to call shenanigans.

In best case scenario I’ve seen a version of 8.5 go for about $180 and copies of 9.5 go for just a hundred dollars or so more.

What do you actually need?

So, all you will need to get yourself up and running from an old copy of LightWave is a serial number, hardware lock and a dongle. The dongle is USB device, and LW’s primary anti-piracy protection, which users of some other expensive software packages will already be familiar with. As of 11.03, LightWave can be used either with or without a dongle, though for an older version you will still need one for the transfer/registration process. If a user is trying to sell a pre 11.03 version without a dongle be very suspicious. Contact NewTek if you have any questions about the policy on lost dongles.

If you’re buying a licence second-hand you will need the previous owner to start the transfer process (make sure you get the support ticked number), otherwise you might have trouble convincing NewTek that you obtained the copy without resorting to nefarious means. The process is easy enough. You won’t have to do a thing except set up an account at lightwave3d.com and send them an email to let them know who you are and what’s going on (the support number probably helps here).

If you’re looking to buy a copy just to get started without the worry of the cost of upgrades I wouldn’t suggest any version before 9.6. As someone who put in some good hours lurking silently in the forums and digging through the wiki it seems stability and rendering issues plague versions before this, particularly 7 and 8. Depending on your current system there could also be compatibility issues.

Protect yourself

While scams targeting LightWave hopefuls are quite uncommon, to the extent I’ve never heard of one, it doesn’t hurt to be cautious, especially if you’re going to be handing over hundreds of dollars for a current licence. I tend to fall into the overly cautions category, so I’ll offer up some of the important things I took into account when considering my options.

Deal with the licence holder

The first thing about buying a pre-registered version of LightWave is to make sure you are dealing directly with the licence holder, as only they can put in the transfer application to NewTek. Secondly, make sure you are getting a dongle with an version before 11.03.

Deal with reliable sources

Perhaps the most important thing to consider is finding someone you can put a reasonable amount of trust in. Like with any purchase, you should try to buy only from individuals and businesses of reputation. Do they have a good customer satisfaction rating, in the case of buying off somewhere like eBay or Amazon? In the case of buying in relation to a post in a forum (anywhere), make sure the poster has been a long time member and has a good number of posts under their belt.

Of course, you can have genuine new members, and genuine long-time users who have never posted to the forums, but knowing you are dealing with someone who is invested in the community, or their business is a good tick in the plus section of your pros and cons list.

Tip – don’t gift with PayPal

If you’re paying for anything through PayPal to an individual NEVER send the money as a gift unless you entirely trust the recipient will do as they agreed. It might save you and the recipient a few dollars, but compared to that 1 or 2 or 3 or more hundred dollars you just handed over, it is nothing. A gift is a gift, and it can be very hard to prove that an explicit deal was made, and also against the terms of service for using the gift service. If you are within PayPal’s terms of service then you will be offered a certain amount of buyer security. Of course, I am not an expert in the matters of consumer protection, so I would suggest you read PayPals terms of services if you have any questions.

Paying via other means I can’t recommend as I am not certain of what protection is available. lightwave sword model by jim willey

All elements modelled and textured in LightWave

Dongle drivers and hardware lock issues.

One issue I encountered while trying to get LightWave 9.6 up and running was a hardware lock error (yes the dongle was inserted) when trying to run the program. According to NewTek this is a known problem for Windows XP users. I run Win 7, so the problem has persisted for at least some of the users. If you encounter this it can most likely be remedied by going to Sentinel Drivers download page on Safenet’s website. You will be looking for the latest Sentinel Protection Installer – SuperPro being the specific drivers you need.

Students

If you’re a student why not save yourself all the hassle and probable extra expense and simply opt for a Student license, which is obtainable directly from the LightWave site for $195.

Bringing life to LightWave

Thanks to the PoserFusion plugin for LightWave (free for Poser Pro holders – 2014 plugin coming soon) you can import animated, posed, fully equipped characters from your Poser Runtime to LightWave. Need a crowd to mill about your architectural visualisation or Sci-fi and fantasy environments? Use Poser’s walk design tools to fully animate just this. PoserFusion makes it easy to bring any number of Poser animations to LightWave – quick and easy. Poser 10 and Pro 2014 full and upgrade are still on sale till the end of the month.

e-on Software’s The Plant Factory: Trees Your Way

The Plant Factory: next gen plant creation technologies goes anywhere

e-on’s new baby, The Plant Factory (TPF) is looking ready to rock the landscape and environment world, and could be up for an imminent release with June (2013) as the nominated release window. Exact date and price have not been publically finalised. TPF is a flexible, standalone go-anywhere application.  e-on states the program incorporates four fundamental design elements (to copy/past verbatim):

1. Multi-Platform/Multi-Discipline – operates across all CG platforms including real-time, streaming, and offline rendering systems and caters to the needs of CG, SFX, Landscaping, GeoDesign, Architecture and Gaming communities

2. Botanical Coherency – allows the creation of more botanically accurate plant appearances and behaviours

3. Precise Control – users can create plants of any desired shape, appearance, and behaviour using simple building blocks

4. Massive Populations – building on e-on’s leadership in EcoSystems™ to create landscapes containing millions of plants

All roads lead to trees

TPF has three distinct but interconnected methods for users to sink their teeth into and flora-craft to their hearts content. Any user should find one of the three methods (or a combination of any) to suits their current skills, needs, or whim.

1. Manually paint the shape of the plant – allows for quick creative flare

2. Assemble ready-made components – easiest of the trio – like connecting Lego

3. Construct everything from scratch, using a graph of nodes – the most flexible but might scare those unused to the increasingly popular node based method of working











The Plant Factory is capable of easily creating a wide variety of plant types from mushrooms to willows and palm trees, and even many things that are not remotely plant related.

TPF automatically rigs, textures (including displacement), uvmaps, and animates plants (swaying in gentle breeze to bending and twisting in storm conditions). TPF creations can be exported, for use in just about any 3D program, in many of the popular mesh formats as mesh or vertices cloud. Vue users will experience tighter integration with TPF than users of other software packages, with features like dynamic LOD for scaling detail to resolution, editing within Vue plant editor, and seamless integration with EcoSystem technology to create landscapes populated by hundreds of thousands of unique plants.

Rendering for compositing

As if all these tools weren’t cool enough, TPF comes loaded with an integrated compositing focused render engine which automatically generates and saves colour, alpha, and depth images. It supports  G-Buffer, and extensive multi-pass rendering down to the per asset and per material levels asset with the convenience of grouping into a multi-layer PSD.

The Plant Factory is exciting!

Personally, I’m excited …but I doubt I will green enough to grab a copy on launch day. With e-on’s penchant for personal learning editions (PLE), I do have hope I will be able to get my hands on a mostly functional version of the program.

TPF Story Developments

Pre-Release
Pre-Release II – e-on relaxes feature restrictions


DAZ Studio 4.6 Upgrade and Huge Sales


DAZ Studio 4 - Create 3D Art for Free
Upgrade to DAZ Studio 4.5 today

I’ve let writing about the DAZ Studio 4.6 upgrade slip a bit longer than I would have liked. Instead of writing or working on any number of other relatively pressing projects I’ve been spending time getting my blog to play nice with Google and attempting to squeeze a little more speed out of my WordPress configuration while making as few drastic changes as possible (no one likes a slow site), but let me not get distracted with the technicalities of self hosted blogging.

So, back to the matter at hand. DAZ 3D have just launched DAZ Studio 4.6 (still free), and what a beauty of a point release it is. For sometime the team at DAZ has been working on implementing a host of new features into DAZ Studio, with features like Pixar’s game changing OpenSubdiv having kept beta testers entertained for some time now.

DAZ Studio 4.6 features Highlights

  1. Subsurface Shader base by Age of Armour (will take a bit of experimentation to get realistic human SSS)
  2. CMS updated to Valentina 5, apparently fixing crashes (esp for Mac users)
  3. Updated 3Delight render engine to 10.0.125 (not the most current, but lots of goodies since last update)
  4. Support for TriAx to TriAx AutoFit
  5. Support for OpenSubdiv subdivision algorithms; Catmark, Bilinear, Loop; adds support for edge and/or vertex weights/creasing
  6. Support for Ptex (no UV unwrapping/seams!)
  7. Support for independent UV set selection on Geometry Shells
  8. Support for Gamma Correction
  9. Support for Surface Selection Sets
  10. Spot Render to  new window (handy for fixing up those bits you don’t like in an otherwise good render)
  11. Support for Hierarchical Pose Presets
  12. Improvements to various CCT tools/actions.

Undoubtedly these are great advancements for Studio. Just taking a look at Ptex and OpenSubdiv in action, if you don’t already have a good idea of what they are, you can glimpse the huge possibilities for rapid and experimental content creation and customisation. The base for Studio 5 has been put down, and I really can’t wait to see what they have planned. DS has come a long, long way since its first release back in 2005. See the DAZ Studio 4.6 announcement thread for more details and all the gossip.

DAZ Studio 4.6 compatibility and plugins

I’ve heard some anecdotal accounts that 4.6 is having some issues with Windows 8, but is working well on many previous Windows versions, and is even reportedly working well on OSX, which is great news for users that have been having a streak of compatibility issues with DAZ 3D programs.

As there were no changes to the SDK all plugins should be working as normal, and I’ve heard of no major incompatibilities.

Sneak Peek Weekend – Platinum Club For Everyone

To keep the action going DAZ 3D have thrown open the Platinum Club to all who come to grace the store. The Sneak Peek Weekend sale has big savings in the continuing tradition of DAZ 3D’s Store.  So, that means $1.99 items for everyone, access to the value catalogue, 30% off DAZ Originals, and 30% discounts on annual Platinum Club memberships. For those of us that are already PC members the deal is rounded off with a 30% discount on Premier Artist products, on top of 46% off selected items such as:

Luxus

Luxus

Garibaldi Express Hair System For DAZ Studio

Garibaldi Express Hair System

Look At My Hair

Look At My Hair

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Genesis Generation X2

 

 


Still don’t have DAZ Studio? Get it now.

Hopefully I’ll have some time to test out some of the new features and have something more substantial on the features specifically, but until then happy renderings.

Poser 10 and Poser Pro 2014 Coming May 21, 2013

Poser Pro 2014 and Poser 10 impending release

Poser Pro 2014 box art

Poser Pro 2014

Did this take anyone else by surprise? Sure, I’m not too involved in the Poser camp, but still no emails in my inbox, and then all of a sudden – Poser Pro 2014 coming out in two week! And damn do some of these features look grand.I could regurgitate feature list in full, but honestly I don’t fully understand them as I’m quite new to things like weight maps and rigging figures and conforming props. So! I’ll just point out the ones I found interesting and leave the rest of you curious types to check out the full feature break down

Highlights:

The new Pro only features are few, but for content creators they will undoubtedly be a big selling point. The new Fitting Room features tools to interactively fit clothing and props to Poser figures using various neat tools including painting selections so you can quickly modify exactly what and where you want. See the ‘tube video below for a gander at the tools in operation. Also cool is the ability to copy full body and partial morphs from figure to figure.

Other than this the average punter won’t get much from 2014 Pro that won’t be available to P10 users. These new features available for both 10 and Pro are some very strong additions, and coupled with 10’s lack of 64-bit support Pro 2012 users still have some very good incentives to make the jump.

New 10/Pro features:

  • Pixar’s OpenSubdiv finally brings subdivision to Poser no more blocky props and figures in those close-up renders
  • Rendering speed improvements when raytracing nuf said
  • Bullet Physics supporting both rigid and soft, and includes dynamic strand based hair.Are we going to see a port of “Look At My Hair” to Poser? Maybe similar easy to use styling tools that could take advantage of the new dynamics – that would be very cool.
  • Comic book preview mode in Open GL
  • 9 new human and cartoon figures
  • Magnets and deformers with weight maps + paint tools
  • Interactive Raytrace Preview – these things are so handy. Editing materials and fine tuning lighting is so much easier when you can see high quality realtime updates
  • OpenGL speed optimisationalso good :)