> Hello all:
> Well I'm ready to take the plunge in 3D animation. I'm pretty well sold
> on Lightwave as a tool for extending my multimedia development services.
> I do have a few questions however that maybe some of the more experienced
> members of this NG can assist me with.
> 1: Would it be fair to assume that I'll need about a year (500 - 1000
> hours) to get up to speed with Lightwave? (I'm very experienced in many
> areas of multimedia development, but not 3D animation)
You won't need that much time just to learn LightWave's features, but
you will need considerable practice to apply the correct features to a
particular animation problem or project. You will also want to learn how
to use a digital compositing program like After Effects, as well as a
NLE program like Premiere or Razor Pro.
> 2: I understand version 5.0 is the latest release. If I came across a
> deal for the previous version at a good price (don't really know what a
> good price is) would this be worthwhile, or is the newer version that
> much better?
Get 5.0. The metanurbs implementation alone is worth the extra cost
(really great for making organic objects using a clay metaphor). Plus,
you get built-in OpenGL previews in both Modeler and Layout.
> 3: I am currently running a P-90 with Win-95, 32 megs of Ram, a Diamond
> Stealth card and an Intel SVR pro. Is this enough, or what would you
> recommend for starters? BTW: I am "thinking" about switching to NT at
> some time. Are there any advantages or disadvantages to running Lightwave
> on NT over W-95?
The above is bare minimum, and you will run into very long render times
for even moderately complex scenes because LW will have to page to your
hard drive constantly. Soft shadows, large textures, and lots of lights
will exacerbate the problem.
If you can, get as much RAM as you can afford first, along with the
largest L2 cache your computer will support. You should also look into
purchasing a video card with at least 4meg of display RAM (DRAM or
VRAM). #9 Imagine 128 Series II is a good choice. Eventually, get
yourself into a Pentium Pro 200 (Alpha chips are the absolute fastest,
but you'll have to buy a different version of LW if you decide to make
NT is generally more robust than 95 and is slightly faster for 3D stuff
because of its full 32-bit architecture and optimized OpenGL
implementation. There is no disadvantage to running LW in NT as opposed
to 95, except that you can't play games in NT.
> 4: I am planning on investing my time in the learning curve for the first
> nine months to a year, afterwhich I will need a PVR board (not quite
> sure what this does over a conventional capture/output board) for output.
> What should I be looking for when I do step up and buy the board. I
> assume, I can work without it and simply save my work as .avi's -- is
> this correct?
The PVR is a conventional capture/output board, but it supports high
data rates because it has its own SCSI-II controller, so data bypasses
the motherboard entirely. You get realtime Betacam SP quality M-JPEG
video for half of what you'd pay for a Targa 2000 or Media 100 system.
The capture/output board combination is around $2500 new.
You can save your work as .avi's, but you'll be better off going to a
format like .TGA, which supports 8-bit alpha channels and allows for
interrupted renders. The PVR will work with .TGA, .IFF, .BMP. .SGI, and
a host of other formats. AVI's have to be translated to the PVR format
via a software codec that ships with the board.
> 5: Can anyone recommend a dealer for Lightwave in Ontario Canada, or
> upstate New York? -- (Buffalo area)
B&H Photo Video in NYC has everything you need at fairly good prices.
Safe Harbor in Waukesha, WI also is nice.
> 6: I understand that LW 5.0 lists for $1495.00 USD. Is there a better
> street price?
$1100 is the going street price. If you can find 4.0 somewhere for a
decent price, the upgrade to 5.0 is $495 or thereabouts.
> 7: Are there any other things I should know before diving into this? (eg:
> Oh yeah, you'll also need to spend $X on this and this, plus take out a
> second mortgage on your dog)
Think carefully about how you're going to get your animations to tape.
The PVR is a step in the right direction, but you will eventually notice
M-JPEG artifacts in particularly rigorous applications of moving blends
and sharply contrasting images. For the absolute highest quality, make
arrangements with a local post house that has a digital disk recorder
(uncompressed D1). You can get your stuff to them via 8mm tape in the
Abekas format or some places take magneto-optical. You may eventually
want to spring for a DPS Hollywood D1 disk recorder - about $9000 for
five minutes of uncompressed recording time at 8-bit per pixel, about
two minutes at 10-bit per pixel.
You'll need a serious backup system to protect your data. DLT is good,
as is 8mm exabyte. You can use Jaz cartridges, but these fill up pretty
quickly with info if you're saving out whole animations, textures, etc.
2.6gig MO is also good.
You'll also want a good NTSC production monitor to get your colors right
and to preview things before they go to clients. Hot reds, bleeding,
illegal blacks, and so on will all show up. Don't use a standard TV
because its comb/notch filters will try to make your image look as good
as possible. You want to see your animations in all their * beauty
or ugliness. Panasonic and Sony make excellent 13" monitors (don't get
anything bigger unless you plan to sit at least six feet from it). Try
Full Compass Systems for good prices, or you can go back to B&H Photo
Video. Full Compass usually has some of these monitors as overstock or
demos, with full warranties, at excellent prices.
Good luck, and feel free to email if you have more questions!