3D Animation Workshop: Lesson 26: Animation Tools--MAX vs. Lightwave
Lesson 26 - Animation Tools--MAX vs. Lightwave - Part 1
The last few lessons have compared Lightwave 3D and 3D Studio MAX in very general ways. These two applications were chosen for comparison, it may be remembered, because they are the two fully professional-level modeling and animation packages running on the Windows NT operating system that are within the conceivable price parameters of those seriously interested in entering 3D graphics. Softimage (although also available for Windows NT) is, for all its enormous power, far too expensive to be seriously considered by most of the audience reading this column. It is also such a fabulously demanding application that it should not be considered entry-level even for those who can afford it and the hardware it necessarily requires.
Let's close out this comparison series with a focus on animation. But before we do, a word is necessary about the arrival of the latest version of MAX---MAX 2--being released at this very moment.
Kinetix, the division of Autodesk that produces 3D Studio MAX is certainly pushing the rollout of the upgraded version very hard. Being a full-time instructor at a college, and teaching MAX as part of my work, I have been as interested as anyone in the new version and have had a significant opportunity to familiarize myself with the pre-release beta version. My early impression is that this upgrade is very important, indeed much more important than the rather confusing promotional materials from Kinetix would lead one to believe. Kinetix is stressing "OVER 1,000 NEW Features and Enhancements," and no doubt the list of new features is very extensive. But the real importance of the new version seems rather to lie in a few very significant structural modifications that bring the application much closer to the level of Softimage. MAX will undoubtedly become a much more important application as the result of these developments. I'll be working with the new release intensely over the next few weeks, and will offer at least a couple of columns summarizing my impressions when I can get them formulated. This lesson will stick to the current version of MAX, which will be fine for our present purposes.
The previous couple of lessons have focused on modeling tools--in large part because Lightwave and MAX differ so strikingly in their approach to modeling. But they differ quite as much on the animation side of the equation.
The most obvious difference is structural. Lightwave is comprised of two applications that are very closely joined. Lightwave Modeler is only a modeling application. Its output is a model file.
The following is a screen shot of the Lightwave Modeler interface.
The model files created in Lightwave Modeler must then be loaded into its sibling application, Lightwave Layout, for rendering and animation. "Loaded" is a somewhat misleading term. When a scene file is created in Lightwave Layout, the model files are not included themselves, but rather only referenced. Thus a typical animated scene file created in Layout contains information about lights, camera, and the location of objects, and also keyframe information about how these elements change over time. The scene file does not, however, contain the models themselves, but only paths to the model files, which are located elsewhere.
Here is a screen shot of the Lightwave Layout interface with the model now loaded and ready for lighting, rendering and animation.
MAX differs from Lightwave in this regard in a most fundamental way.
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Created: October 28, 1997
Revised: October 28, 1997