Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Essential LightWave v9: The Fastest and Easiest Way to Master LightWave 3D

This is book contains some of the clearest explanations of Lightwave tools I have ever read. What makes this work as more than a reference (which it certainly will be for a good while) is that the tools or features are explained along with some genuine use cases for when you’d want to use such a capability. The example usages are well written and easily to visualize thanks to generous illustrations. Yes, they are small, but are well labeled.

I much prefer the Essential series (also own Essential Lightwave 8) for its concise descriptions and get-to-the-point examples. The information density here is excellent. Little if any fluff. Unlike the previous version, this one is divided into beginner, intermediate, and advanced sections which might help guide your reading. I found the section on projection mapping to be worth the purchase of the book alone. I’ve read the Lightwave PDFs, the Wordware Lightwave Texturing book as well as numerous help forums, and web sites and I’ve not once had UV mapping explained so well. The tutorial on how to build a UV map for a fighter jet goes through not only the unwrapping process but the types of maps you might want to try to make better textures. This type of pragmatic advice above and beyond the goals of the tutorial are some of the great hidden benefits to this book. Often tutorials will just go far enough to explain how to do something without much hinting as to why.

Take the discussion on sub-patching as another example in the Advanced Modeling section. I’ve worked with sub-patch modeling for years and was always curious as to how pros decided when to use it or not. As it turns out my way of thinking was pretty close to the contents, but it always helps to read someone else’s impressions. Basically this book made me go back to read some of the tools that I thought I already knew just to make sure I’m not missing something.

One thing that I had issues with is that some of the tutorials depend on plug-ins. At least in one case, the plug-in used was not included on the DVD and the link to it in the appendices was not working. I managed to find it using search engines after a while, but I’m not sure why all the used plug-ins weren’t included on the DVD. This problem was in reference to one of the video tutorials on the DVD (surfacing with weightmaps).

If you own the previous version there is repeated content, but not so much as to invalidate buying this version. Its a good 33% thicker and there’s much more to learn including a new section on stylized characters, character rigging, node editor, the aforementioned projections section, discussions of the new 9.x cameras, etc. I haven’t made it through the whole book yet but it looks like some of the old tutorials and examples have been expanded as well.

Finally, I like the fact that you can easily come back to a section describing some functionality and re-learn without having to read a whole chapter. Often I’m in the middle of a project and want to just remember how to use a tool. I can find that section and easily refresh my skills with this book.

Bottom line: If you’re anywhere near starting in on learning Lightwave you owe it to yourself to read this book. Do the examples. Watch the videos. Intermediate users can probably still benefit especially those coming back to Lightwave from an older version. I rank myself as an Advanced-Beginner (2 years Lightwave hobbiest).


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