Price When Reviewed: 499 . 259 . 299
Pros: Complete production-ready 3D animation package. Improved rendering, n-gon support in subdivision surfaces.
Cons: Workflow relies on plug-ins. No simple way to do object-instancing in Layout. Modeler doesn’t support OpenGL 2.0.
LightWave 3D has a long heritage in the computer graphics industry, and this latest release makes some important core improvements. The program’s popularity has continued to grow in recent years, despite the suggestion from long-time users that it has started to show its age over the last few versions.
Recent releases may prove to be a transitional period for the company. After the software’s original development team left NewTek at version 7.5 to set up Luxology, the company had to pick up the pieces to get LightWave 8 out. Now, version 9 seems to underpin NewTek’s commitment to ongoing development and modernization of LightWave.
The two major changes in this release are a new rendering engine, and the inclusion of an improved subdivision surfaces algorithm. The latter uses the Catmull-Clark scheme, developed by Edwin Catmull of Pixar and computer scientist Jim Clark.
This algorithm finally adds support for n-gons – bringing LightWave in line with other major players in the 3D market.