Thursday, March 16th, 2017 Posted by Jim Thacker

NewTek previews LightWave Next

Originally posted on 9 December 2016. Scroll down for updates.

NewTek has posted a new sneak peek at the forthcoming release of LightWave, its 3D modelling and animation software, showing support for volumetric effects in OpenVDB format.

In the videos accompanying the blog post – the firm’s first in over six months – the release is referred to as ‘LightWave Next’.

Previously in sneak peeks: new PBR render engine, updates to hair and modelling workflows
We first began writing about NewTek’s previews of the next version of LightWave back in October 2015, when the company launched a dedicated development blog for that purpose.

Over the next six months, NewTek posted a steady stream of updates, which you can see in chronological order in our original story.

Features revealed so far include a new physically based render engine, updates to LightWave’s render buffer and FiberFX hair system, and a new 3ds Max-style modifier stack.

The release will also better synchronise Modeler and Layout, LightWave’s two component applications, with the addition of a new Layout Camera View inside Modeler.

The update also introduces an underlying unified geometry system, which NewTek says will make it possible to add modelling tools directly to Layout itself in subsequent releases.

The first public update in half a year
Then, in March this year, updates stopped: the latest blog post is NewTek’s first in over six months.

Given the hiatus – and because in the original article, we were referring to the release as ‘LightWave 2016’, which it seems increasingly unlikely to be – we’ve split this sneak peek out into its own story.

In the new demo videos, NewTek refers to the release as ‘LightWave Next’, which is what we’ll call it here, although it’s not clear if that’s the official title, or simply a general description.

A Houdini simulation imported into LightWave Next for rendering in the OpenVDB file format. It’s described as an ‘explosion’, but as there’s no real emissivity, it might be better to think of it as coloured smoke.

New in LightWave Next: support for volumetrics in OpenVDB format
The substance of the latest announcement isn’t unexpected: NewTek had already announced that the update included a new volumetrics system, and OpenVDB is the industry standard for volumetric data.

It does bring LightWave into line with most other major 3D applications, so it will be welcome news to anyone trying to run the software in a mixed pipeline, or share data with non-LightWave facilities.

But in some ways, the most notable thing about the blog post is simply that NewTek is talking publicly about LightWave Next again. We’ll update this story if the firm releases any further sneak peeks.

Read more about OpenVDB support in LightWave Next on NewTek’s development blog

An animated tribute to Go Nagai’s Mazinger Z, created by LightWave 3D content and character technology lead Lino Grandi using the new non-photorealistic rendering features due in the next release of LightWave.

Updated 16 March 2017: NewTek has posted another sneak peek: this time of LightWave Next’s new cel-shading options. (The blog post is dated 28 February, but it didn’t actually go live until last week.)

When creating non-photorealistic renders, edge detection has been “vastly improved”, and a new Global Edge Thickness Multiplier makes it possible to adjust the outlining effect for all the objects in a shot at once.

Cel Shading and Edge settings can also now “easily be multi-edited for different surfaces and meshes, even if nodes are used”.

However, the key change is arguably that the cel-shading shown in the OpenGL preview is now an accurate representation of the final result, not an approximation, which should speed up look dev considerably.

Read more about the new cel-shading options in LightWave next on NewTek’s development blog