Although SGI once ruled the roost in Hollywood for computer-generated imaging, the combination of fast chipsets, such as the MIPS and the Alpha, and Windows NT's raw 32-bit power is rapidly changing the pecking order. In the last year, a number of the world's leading 3D software packages have been ported to NT, and it has become an extremely cost-effective and powerful alternative. Exhibit A is NewTek's LightWave 3D. The program has been used on productions such as Babylon 5, Space: Above and Beyond, and Unsolved Mysteries. But the Hollywood resume isn't just window-dressing: It's helped LightWave to become a finely honed creative tool for professionals.

LightWave 3D
LightWave's straightforward, no-nonsense interface doesn't get in the artist's way, but ease of use doesn't hide it's real power either. Almost every feature in the program can be animated: Lights can brighten and change direction while objects morph and rotate and the camera sweeps and zooms in. Features such as inverse kinematics and bones allow you to create complex character motions with relative ease.

LightWave's output looks great and is very flexible. There are variable anti-aliasing options, and you can render images in resolutions ranging from postage stamp to billboard. You can also swap lenses just like you would on a real motion picture camera and add features such as adjustable motion blur. Want special effects? No problem! LightWave has a ton of effects capabilities built into the program, including fog, lens flares, and digital compositing. This last feature is particularly useful, as it lets you combine the 3D worlds you create with the real world you can capture with your camera. Want a spaceship to land in your backyard? LightWave can give you the footage, including having your 3D spaceship cast shadows on your real-world lawn.

LightWave's Modeler has enough object-creation tools to keep any 3D artist happy for years (see screen A). Objects can start as 3D primitives, such as boxes, balls, or cylinders, or you can use the 2D drawing and editing functions to make your shape and then lathe, extrude, or twist it. There are also functions for drawing splines or creating text with TrueType or PostScript fonts.

Please see sidebar "SoftImage Coming to NT".

LightWave 3D
System Requirements: Windows NT Workstation 3.51, Pentium or higher (Alpha preferred), 32MB or 64MB of RAM, Sufficient disk for animations
Contact:
NewTek * 913-228-8000
Prices:
Intel * $995
Alpha/MIPS * $1995