View Full Version : To Teach in Lightwave

10 October 2004, 06:29 PM
Hello all! I'm a staff person at a liberal arts college in Massachusetts, USA ( I help students and professors out with digital video editing, media requests, and recording on various mediums. Every year during christmas break this college holds fun and interesting classes for people in the community to give and take. I'm going to teach a class on 3D computer graphics and animation, and the program we'll be using is Lightwave 8.

I'm actually a 3ds max user (on my home computer, about 4 years of experience), but since we've acquired licenses for Lightwave at this college about 5 months ago (and because our media labs are macintosh computers) I've learned a good deal about the program.

My question is: does anyone have some good suggestions for what I should teach people to do in Lightwave? Is there anything that is easier or harder to do in Lightwave than 3ds max? I was going to show students how to do a logo animation, because it's relatively easy and they can get experience with all sorts of interesting things. Also, if there's time left (these classes only last a week) maybe some sort of scene or environment. Any ideas?
Thanks in advance!

10 October 2004, 01:35 PM

I teach Lightwave in NJ and can offer suggestions.

I'd say, if you only have a week to teach this, you'd probably do well with a simple logo animation. That way, they can learn to model a simple object, save it, maybe give it texture or at least color, and animate it. They can at least go home at the end of the week with a quicktime movie of their name flying around a computer screen.

I hope that helps,


10 October 2004, 02:02 PM

Were abouts in NJ, do you teach LW?

10 October 2004, 02:31 PM
I can't really comment about 3dsmax, however I teach LW at our university in the uk (although we now also have Maya).
Many of the students prefer the modelling toolset in LW as it is easier to pick up and appears more direct. In Maya there is this node-based dependency graph architecture, with construction history (much like the modifier stack in 3ds Max) LW has no construction history, so I guess you either like that or hate it. Personally I can model something in LW much faster than in Maya, but I guess that comes down to the number of hours I have sat in front of it.

Get them to do some subpatch modelling, and show them how easy it is to model with the symmetry on. Maybe they could model a snowman, and then have it skate across some ice. that way you can have some simple path animation without worrying too much about rigging.
You can also do some simple texturing, bump mapping and nice reflections. Hey how about some particle snow? Set a gradient in the background, and place in a couple of lights?

The main thing is to emphasise the artistry and the aesthetic involved with using LW for the tool that it is. All of these skills are transferrable between packages, and even between pencils!

Good luck!


10 October 2004, 03:59 PM
Thanks for all your suggestions! I'll definitely do the logo animation, but maybe I'll combine it with your suggestions sinbad and have snow falling around it and some icy reflections at the bottom of the screen. That snowman idea is great, it'll be cool if there's still time left after the logo animations.

Trying to show the artistic possibilities of computer graphics is one thing I'm definitely going to try to get across in my class. At the beginning of each class i'm going to do a sort of gallery showing of different graphics and animations, including a lot from this website. It'll be good to get people inspired, and hopefully I'll transfer some of my love of CG to everyone.

Thanks for the help!

10 October 2004, 05:08 PM

10 October 2004, 12:04 AM
i also teach 3d in a college in nottingham u.k and have run intro to lightwave courses where they built a dinosaur model in a day, a head model in 2 days..not perfect but got them into the swing of things as lightwave is easy to get on with.

i stayed mostly in modeler for the short course 10 sessions eacch of 6 hours long over 10 weeks...with that i persuaded about 8 to go out and buy lightwave.

note i also teach 3ds max as well as give room for xsi/wings3d/silo and cinema.

steve g

11 November 2004, 10:49 PM

I'm at Gibbs for the moment picking up a few classes. It's a good gig, and has benefits.


11 November 2004, 11:58 PM
I agree. Ive had students model and rig simple characters in less then a day.
Its exciting for them to be able to see something like a character come to life in a short period of time.:)

11 November 2004, 01:19 AM

That's great that you've taught people to model and rig in less than a day. I've done that for a few extremely motivated students. Lightwave is a very easy program once you get over the learning curve, and easy to rig a character once you learn how to create IK chains.

Most of the students that come through the program here have never seen a 3D application. It's amazing how far some of them get with it after some instruction.


11 November 2004, 03:16 AM
A lot of it has to do with finding things they can relate with to get the point across :)

11 November 2004, 04:50 AM

You're right. I'm often coming up with crazy analogies to describe the cartesian coordinate system to them, as well as many other facets of the program. Once they can understand what they are looking at, most seem to grasp it. I love it when someone gets so frustrated that they storm out of the classroom, only to return the next week with some kickin modeling.

Teaching this is a trip, especially seeing what they come up with.



11 November 2004, 08:41 PM
Kev, that's what it'll be like for me - most likely a bunch of people who have never seen a 3d application before! Once I teach the logo animation with a few extras added, should I just set people loose and see what they come up with? It's tough with only 10 hours total time in the class. 2 hours a day for 5 days isn't a lot unfortunately, especially with mostly non graphically-oriented people. I'm amazed you can teach people to model a character and rig it in a day!! Maybe I'll do that for students, showing them each step along the way... so much for me to think about!

I've been playing around with Layout a lot today - is volumetric lighting really that slow? Even on a dual 2.0 GHz G5 mac it takes a long time to render even a single frame. Anyone know any tricks to speed it up?

11 November 2004, 09:22 PM
Ugh, volumetric lighting and flying logos, eww. Seriously though you can speed up volumetric shadows by using shadow maped spotlights.

11 November 2004, 10:08 PM

I think given the amount of time you have to teach this, a logo is not a bad thing to do. Contrary to the, "ugh....another flying logo" thought, it will teach people the basics. If you would like to try to teah modeling, rigging, and animating in a week, go for it, but from experience, you may not get many people who understand it. Especially if they are "off the street". At least with a logo, most, if not all of your students will get it and feel satisfied with the class. They can then go off on their own and learn more about this if they like it.

That's my opinion based on some experience teaching this. I hope that helps.


11 November 2004, 10:16 PM
I have found that if you relate the character rigging to things they have seen it makes sense. You can even use real puppets to demonstrate. Forward Kinematics is the way stop motion puppets are generally animationed. Muppets or Marionettes use Inverse kinematics.
I also have found that you can teach LWs coord system by having people hold out their left hands to demonstrate LWs left hand coord system...each finger points to the postive direction of an axis. :)
I once taught a class of about 12 supervisors from Disneys Imagineering group. Most were between 40 - 60 yrs old. Most had never done any 3D and caught on quickly.
Ive also taught kids 3D as part of drop out recovery/at risk program. Even kids labeled learning disabled did extremely well. :)

11 November 2004, 10:49 PM

You wrote: "I also have found that you can teach LWs coord system by having people hold out their left hands to demonstrate LWs left hand coord system...each finger points to the postive direction of an axis. :)"

That's a good idea that I will try tonight on my students. Some are having trouble with the coordinate system, and I think that will help.



11 November 2004, 01:03 AM
Wow, I never even thought about teaching something as basic as figuring out the coordinate system! You guys are right though, with newbies like this I'll have to start there just to get people into the right mindset. I need to go way back to my own days of just beginning this stuff!

uncon, believe me, I thought the same thing (ugh!) when I was figuring out what to teach. In the end though, I agree with kev, it's the easiest way to give people the basics of 3d graphics without bogging them down and confusing them. Plus, a logo animation (hopefully) will render pretty quickly so people will get to see results right away. I'll try the shadow-mapped spotlights, thanks :)

SplineGod, I just thought of a great idea that might be easier than having people build and rig a whole character. Maybe I'll just create one myself that's mostly done and use it as a template - then everyone could load it up and play around with it to see how it works. I love your suggestion about bringing in a puppet!

Thank you to everyone! I've received more than I thought I would about this, makes me feel great to be in the computer graphics community.

11 November 2004, 06:30 AM
Part of teaching is getting students motivated. Ive found that its sometimes best to introduce them to the fun, sexy stuff first then get into some more basic stuff. Attitude plays a big role in learning :)

11 November 2004, 08:38 AM
I do teach LW too since version 5. is hard for me to explain what can be teach, coz you can teach tons of interesting beginner stuff in LW8... myself i did design my own syllabus long time ago ... if you wan a reference, you can PM me ...


11 November 2004, 10:25 AM
I teach LW 7.5 here in NZ on Mac's half time each week (the rest I work at a 3D studio using LW8).

LightWave is great for teaching - What works I think is that the GUI is a lot simpler to pick up then most app's - There's less technical panels, buttons, icons for newbies to take in which makes life easier on most students.

Occasionally we run week long short courses - This covers basic stuff (simple modelling, simple animation (that old bouncy ball stuff) and ends with modelling a simple subd character (box and bevel job) and basic rig (extremely simple) - And then the students animate the character doing something like jumping, walking, or just waving at the camera... Its amazing what some people can do with no previous knowledge of 3D in a week.

I also ran an 11 hour short course as well a few years back for LW6 where I used flying Logo's as the theme. It was nice and simple and gave everyone a good 3D 'taster' of modelling, texturing, animating, rendering and compositing (BG and Logo together) in LightWave.

The theme I used was a logo for a 'mountaineering club'. This meant I could use that good old SubD/Displacement technique to create a cool mountain backdrop - Which is great to show people how quickly they can create something that looks cool (and introduce some nice texturing stuff like gradients at a simple level). It also meant they got to play with Skytracer for environments as well.

If people see themselves creating cool stuff, its a big buzz and a real motivator!

11 November 2004, 09:46 AM
I think if you have a whole day, then possibly you can get a character rigged, however the student will need to be highly motivated as others have said.
I find that the attention span of a student starts to deteriorate badly after 3 solid hours of absorbing abstract 3d terms, especially if you throw the graph editor at them in the same session. I like to keep things simple, the way our brains work is a trickle trickle of information and eventually you remember (at least mine does that). I get to a point where I cant take any more, and need to face it another day.
I don't see the point of getting students to rig a character in a day, when they won't remember anything about it afterwards (IK what??). I'd rather have them remember some simple concepts, and hit them with the more advanced stuff later. Just my opinion.


11 November 2004, 03:47 PM
sinbad - ya that's what I was thinking. I've only got them 2 hours each day for one week, definitely not enough time to do too much - especially if I'm also going to do a small showcase of different 3d graphics in movies, games, etc. each day. I'm just trying to get people excited about computer graphics, and hopefully they'll walk away with something interesting to show their friends and family. It'd be great to teach a real class doing this stuff, I'll have to look into doing something like that here at this college. There's a HUGE art department here, but almost nothing that has to do with computer graphics. Maybe my little class in January will help get things moving :)

11 November 2004, 03:10 AM
I think that whatever you teach students in a day no matter what is forgotten unless two things are done:
1. They practice it over and over
2. They are excited about the information. That makes a huge difference between what goes into long or short term memory.

When you say rigging it also depends on what you mean exactly. Rigging is anything you do to make something animatable. A rig can be extremely simple, teach the concept and be easy to setup. That means that you can have them construct a robot like character from supplied parts, parent things together in a proper heirarchy and apply IK where needed.

The way I break things up is to spend time showing and explaining then have them do it. I then go to the next part and have them do it. People get bored and frustrated if they dont see some measureable amount of success. This makes it easier.

Ill also say that most any subjects presented for 3 hrs straight will fry anyones brain. Any concept IMO that is new to someone is an advanced concept. The best way Ive found IMO is to break things down into their most simple forms. A leg can be quickly built from 3 parts, parented together and IK applied. That scene can then be saved. They can then do a load from scene twice to get two rigged legs into another simple scene. Ive done it many many times with great success. :)

11 November 2004, 01:24 PM
I teach a basic animation class at a local community college and at the high school level and I've found that starting with some basic animation techniques is helpful. The first animation project they do is a bouncing ball exercise.
Making a ball bounce is an easy way to get students hooked on animating because a ball bouncing is very recognizable to the students.
Not only that but, teaching them how to bounce a ball also gives you an opportunity to introduce them to some of the 12 Principles of Animation right away:

Slow In/Slow Out
Squash and Stretch
Follow Through/Overlap

That's half of the principles used in a single simple exercise. A little exposure to just those principles will make a logo animation that much sweeter for them.

11 November 2004, 10:26 PM
I also teach LW at a local community college AND at high school, in addition to doing free-lance work. I agree with Locutus and some of the others. Start simple, get the students hooked, and then proceed into more advanced techniques. I find alot of great lesson ideas on line AND from talking with other animators.

I've been teaching LW for 8 years and always begin with Logos. First they all do the same logo, then they all choose their own (ownership of a project is important). I NEVER show them all the models that come with LW... always make them use their imagination to create their own models. Then we move onto texturing and image mapping, with a bit of Photoshop, and do a simple storytelling project with lots of objects in a room.

Maybe someday I'll get around to updating my class website, but there are somethings you can see there now...

Good Luck!

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