View Full Version : A:M -v- LW : Move or not?

01 January 2003, 11:02 PM
I have a question for the current A:M users and those who have used
A:M and moved on to other packages.

I've been an active A:M user for about four years now and have been
pretty happy on the whole.

I have an opportunity to consider investing some money in moving to a
different package.

There is a special now to get LW7.5 for $1000.

Reviews seem to be good, features look good. Admittedly some of the
things they tout as new features have been around in A:M for awhile.

The question is: If I move to LW am I going to regret it?

Most of my focus is on modeling and creating still scenes and learning
to texture, arrange, and light the scenes. Though I hope to focus
more on the animation as time goes on. And A:M crashing has never
been *huge* for me, it's been something I've become almost numb to. I
almost never curse out loud when it happens now.

As I think about it, the Pros and Cons break down something like this
for considering the move:

- More stable
- More "credibility" in the industry
- More successes using the tools ("Jimmy Neutron", etc)
- More support (larger company with dedicated support resources)
- More models (directly import industry standard formats)
- More nifty toys like Sasquatch, Messiah

- $1000 for a more expensive set of crayons? When I'm not
exactly hitting the limits on what I have.
- Time and materials invested in A:M
- Tools like Simbiont and The SetupMachine for A:M
- Material libraries (thanks Eggington!)
- More money for nifty toys like Sasquatch

- Modeling: Splines versus polys/nurbs/whatever

Agruments I that feel like they'd be persuasive:
- "Wait'll you try and do X in LW! You'll wish you were back in
- "Wait'll Hash releases 10.5 and *then* you'll see some
hair/shag/fur that's *really* keen.

I guess I'd love to hear the opinions of people like the Eggington
folks who have spent lots of time and energy with both and can compare
and contrast in a way that is meaningful to me.

Especially in the modeling arena. Take creating something simple like
a wineglass. In A:M, I lay out some splines and lathe and *boom*
instant wineglass. Ten seconds tops. I looked at a Wings3D tutorial
(since it was mentioned, I think, that Joe Cosman at Eggington uses
it) and the steps to do something so trivial were pretty amazing.
Contrariwise, I cannot create a decent looking face from splines to
save my butt (spline lines, creases, too round or too sharp, etc) but
I don't have a good sense whether that's just my own inexpertise or

If anyone has such opinions to offer, I'd appreciate reading them

BTW, is there a legal way to try out LW (like the Maya demo)? Perhaps
I'd try that and just decide I wasn't willing to pay the penalty in
learning a new app.


An Anonymous A:M'er
(I created a different account for this, because frankly, if I stay
with A:M, I don't want to risk community backlash)

01 January 2003, 11:09 PM
I'd like to point out that Simbiont is already available for LW and that The SetUp Machine is coming soon for LW.

Check out Anzovin's site for info on TSM-LW.

You can also e-mail and request the Lightwave Discovery Edition CD. It's their equivalent to Maya PLE and XSI Experience.

01 January 2003, 11:16 PM
I have not regretted moving to LW. You do have to realize that it will take some adjusting no matter what you go to from A:M. It almost hamstrings your brain working in A:M and then jumping to poly instead of spline based. As far as a package they have 8.0 on the way in the future and the plug-ins, support and everything is up there with the rest of them. I would like to know MAYA but its alot more intricate than LW, but that will be in time. Hope this helps.

01 January 2003, 12:35 AM
For stills, I am learning, and really liking ZBrush. It's a completely different workflow than a traditional 3D app, so it's not for everyone. And it doesn't do animation. It can create great art quickly. It is not a 2D only, app, as you can build and texture 3D models, but at that point, the similarity to traditional 3D apps ends, at least until you hit the render button. Then it can produce renders that are very nice.

I bought ZBrush, because I'm like you. I wanted to create some great-looking stills. It's 'possible' in A:M, but it's so much faster and easier to do the same things in ZBrush, with the provision that you are equally experienced in both applications.

I'm also in the same boat as you, in desiring to do animation as well. I'm considering LW, Messiah, or a combination of the two. In my case, I actually own LW 5.0, so I'd be dealing with the upgrade pricing.

I would be interested to read what others have to add to this discussion.

01 January 2003, 01:51 AM
This is a question I asked myself last year. I think when we weigh everything, it's pretty close. I finally chose A:M because there seemed to be too great a need to buy additional plug-ins for LW. But if I had to do it all over again, I might chose LW. Might.

01 January 2003, 03:23 AM
There is a demo version of LW. I think you can do pretty much everything, but can only save up to 450 polys. Check the downloads section at Newtek.

Cheers, Graham

01 January 2003, 05:36 AM
Well, I am a former "A:M" user who went to Lightwave. I wouldn't go back if they gave A:M away for free. Once you experience near crashlessness, you'll be convinced. I know "a" version of "A:M" is stable, but it is not the latest version.

As far as modelling goes, I hated splines and was more than happy to move to polys and Sub-ds. Creating characters is a snap using the popular box-modelling techniques, and you get the same results as you would if you used splines.

The lightwave community is outstanding and NewTek is a great company (that can take criticism too). You won't get thrown off the NewTek forum for being critical. LOL.

As far as character animation is concerned, LW does it differently. You will have to throw out your A:M thinking and learn the way LW works. Once you do, I think you will be pleasantly suprised as I was.

LW has a non-liner animation tool called the "Motion Mixer". Endomorphs are outstanding for facial animation and lip sync. Ther only area's I felt the need to purchase an add-on were in the "Rigging" area where I got Auto Character Setup 4 ($99) and the "Dopesheet" area where I got KeyTrak ($99).

LW is feature rich and still has one of the best rendering engines around.


01 January 2003, 06:02 AM
No offense but comparing LW to AM is a insult to LW. You get sasquatch light/skytracer/motion mixer/hypervoxels/ and real modeling tools and so much more. You get a raytracer that is miles away from AM. You get a real community with real support.

AM is what it is.. a good "first" program.

People build a whole career around LW/Maya/Max/XSI. You can not really compare. I am not trying to sound like a elitest honestly. Any program that bases the modeling around splines only has serious problems from the start. Having used AM for 3 months when I first started out... well :shrug: it is great for a taste

As a Maya user, I still try to put in as much freetime as I can with LW.

Start here if you have not -

and then here :

and do a gut check and decide what you want

Good Luck

01 January 2003, 06:42 AM
If you know a friend in collange or university you could always get them to buy it for you for about $100 more than A:M :) (just joking, you'd probably get in trouble over that one)

01 January 2003, 06:59 AM
My biggest concern (which I'll research a lot more when the time comes to upgrade either AM or switch out completely) is the animating capability of LW, and just how realistic would it be in LW on whatever computer I'll own in a year to do what I'm currently doing now in AM: Trying to animate a film with sets that, have >50,000 patches sometimes in a set with all props and characters loaded. (Sometimes just to make a matte, but not always if the camerea is going to track). So far this has worked OK in AM on my two rigs- if similarly detailed (but poly) models in LW would cause my workflow to crawl on whatever hardware I can afford to work on, then I might stick with AM.

Realistically, it's not like I'm pushing the technical side of ANY package out there- hell, I'll be lucky if I can just animate my characters with any degree of polish beyond "rank amateur." But we'll see... it;ll be a year or so off from now. Who knows, I may have a real job by then?:shrug:

01 January 2003, 08:58 AM
Hey Dearmad

I think when it comes to spending $ people should be honest. This is a small investment. I have no intention or will on putting down AM. I just think people should be realistic.

You are only as good as what you model. When I hear someone claim AMs animation tools are the best "period"I have to

Good high quality animation tools are

by far the best of any package. Of course you pay for it. A more honest answer would be "AM has the easiest animation tools" and that is a far cry from the best. I would like to see how well AM could animate a maya Stahlberg model.

I think it really depends on what goal you have. If you have a real drive to work in a studio making a good living then IMO that narrows it down to 4 programs. Lightwave/Max/Maya/XSI.. That is not to say you "can not" get a job with something else. It will just be harder and in the end you will most like have to learn something else anyway. If you are just doing it for a hobby then frankly wings/blender etc are a free easy way to go.

With Maya/XSI/Houdini/Max all having learning editions..

Prices continue to drop. LW right now is a steal. Maya complete at 2k is a steal frankly. I would mention Cinema in the top but at $2400 for R8 studio they are cutting their throat IMHO. The modeling tools have a long way to go before they should be charging 2400. The industry is just not (again, IMHO) going to support that price/performance in the long run as the top 4 battle. Then again Maxon is on the right track so who know's?

Most use Lightwave with a animation package. You do not have to but it cuts a lot of work out.

You can have the best animation tools in the world but if the model is just a box it will still only be a "moving box"....

Just my 2

01 January 2003, 04:53 PM

I think I don't understand the gist of your reply. For me the price isn't so much the issue ($399 for lightwave 7.5- I'm a University student), but the time I would need to spend at this point to pull my current project into another platform. That's out of the question. So I thought I was being honest. Price for my hardware is a little bit of an issue at this time, but certainly won't be in two years when I'm employed in my chosen field- and that's where I voiced my concern- if I would need something faster than my current two rigs to pull off any animation, then Id hesitate.

Yeah it is a small investment, but my time isn't. I'm mortal. This is a reason a lot of people cite for not working with AM- but for me (v8.5p+ mind you) since I'm already up to speed with the toolset, AM saves me time, even with the occassional crash figured in to the equation. I can model a character suitable for my vision of my film in about two days, texture her in one and rig her in an hour. When I started using AM (moved there from POVray and POLYRAY) it took me something like a week to just model a character. It's the learning curve I want to be more careful about this next time I switch platforms.

Which is one of the reasons I feel betrayed by Hash as I subscribed to the mailing list long before I bought the software, and while I know the list was company owned, I didn't realize the true extent of the censoring until I was a *bought-in* member of the community...

As to the XSI feature list (animation/character set-up part)- color me blind, but I see nothing in that list that can't be done with AM v8.5 via some tool, though there are a few items in that list I'm not sure I grok and sound a little hypish- as if they won't be as simple as they portray them to be.:shrug:

01 January 2003, 06:36 PM
I switched from A:M to Lightwave a while back. Bear in mind that I am a hobbyist... At the time I posted my impressions to the Newtek forums (

Here we are 6 or 7 months later and I can offer a few more insights from my perspective.

First let me address your pro's and con's:

- More stable - I would agree - but only if you disable the hub.
- More "credibility" in the industry - this is "iffy." Talent is talent - the app is almsot secondary.
- More successes using the tools ("Jimmy Neutron", etc) - There has been some comaprable stuff done in Hash though not on that scale or that publicly known.
- More support (larger company with dedicated support resources) - absolutely true, but more importantly the community for LW is stellar. I have yet to find a more helpful community(though Zbrush's is close!)
- More models (directly import industry standard formats) - yep - and Hash has made it clear that they have no intention of supporting any other import/export other then 3ds.
- More nifty toys like Sasquatch, Messiah - True, and their price tags too (as you noted) ;)

- $1000 for a more expensive set of crayons? When I'm not
exactly hitting the limits on what I have. - consider what you have spent on A:M already and subscription fees. I would bet it's at least half that and it is still unstable and half the features do not work.
- Time and materials invested in A:M - *Very* valid. But I think you will find a tremendous amount of web and community resources to help ease the transition. Lostpencil has some of the greatest tutorial CD's I have ever seen at incredibly cheap prices.
- Tools like Simbiont and The SetupMachine for A:M - both also available now or near future for LW - and many others for LW due to the availability of Lscript.
- Material libraries (thanks Eggington!) - True, and William may convert them one day! Other material libraries are out there as well. Although Eggington's are beautiful!
- More money for nifty toys like Sasquatch - True - but they are not all needed. In fact, I would say LW + ACS4 or The Setup Machine for LW and you are golden for a long while.

There is no denying that Hash's animation tools are incredibly easy to use. However, when you are ready to go that route you can pick up Messiah:Animate and have pretty much everything Hash has and then some.

I think the amount of plugins for LW is an advantage, not a disadvantage. If you need them - they are there for you. The only one that costs money that I would consider invaluable at this time (with my limited experience) is ACS4. G2 is nice, but not something you have to have day 1 coming from A:M. Sasquatch is nice but you can do wonders with Sas Lite which you get with LW 7.5 and various others that are amazing (like Eki's plug pak) but not something you need to buy the day you open you LW box.

Bottom line - Yes, there will be a learning curve and yes you will pull your hair out at times during the transition - but once you have the LW paradigm in your brain I doubt you will ever regret the move.

I started with A:M at v4 maintained a current subscription to up until v9.5. I was always hopeful that the next release would be stable and all the advertised features would work as advertised...and it never happened. I finally gave up on them and, honestly, wish I had done so sooner.

Rabid pitbull
01 January 2003, 07:05 PM
i was a a:m user, now i am a lw user. the difference between the two apps is incredible. it is the easiest rpogram i have ever used. once you try a app with more than one modeling tool you will be amazed at the time it takes to create objects compared to a:m.

now, i wasn't as irritated by a:m as many are, i didn't have as many crashes as some, but it was still what it is. basic. not that that is bad, because it is true that the animation tools are powerful in a:m, i would have to say that it is all availeable in lw too. except without crashing, creases, or other limits. Lightwave is really an amazing package, but for the $$ it should be. if you got extra money and want more then definetly go for LW. you will not regret it.

as a side note there are many many free and usefull plugins constantly being created, as well as many pay plugins. most of the pay plugins can be done without. but if you want them there they are.

good luck

01 January 2003, 07:23 PM
Originally posted by Rabid pitbull

as a side note there are many many free and usefull plugins constantly being created, as well as many pay plugins. most of the pay plugins can be done without. but if you want them there they are.

good luck

When the plugins are released, are they Windows versions only? Or are LW plugins platform independant?

01 January 2003, 07:36 PM
don't quote me on this but I *believe* that most or all Lscript plugins are cross platform but that "program" plugins are not.

I have definitely seen "PC Only" or "Mac Only" plugins - so there are compatibility issues.

This is actually probably a better question for the LW user forum - where the "hardcore" LWavers can answer.

Rabid pitbull
01 January 2003, 07:45 PM
ok hardcore lightwaver here...

yes it is true that lscript plugins are cross platform and abundant. the big commercial plugins are also cross platform. now the free plugins and small comercial ones are often pc only, but i will add that many popular free plugins get pc/mac status.
go to ( to see the available plugins for LW.

01 January 2003, 08:08 PM
i made the move from aM to Lw a couple of years ago. took some time to get used to but i LOVE it :) believe me, the amount of free stuff for lightwave out there is huge. you wont miss the crashes, you wont miss the splines, LWs sub-d modelling is fantastic(check out my modelling videos.) You want materials, free models, free textures, free help, its out there. if you're interested in LW's resources and want to scope the scene, check out these sites

for the tutorial motherloads:

for the most active discussions:

*here on cgtalk

for all your scripts and pugins:

for other cool stuff

01 January 2003, 08:24 PM
Thanks for the info, guys. I'll check those sites out.

01 January 2003, 08:29 PM
cool, hey JIM, i love your work. been an inspiration to me since my AM days :) thanks.

01 January 2003, 09:23 PM
Originally posted by UserDelta
cool, hey JIM, i love your work. been an inspiration to me since my AM days :) thanks.

Hey, I just downloaded your Spinshift modeling videos. Nice! I haven't seen all of them yet, but I will. What do you think of Sasq lite? Have you used it?

And THANKS! by the way.

01 January 2003, 09:48 PM
What codec are these, microsaft's video player isn't playing them?

01 January 2003, 10:49 PM
Originally posted by Natess44
What codec are these, microsaft's video player isn't playing them?

I just checked one and it is cinepak. :shrug:

01 January 2003, 12:55 AM
the videos are cinepak, sorry cant help you much. havent had many complaints about the codec, it even works in quicktime here :)

JIM, heres something i used saslite on(just messing around with it actually). its not finished but the saslite part is as good as it gets. notice how there arent any shodows. i would have to color in the scalp or make it more dense to cover the area, but i could also use the guide splines to cast some simple blurry shadows. you get the idea.

it's usable, but options are very limited compared to the full version, which has controls over everything, combing directions, map controlled density, amazing control of tons of stuff.
saslite is ok for fur and grass. for dynamics you will have to use LW's motion designer or some other methoods which are ok. and also i tried rendering some blond hairs... not suggested, looks bad, strange banding in the rendering. could be just me but then there arent many controls :)
overall... its 50/50

01 January 2003, 03:41 AM

The hair looks very good to me. Saslite has guide hairs? That's cool. I would rather avoid the map color controls which are too unintuitive for me. I like to see what I am actually doing when I do it. The lack of shadows is dissappointing, so I'll have to check out the full Sasquatch price and controls. Thanks!

01 January 2003, 03:47 AM
saslite will use guide splines for long hair but the splines are part of lw toolset and not saslite :) but the best thing about sas and saslite is its Super fast to render.

CGTalk Moderation
01 January 2006, 07:00 AM
This thread has been automatically closed as it remained inactive for 12 months. If you wish to continue the discussion, please create a new thread in the appropriate forum.