View Full Version : So you want to learn Lightwave.....Here are some thoughts.

06 June 2003, 06:07 PM
So you want to learn Lightwave. Outstanding. However there are somethings you should consider as you start down the path of adventure.

“Cuttin' the Mustard”

I'll be blunt. You may want to learn Lightwave (or any other 3D app) but some people just can't get it. Not everyone's brain is the the same. Many people cannot visualize in the third dimension. This is not a bad thing, unless of course you feel that it is your life calling to work in the world of 3D. Then you are going to have to train yourself to be able to do so. Can you view a 3-view drawing of something and in your “mind's eye” see the object? Can you rotate it around to view it however you like? If you cannot I would highly recommend working on trying to do so.

There is a lot of hard work ahead of you if you want to learn 3D. Now, I don't mean the type of 3D where people post a render of a poorly made object and state, “Look what I did in 10 minutes!” I am talking about wanting to make something that people will look at and be inspired. This will take an assload of work. Blood, sweat, and tears are ahead of you. You can buy all the books, all the videos, attend all the seminars, go to a 3D school, and buy online training you want; but if you are not willing to but you butt then give it up. Seriously. But, more on that later.

Can you see the difference between something somebody did on the web in 30 minutes and something from “Finding Nemo” or “xXx”? If you see some make a post that they did something in 30 minutes and are comparing it to something that was done in a feature film I hope you can see the difference between the two. If you can't, please do not waste your money. Take all the money you are going to spend and go on a nice tropical vacation. Seriously. You'll get a lot more out of that. Yea, the drinks are expensive but you'll have a hell of a lot more fun. People who do 3D for a living usually spend weeks, if not months, developing what ever they are working on. So don;t expect something to look great after 30 minutes (including render time!). If you do. Please stop now.

“HAL - Will I dream?”

Probably one of the best investments you can make towards your education is macing sure you have a decent workstation to work on. At the beginning of the learning process an older and slower machine may be acceptable, but (hopefully) as you learn it will become more of an issue. While there are ways to speed up system performance while in Modeler and Layout those will soon become even ineffective.

So, your first investment should be to make sure that you have a system that will allow you to grow as an artist. PC's are pretty cheap these days and Apple has some decently priced systems as well. While I have a preference for what system I like (PC or Mac) it is not my intention to tell you which way to go. It is up to you to talk to various users and decide which system best suits your needs.

“Software – It's not just for breakfast anymore!”

Purchasing the required software will, probably, be the largest investment you should make. There are demo versions available of Lightwave, The program itself will run in Demo mode if you do not have the proper authorization to use it. This is a very limited way to learn.

Pick up and old copy from someone in one of the forums. There are ways to get the software at a reasonable rate. Even if you have use an older revision that is not running in Demo mode it is better.

If buying from a third party on the web – buyer beware. There are a lot of nasty people out there trying to take your money.


Learning is great. It is very rewarding to learn something that you are very passionate about. However, it is going to have to come from within.

There are more ways to learn Lightwave these days than ever before. Books (some of which I have contributed too), videos, DVD's, seminars, online training, and schools. Everyone one is willing to take your money. Some of these can cost a fortune!

The best bang for you buck will be book and videos (including DVD's). They are, relatively speaking, cheaper than anything else available to you (speaking of things that cost you money – not the free tutorials on the Internet. The freebies are the best, hands down). The other methods are very costly in comparison. So if you choose those there should be some things you need to consider:

*How many of the people in attendance, that chose to do so to get training to enter the world of 3D as a profession, are currently working in the industry?

*How many of the ex-students have positive things to say about what they got out of the experience? How many say negative things?

*How many of the people that paid they money feel they got what they wanted?

*Is there example work presented by the people doing the training? Is it any good?

*Is there example work by people who have completed the courses? Is it any good?

*What kind of background does the instructors have?

*Have the instructors been doing it for a long time?

*Are the instructor(s) reputable?

*Ask other students, in public forums and in private, what they got out of the training and if they would recommend it. If the courseware is something that they felt was sub-par they may be reluctant to post it in a public forum – so make sure to include a way for them to get in touch with you privately.

*What other work(s) has the author(s) produced? If there are others, how are they? Chances are if you are purchasing a courseware from someone that has experience in creating instructional material in different form, and it is done well, then there is a very good chance you are getting a quality “product.”

*Price shop. If you can get something that is similar for a cheaper price then do it! Refer to the above statement(s) about quality though. Cheap does not mean better – it can mean worse – however cheaper may mean that the author(s) have a wider circulation or sell more product enabling them to reduce the cost.

Those are some serious questions you should ask yourself and others. But, you are thinking about spending some serious cash! Would you be better off taking the money spent on the course(s) and buying a kick-ass, state of the art, system, the software, and a boat load of books and still have money left over to feed yourself for a couple o' months!

“It's up from here!”

However you choose to learn keep one thing in mind.

When you get done with a book, video, seminar, or a full on school, it is all just the foundation in which you are starting. Hopefully, while you were learning you decided to work on a project to push your newly learned skills to their limits. What you have learned is nothing more than the starting point for you to really learn.

You need to keep going with these skills and push then in direction that you had not thought you would when you started this journey.

Learning 3D is not an easy task – all of the previously mentioned ways of learning do pretty much one thing – they help you learn the basics faster than if you were to lock yourself in a room for weeks on end.

So – get out there and learn. And please don't be lazy about it.

06 June 2003, 06:39 PM
Great opening story for those who do want to become 3d artists. All I have to add to what you have stated is that :If you can't sit on your rear and learn, learn, learn then go find something else to do.
I recently have gotten LW and coming from a Maya background, I find it fun to use. A first glance I was lost being this gui is totally different from any other 3d app I've used. Although, 29 hours later I am finding short cuts that I didn't read about in the docs. Great FINDS I might say. Thanks for your kinds words regarding the 3d world and all the applies to it.

Well time to go out side an smell the air for a chance..
Good Luck to ALL.:wavey: :thumbsup:

06 June 2003, 06:52 PM
3 tips i can give : practice, practice, and practice again !

But i can also point here that all the learning material is really bad for all the 3D apps. When you start to master a software everything seems so simple and obvious but then you wonder : why couldn't they give some cds full of videos for this price ???
Do i have to read a 500 pages book to learn this ?
There is still a lot to do in teaching 3D, 3D buzz has started greatly what i expected from the software companies themselves.

I like flash tutorials for beginners, i started flash this way and never needed to attend any flash course afterwards.
I also like some video games tutorials, the learning curve is a lot better when you don't really know you're learning.
I wish 3D softwares could have this kind of teaching. :shrug:

06 June 2003, 07:04 PM
JT -
if you want that 3D Buzz type learning - but even more, try my 3D Garage Signature Courseware. Go to for me details.


Dan Ablan
AGA Digital Studios, Inc.

06 June 2003, 07:05 PM
Excellent thread :applause:

06 June 2003, 07:27 PM
Is there example work presented by the people doing the training? Is it any good?

Yes definately do this! Get more than one example too. Don't base your judgement on a single reel like I did and find out that the reel was made from former students work who went of and recieved traning elsewhere. RESEARCH!! :banghead:

Another peice of advice I can give since I am getting ready to graduate in a few months is make connections. Get to know the people who are better than you and learn from them.

James Jacobs
06 June 2003, 09:37 PM
Great post Randy.

I couldn't agree with you more!


06 June 2003, 11:06 PM
All of the above....

TIME!!!! and lots of it. I have a wooden arse. It's one of the joys of 3D. No there is no superglue on my chair. I have fused to it over the learning period, and my hand is deformed in the shape of a mouse. I wouldn't have it any other way.

06 June 2003, 12:41 AM
Interesting thread but what brought it on? Is it in response to something?

06 June 2003, 01:12 AM
exactly...why all the preaching guys ? :shrug:

06 June 2003, 01:32 AM
Did not want to come across as if I was lecturing people. Sorry if I did.

What brought it on?

Well, when I was learning Lightwave the "community" was quite a bit smaller. And to some extent it still is. However I think as the user base has have the circling vultures.

That pretty much sums it up.

06 June 2003, 01:40 AM
Randys got some very good points. I know he started off in a technical field unrelated to 3D and Visual FX. I also started off in a technical field working on space based Lasers (Star Wars) and the 3D stuff was just a hobby. When you get bit by the 3D bug you just get caught up in the passion for it. Motivation and excitement about what youre doing is the key to learning. Ive known some people who literally sold their car to come out to Los Angeles to do this stuff. Ive been doing this for awhile but I also enjoy teaching it as well.
One other aspect about training and costs is that much of that is economy driven. People many times also just cant up and leave to go to school. Thats one of the reasons I started developing online courses years ago because its less expensive than an onsite school and the cost savings can be passed on to students and allow them to work around their own schedules.
You can take a look at my online courses and CDs
HERE ( and
I have well over an hour of samples you can view
HERE ( as well. :)

06 June 2003, 02:15 AM
Spline's got good points.

One reason I started training and became an authorized NewTek trainer back in 1996 was because like many of you, I was self taught. Six years leading up to starting to train others, I worked with LightWave from the ground up, version 1.0 (0.9 actually), in a broadcast environment here in Chicago. Working also at a LightWave dealership in town, I began teaching people how to use this amazing software in 1994 - This led to my column in Video Toaster User as "Dr. Toaster" and my column in the infamous "LightWave Pro" magazine. Working with users and readers has helped me focus on more every day topics, which I was able to incorporate into my first book, LightWave Power Guide. This book helped put LightWave on the map, as it was the first official internationally recognized publication for our favorite 3D software.

My work is not at a big post house, although I've worked on numerous projects for MTV, Fox TV, and so on. What I've found working in the "bread and butter" market is that there are many more uses to LightWave than just character animation. These uses are what pay the bills for 90% of the user base - and so, this is what my 3D Garage Signature Courseware concentrates on. The years of working on medical animations, product shots, logos, and industrial animations, and more have given way to a new understanding of how to approach and tackle projects - which is exactly the style and tone of the 3D Garage Courseware. This diversity allows for excellent book topics, as well as training courses, either in person at our studio, or through our online version.

Check out the new site at And hey! Support is free - no time limit.. so give me a call!

Dan Ablan
AGA Digital Studios, Inc.

06 June 2003, 02:48 AM
They just built this new "Digital Arts Center" here as a satellite of a larger campus. I looked at the students work and the $25K price tag for the 2 year course and thought, "I guess I'm going to try the home-school method." So, new hardware, new software and a stack of books and I was off.
It's going on the end of year one for me. I do not know how I stack up against the students.
I have read about 7000 pages but have probably not spent enough time with my ass in the saddle. My theory was to get the big picture first and then go an master aspects.
My overall goal is to end up with a 7-10 minute piece which rivals the graduating demo-reels.
I can't say how much of an asset the online community is. It has been my experience that if you hang out with people who are into what you're into, you stay inspired and focused, without them, its easy to lose your way. Thanks everyone!
Now, if I just didn't have this darn job, family and other life...

06 June 2003, 02:53 AM
Thats a great point. If you want to stop smoking you hang out with successful nonsmokers. The same applies to any field you want to go into; hang out with people who have similar goals and/or are good at what they do. The great thing about these forums is you can network with people which only a few years ago, could only be done in person as shows like Siggraph which everyone might not be able to attend. Having a searchable database is also pretty cool. Things have changed a lot in a short period of time. :)

06 June 2003, 03:05 AM
There's also the 'Use It or Loose It' factor, if you don't use all that knowlege that you learn in books etc you aint going to retain it.

06 June 2003, 03:07 AM
Thanks for the books Dan. Excellent. Read Inside 6 & 7 and the 6.5 Magic. I agree with the description that they are the second manual.
Larry, I anxiously go to the mail-box every day looking forward to your material.
(Oh, I made my avatar so something is beginning to stick)

06 June 2003, 06:00 AM
I recently picked up LW and started without any information (except for the notes from REMI), I found many tuts simple and wanted more.. So when the next couple of paychecks come in YOU guys offering course dvd's and tapes will be gettig some $$ from me. Looking forward to applying my other 3D knowledge to LW...

06 June 2003, 06:12 AM
Originally posted by riki
There's also the 'Use It or Loose It' factor, if you don't use all that knowlege that you learn in books etc you aint going to retain it.
Thats a big one too. Its hard to keep up with all of it. Someone that Angus and I knew (before he passed away) named Carlos was very talented talented LW Artist (He did the dragonfly into on the first MIB movie) . He was the only other person I knew in Albuquerque doing 3D. Sometimes he would call me up after working on an intense project for 3-4 months and ask me if I remembered his head modeling technique. Id laugh because he had to call me to remind him how HE used to model. Luckily I did because we were always sharing information.I dont like that feeling of forgetting some important tool/trick/technique. Ive gotten into the habit of saving and documenting scenes when I have been experimenting. :)

06 June 2003, 03:41 PM
Originally posted by angus1965
However I think as the user base has have the circling vultures.

That pretty much sums it up.

yup. i see things on that same page, too.

06 June 2003, 05:32 PM
why link dont work???

06 June 2003, 05:55 PM
Works fine here -
Try this:

Dan Ablan

06 June 2003, 06:04 PM
I had trouble with link to, but was able to get to 3dgarage by doing a search and clicking on another link.

I highly advise begginers to take a look at the information that Dan and Larry have made available. Inside Lightwave 7 has become my ultimate resourse when im stuck and splinegods course on modeling has increased my toolset exponentially and has dramatically improved my modeling ability. They go way beyond anything I have been taught in school.

06 June 2003, 06:14 PM
Thanks Animator -

the 3D Garage course takes you on an understanding of LightWave's Modeler, through each button and panel, as well as Layout. We focus on understanding the program so you can create what ever you want.

You will understand.

Also, the 3D Garage Courseware is not rushed like a video, as we have no time limit. You can go at your own pace.
We have free support forums setup as well - whether you purchase the course or not.

Learn and enjoy.

Dan Ablan

06 June 2003, 07:08 PM
Animator, I appreciate the comments and am glad you found my course useful. Ive been involved with teaching for a long time, in fact long before I got into 3D. I also understand how it feels to have to get up to speed quickly to have to produce something for a client.
Back when I first got into this there were no resources. I remember when I first starting using splines that it took me almost 3 weeks just to figure out how to make a splines patch correctly. There just wasnt the documentation or experience of others to fall back on. I keep that in mind when I develop these courses and CDs.. Now you have go a lot of resources out there like Dans books. You can never have too many resources. :)
Theres so much to modeler and layout now that I dont know of anyone who knows everything anymore. I dont know that I could say that back in the LW5.6 days. Most of the people who take my courses just want to get up to speed quicklly and so I focus on the tools, tricks and techniques that my experience has taught are the most essential. You dont need to know everything. If yor are good with the basic tools thats typically enough to get you hired or help with a job youre working on.
I follow a project based approach because thats what youll be working on out there. The projet focusses on tasks that youll typically run into while on a job.
Again, my own experience has taught me that people remember things best when the information is associated with or is part of a process. As you already know my courses are self paced and theres no pressure as far as time goes. :)

06 June 2003, 10:28 PM
Some other thoughts about getting into 3d:

It is a good idea to go and learn other art forms first; sculpture, drawing, painting, photography and or film and 2d animation would be good places to start. So much of what is done in 3d programming has been translated from actual practical techniques people have been doing for many years prior to 3d animation's existence. Skipping over the other art forms can end up hurting you in the long run and lead to a long long learning curve.

Another bit of advice would be to not purchase any software until you know what you're doing. I guess if you are specifically trying to learn a particular software package, go out and purchase. Nothing wrong with that. However, from teaching basic 3d on the college level, I have seen many people that basically were horrible artists (3d or otherwise), mid semester once they figure out what the buttons do, spend thousands on software and hardware thinking that if they got the software it would guarantee them a job, greatness or the ability to become a instant artist.

Also, before buying any software I would check to see what the competetors software is like. Take a class or two in the different packages, try out all the demo's. Read the books, watch the video's etc...

As stated previously by the rest of you guys.

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