View Full Version : Best and Fastest Sub-D modeling software for hard surfacing and product design

07 July 2003, 06:19 PM
Hi All,

I currently model all my designs (Iím a product designer) in Nurbs using Rhino, this works great for me and Iím very happy with the results. However I have a few clients that want to see very Ďfinishí 3D concepts early in the design process. This means that after a review of sketches I have to go ahead and model every concept in Rhino (Nurbs) Tipically I have to model and render 8-12 concepts in less that a week. Iíve gotten pretty fast at modeling in Nurbs however I still miss the ability to edit a model as easily and in SubDs or polygon (trimmed edges and continuities falling apart, etc)

Iíve been learning Maya for a few months now with the intent of using SubD modeling to explore design concepts in a less restricted way that with Nurbs. And being able to edit my models easily. Well first I thought that was my lack of ability with Maya that made this process not as easy and fast as I though. Now I have come to the conclusion that Mayaís SubDs suck for my needs. Itís not real time, some edits in polygon mode just fail, selecting edges itís a pain and creasing edges is very unpredictable (especially when you make a new split in the proxy, if it doesnít fail, all creasing around it goes out of wack)

I tried Maya first because its ability to convert SubDs to Nurbs, very important for me to build CNC physical models of my designs. I also had the hope that Maya will improve subDs and modeling tools, but version 5 showed me this is not a priority for them. So I want to try something else. Iíve been doing a lot of research and the best examples of SubDs Iíve seen are done is Lightwave and XSI. I mean a lot of great cars and other products with complex yet very controlled geometry. Those Ferrariís done in Lightwave are a great example of what Iím talking about. BTW I also demoed Max5 and I just donít like it, so thatís not an option.

I donít mean to start a software war but I know nothing about Lightwave or XSI, so IĎd like some feedback of what you guys think will fit MY needs best. Price is an issue, and rendering quality and speed are too, but fast creation and editing of modeling is TOP PRIORITY. Also being able to convert to Nurbs is very important, is this possible from a Lightwave or XSI model in any way? Ideally not having to buy Maya as an overpriced export tool :), Actually Iím not even sure if this would even work.

I would really appreciate some feedback that would let me create good and fast design concept models.

07 July 2003, 07:04 PM
I am a Lightwave guy and i love Lightwave but if you need SubdS with proper edge weighting you should go for Cinema 4D .


07 July 2003, 07:23 PM
heh,I've done a ferrari myself :)

I've got myself acquainted with other packages enough to be able to tell you that despite lw modeler's age there's still no other modeler to match its phylosophy&speed in polygonal/SubD modeling

lw modeler is totally geared towards 100% interactive.real time production modeling like no other tool and its setup in such a way that there's nothing getting in your way in modeling a million poly piece

but iut cannot convert subDs to NURBS,in fact it doesnt have NURBS as such :)

regarding maya and maya modeler,my impressions are very similar to yours:

mismatching,incosistent and ugly interface design elements aside,
maya suffers from:

1. clumsy component selection system

2.hierarchical SubDs are great but painfully slow even to model with,
let alone animate/displace hi-res meshes plus you cannot edit/multiply SubDFaces but only their control cage counterparts

3.there's no symmetry modeling mode (perhaps there's a workaround)

4.OpenGL is very limited in shading effects it can display and the grid is not exactly the most intelligent I've seen

5. there's only one saving option - scene file - while in other apps you have various saving possibilities,XSI included

I could go on and on like this but what separates maya from the rest is solid and easy animation tools(SetDrivenKey and IK),good effects,particles,reliable dynamics,easy UV tools etc..but in other areas maya does begin to show its age

on the other side,XSI has all the newest technologies but its far less popular ... at the moment
but modeling methods are slightly better than maya's IMHO

and yet I stick with lw :)

07 July 2003, 07:49 PM
Sub -D in Lw are slightly different from that on Maya and XSI. Lw's are similar to proxy object mode in Maya and not hierarchical.

but this doen't mean they are not powerfull.

Lw modeler is one of the fastest app in the market , because its workflow its faster at the base.

1) u can model with poligons in different ways and with different tools and toggle realtime in sub-d mode. also, if u want u can directly model in sub -d, hitting the tab button and modelling in that mode.its very very fast, and u have the possibility to drag points of your mesh directly clicking on them and dragging, for a rapid mesh LW is so fast u can save DAYS in time.

2) Lw have no NURBS modelling, but subpatches in Lw doesn't make u feel u need them.infact time ago they were called Metanurbs

3) u can follow a process similar to NURBS modelling using splines, wich are curves u build, in Lw to patch your model. ask to Splinegod in this forum for tips here. think his name says all.
its different compared to the Rhino process of modelling, but after a short timeu can feel very confortable with modelling in Lw.

4) u can easily however build your poly geometry and then convert it in NURBS in Maya if what u want are NURBS exacty.

5) for the final presentation of your work, u can render it in Lw as well. compared to Maya 4.5 Lw rendering rocks and also u have what u want with less work indeed than Maya.

hope this helps.:)

07 July 2003, 10:10 PM
great info guys! One thing I don't know about lightwave yet: Can you do edge weighting, like making creases and such or do you achieve this just by having poly edges very close to each other? In othet words what kind of subD features you have in lightwave other that a smoothing alogarithm?

Does Lightwave have a PLE version or a demo that runs more that 30 days?

Also where can I learn more about this patch approach? are those curves used as input geometry to generate patches or are they just sitting there as underlays for guiding your freeform modeling?

LNT, I love your work, your models are really cool! Your ferrari and another Enzo that somebody else made are the ones I was talking about. Do you have posted wireframes anywhere?

07 July 2003, 12:51 AM
Also where can I learn more about this patch approach? are those curves used as input geometry to generate patches or are they just sitting there as underlays for guiding your freeform modeling?

patching is nothing more than another method of creating a control cage,some people use it...mostly cos some guys find it easier to trace over a blueprint or sketch's contours...right after that the splines can be discarded
but I've hardly ever used this method,I find it time consuming

sharp SubD edges - I add an extra cut close to where the edge should be...there is vertex weighting option but I dont like using it
and I dont think it's as developed in lightwave as it can/should be
...still,LW modeler hasnt been updated for quite awhile now and I expect next version to make it rock even more

as for my modeling,thanks on your comments but I dont model my cars to insane ammount of detail,they're more like fairly detailed objects that I can use as scene props along with other stuff as I see I never model the dashboard nor screws :)

I dont have any wireframes right now but let me know your email address and something will be arranged ;)

I'm not sure about how you can get a demo but at least you canm check out these 3Dbuzz videos and see if you 'll like it

Triple G
07 July 2003, 01:27 AM
Here's a link for you, gustojunk:

Scroll down, and you'll find links to PLE/demo versions of pretty much all the major apps.

07 July 2003, 11:32 AM
About patching process, first u create splines for the main forms of your model, and connect them in the crossing points and then u can patch your model.

Splinegod wich is a very expert user of Lw can give to u further informations about the method so check out his site or e mail him. u can also do a search here to find great information.he uses splines to make organic modelling too, so that he's a great point of reference about this technique.

what i know is that this proces really is not so time consuming, following some rules.

of course, u can use also a poligonal technique to make your model like that of maya ut much more powerful as i explained.

it also depends on what are u interested to do with your models, if u make them to create prototypes,to be realized in real and in this proces NURBS can be more powerfull , or if u use them to create images.

in Lw there is no edge crease for now, but i hope some edge tool arrive soon.

07 July 2003, 02:18 PM
Lw is a amazing modeler. For me I can't model any faster in any other app. The edge weighting lacking in LW is pretty much a null point for me.

Selection system:
is extremely fast and allot of options.

extremely fast:
when you learn keyboard shortcuts combined with good mouse menus you can blind some with how fast you can work in lw.

flexible tools:
just about every tool has about 100 diffent ways you can use it and falloff type to help edit complex objects.

LARGE community:
you can find just about any plugin you can think of needed and if you can't you can probable find someone to help you make one.

Curve and polys in the same enviorment. Create a curve weld a polygon to that points in the curve. Alto of other apps don't have this freedom to work that easy. And a ton of other stuff because lw modeler is based on points so it doesn't care.

must be 3-4 sided polys. This is good and bad. Make you keep your object clean but certain tools will really mess up a sub-d object
no edge weights
uv's and sub-d can create some distortion when rendering so you need to work around that some times.

No history:
when you make something you have no history other then your undos. no problem if you are not used to a history based modeler.

Most Maya user I know model in wings till it slows down them bring into Maya to finish. Maya can model fine but it just seems like it's always missing some feature you need. Can probable find a Mel to do what you need at highend 3d though. Default work flow for modeling is not fast enough for me and would need to customize allot to be conferrable and Iíd still be missing alto of what I like.

Nice modelers havenít had a chance to use it much though. XSI has one of the better workflows by default. At 6k Iíd say that be one big waste of money. Since lw is better and cheaper for modeling.

Cinema 4D
don't know a thing about it other them it has edge wieghting.

Iíd wait till sigraph before you make any decisions.

07 July 2003, 07:05 PM
Ok, based on the replies from this and other forums seem like Lightwave is the way to go. Also when i was considering XSI I had no idea of the pricetag, $6000? Ouch!

I'll definetely give a try to the patching approach, it seems more like I'm used to with nurbs anyway. I see whay you guys say about not missing creasing by instead adding close edges together, doing this in Maya is a pain but it seems like not in Lightwave.

Also I'm not a big fan of histoy based modeling, when modeling fast history is more in your way that anything. So not having history is no problem.

Thanks for teh link I 'll try Lightwave discovery. I think I'll wait until siggraph to see if they have discovery for version 8, I'll be there so maybe I can pick up a CD, I hope they have them there.

LNT, I would really appreciate if you can send me some wire screenshots of one of the cars. i want to see how you deal with splitting of parts (like seams for doors opening) and hard edges like tail lights and such). My email is

07 July 2003, 07:14 PM
LOL!!! gustavoREMOVEALLCAPS@gustavofontanaREMOVEAL

if this is a correct address then you'll be receiving my mail shortly

07 July 2003, 07:26 PM

07 July 2003, 08:08 PM
I noticed some people don't know much about weighting in Cinema4D, i'll give you some infos. C4D doesn't have only edge weighting but faces and points weighting too. You can decide to assign a different way to every point/face/edge of your model. It can't handle n sided polys tho. Watch this small vid if you're interested in C4D weighting.

07 July 2003, 08:14 PM

I started this model with curves then filled in the polys mostly by hand. most of the model was done in 2 weeks.

07 July 2003, 08:33 AM
Originally posted by ThirdEye_01
I noticed some people don't know much about weighting in Cinema4D, i'll give you some infos. C4D doesn't have only edge weighting but faces and points weighting too. You can decide to assign a different way to every point/face/edge of your model. It can't handle n sided polys tho. Watch this small vid if you're interested in C4D weighting.

this is really interesting, i hope some of these features will be implemented in Lw too!!!

p.s. ma perchŤ rispondo in inglese a un italiano?? mah, forse per farmi capire pure dagli altri...:beer:

07 July 2003, 08:35 PM
Castius, thanks for those linked images. They really help.
I made up my mind, I'll learn Lightwave, it seems tha between the great use base, easy modeling tools and lots of plugins there's no better choice for me right now.

I'm still crossing my fingers for better import/export of cad data like direct STL, IGES formats supported. We'll see :).

Does anybody know if they'll have the discovery version of Lightwave right way? I'd like to take a test drive before writing a check. That's exactly what i did with Maya, so luckily now I can back out of it before buying once I decided I didn't like it. I hope I won't have to to it this time though ;)

07 July 2003, 08:50 PM
You might always want to give Houdini Select a test drive, as it's got some awesome modelling power, whether in polys or Nurbs. You can get the apprentice program version at:

The purchase cost of Houdini Select is 1299.00 US.

But yes... for all intents and purposes, do try Lightwave out! It's got the best all-around Modeler going in my opinion. I sugest Houdini, as it's never a bad thing to try them all before you drop down a large investment.


07 July 2003, 10:49 PM
Lightwave is my main program with C4d following a close second.
I'm very comfortable modeling in LW - very fluid and organic. And of course, there are some things that C4d's subD routine can do that LW can't and vice versa. But when my friend showed me what he could do with XSI my jaw dropped to the floor. It has the most powerful SubD implementation I have ever seen, bar none ... but unfortunately it has an extremely high price tag to go with it - nosebleed high.

Although, it may not be a "deal buster", it would be nice to have the option of affecting edges and points, when needed. And when I say "affect" edges/points - I don't just mean weighting but also beveling or extruding these edges/points. It's a very elegant way of adding detail quickly - like little spines on a creatures back. For this, I have to turn to the freeware program, Wings3d.

It would also be nice to be able to move, rotate and scale along a polys normal. This is something that has been implemented in almost every 3d program (with subD's) I have come across except for ... <cough>... LW. In fact, Mark Brown, the programmer behind Motion Mixer and Key Trak, attempted to solve this problem with two plugins "Normal Move" and "Normal Rotate".

But these fall short, because movements of the poly selection is based on the normal of the first selected poly. So, if the polys are on both sides of an object (and it's non-symmetrical), it's a unidirectional movement for all polys selected.

These are just a couple small shortfalls in LW's otherwise robust subD implementation that "gustojunk" might want to be aware of.

Like I said, I'm a Lightwave guy first. In fact, I've already prepaid for LW8 - so that should say something about my trust in Newtek. Come on Newtek!

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