Lightwave to Animation Master

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  02 February 2003
Question Lightwave to Animation Master

Basically I have three questions that needs answering from all you Animation Master experts, if not my startup will be using Messiah:Studio. But the cost will kill my budget. I've been working in CG for four years and I'm putting up a startup studio of five people. I've been working in Lightwave, Maya, Max. I've been a TD, but started out as an animator, then a modeller. Now I'm parting ways with my employer and will have to purchase software. Anyone up to answering 3 questions?

First question is: I need to turnaround 45 minutes of animation every two months, this is the max figure, but the norm will be 20. It will be toon shaded, characters will be cartoony with a lot of lip synch. Does Animation Master have what it takes? I'm thinking of purchasing in two weeks, and have started setting up hardware.

Next question would be, "What kind of hardware does it take?". With Lightwave even a machine with 256 MB RAM and a GeForce 2 MX can churn out good work, on Pentium III 850s!!!! In real life what would it take to run Animation Master with the kind of production level, 20 minutes every two months? I'm having 4 to 5 people BTW for that kind of work.

Last question is... a biggie in my book. Will the software cooperate with us? Having crashes every hour is really not appealing (It's giving me nightmares actually). After surviving Max 3, Lightwave was incredibly stable. I cringe when I read up on the forums at how unstable this program (A/M) is. I want to be pleasantly shocked, I have projects lined up and I have to deliver. Or bye bye projects. I'd like to not sell my car to buy three or five seats of Lightwave.

Learning curve is no problem, after a while, these programs tend to become similar to each other. If anyone can give authoritative answers, I am in your debt. Thank you!
  02 February 2003
I'll reply to your last Qu. Honestly in my experience AM becomes more stable the more you use it. You get to know how to work with it best and what it likes.
New users have bad experiences and give up easy but often there are simple solutions to their crashes. My question back to you is - if you have the work ready now why are you setting out on a new software path?

You already know other software and -this forum aside- if you and your artists have product knowledge now, why ditch that?

As a short stab at Q2 - hardware does need to be well set up well. Any software will crash if the OS or any other software the Hardware depends upon isn't installed and set up right. If your experience with LW has taught you all you need to know why not stay on that path.

I guess my final answer would be if you have the time to spend getting to know AM, it can give you great results. It does have a great toon renderer - but watch out for the buying cycle! Hash works on a subscription basis and this year like the last three - all the users eyes are on the .5 version (8.5, 9.5 and now 10.5) The .5's come out roughly mid year.
fool at large!
  02 February 2003
Is there anyway you could buy just one copy to try out? Or even call Hash and ask them for a special trial deal on one copy so that you could have a demo? God knows it wouldn't hurt them to have another studio on their list.
  02 February 2003
First - The postive points.

Hash's Rigging and Animation Workflow are very fast and very nice. It's toon renderer is pretty nice and offers enough options that you should be able to get pretty much any look you are going for with a little tweaking.

Because it requires much fewer point to define a given curve with splines - Hash can run smoothly on a pretty low end system. In fact, prior to the super fast processors and vid boards - itwas one of their greatest strengths. The exception to this would be shaded previews which still tend to need some muscle behind them if the character or scene is very complex. There is the option to have items displayed as wireframes only (even in shaded preivews) which helps alleviate that niggle some.

The Folks at Hash tend to be more "yoru buddy" than "your software vendor." Which means they are very open to solid ideas and constructive conversation and they are very accessible.

A:M is $300 a seat (no net render), Lightwave is $1000 a seat (with net render..sort of...)

The A:M code is *constantly* being developed - so most fixes come quickly.

The Bad Points.

Despite it's target market, A:M is *not* new user friendly. Very little real testing is done of the code to ensure it is bug free. The testing that is done - is done by people that are very familiar with the program or wrote the code and know what steps to take. For example, v10g - the most recent version - while generally stable, will still dump me to my desktop if I don't do things the way Hash intended them to be done. I'm talking simple things like "Right Click on a blank toolbar docking area." That's a crash to desktop bug.

Cost is deceptive: With A:M you will be in an endless subscription cycle. $300 a seat up front and $100 a seat every year - and that doesn't include network rendering which is extra up front and annually as well. Often serious bugs aren't fixed until "the next susbcription" - forcing you to upgrade to get stability.

The Folks at Hash tend to be more "yoru buddy" than "your software vendor." Which means if you criticize the program or pressure them for bug fixes - they will take their ball and go home - leaving you standing alone on the field.

The A:M code is *constantly* being developed - so new bugs are intruduced weekly.


My suggestion, honestly, is in line with My Fault - stick with Lightwave. It's more up front, but you don't *have* to upgrade every year so in the end you will come out even or ahead. (In fairness, you don't have to with A:M either...but you will...always chasing that winning lottery ticket) You already know the tools and won't have to deal with learning new software, hitting deadlines and developing workarounds for A:M's bugs all at the same time. Deadlines are often enough. If the work is already lined up - then those Lightwave seats should be paid for quick enough.

Lightwave at $995 (Safe harbor price) + ACS4 ($90) + Keytrak ($99) = $1200 a seat for very capable, stable, productive environment from day one. Alternately, LW ($995) + Messiah:Animate ($595) = $1600 a seat and you have tools that rival all but XSI in their capabilities.

A:M is $300 a seat for the app, and then additional for Net Render which isn't even listed on their web page but I think it was an additional 3 machine license was $150 more up front and $50 more a year and $500 up front for unlimited (nto sure on annual for that). Net render gets you a few more features and dongles instead of having to start up with the CD in the drive.

If you are doing production work, you will want Netrender - so the price comparison's get less drastic...

In the end A:M can do what you want, but may not be the best route financially or time wise. Just remember to suggest A:M to your nephew no matter what you choose. :snicker:

Edit: Something I forgot to add - Remeber A:M is basically a closed system - import/export of models is limited and import/export of animation is almost non existant. That means pipeline optimizations and customizations are tough to pull off. Not impossible, but no where near as easy as Lightwave.

Last edited by Nonproductive : 02 February 2003 at 04:32 PM.
  02 February 2003
Lightwave / Messiah is a great combo. And the cool thing is. . . you only need one copy of Lightwave for your studio. Once you have your shot animated, its a simple matter of just one artist bringing those characters/camera motions/models into LW and rendering it. Its as simple as hitting F12.

I do wish we had AM's action libraries, ease of rigging and elegant workflow, but at the end of the day, the Lightwave renderer and overall stability more than makes up for what it lacks in ease of use.

William Eggington --
  02 February 2003

As much as I love Animation Master it doesn't sound like agreat idea in your situation. How quick do you have to ramp up to 45 minutes in the two month span (wow, that's a lot!)?

There are a lot of people selling their Messiah seats so you could proably score a seat fairly cheap. Try checking out their list at:
You can also download a demo and see if you like it at

If you already know Lightwave you might want to stick with that. With Keytrak and ACS4 it's actually pretty capable.

Good luck!

  02 February 2003
I've tried to startup with A:M years before, but it was a nightmare. Of course, the present software is more stable, but if you're asked to do quick and dirty prototyping which still has to look good, or if you're planning to do print illustration: A:M is no real option (imho), but LW is.

You're working several days on a scene and: *pop* you can't edit the file anymore.

The software you choose now, has to be the software for the next few years, than force an application-switch for more than 1 person is hell.

And there are really good and inexpensive alternatives to messiah, as written above.

There is no studio i know which is using A:M exclusively ...
tweaking bits & seeking ...
  02 February 2003
Many thanks!

I've been working in Lightwave for a while now, and can pretty much do anything in it, I really don't need any external plugs, while keytrak sounds good it's no longer available commercially, last I heard, Mark Brown, its author was absorbed by Newtek. (Or abducted, heh heh.)

Lukasz's ACS4 is a great idea but I've already devloped my own scripts for quick rig creation. But not necessary, it's really not that difficult to rig in Lightwave... Poses can be had using a Motion Mixer work around. Deformation takes some work but I'm use to Lightwave's quirks.

Getting Animation Master was a pipe dream wasn't it? *sigh* My startup already has clients, I can't disclose the projects that are to be worked on. With such a volume of animation required, really price was my only consideration since it is well, a startup and funds are tight. The animation will be simplistic and require mainly a lot of voice synch. I guess I'll have to sell my car after all :thumbsdow I'm funding everything and paying people who're willing to jump in and take a risk. I've worked in traditional animation in Anime and US cartoons and the people I'm hiring have no software prefs, I'll be doing setup etc.

Lightwave's price has gone up to 1,500 US, at Safe Harbor it's at 1,295 US. Ordering overseas will jack up the price. Our goal was to have a couple of months to generate enough funds to get Lightwave and Aura. As it is we have to purchase Premier along with assorted hardware. God I'll miss my car :annoyed:

Ah well, thanks again!
  02 February 2003
Re: Many thanks!

Quote: Originally posted by Primus I've been working in
Lightwave for a while now, and can pretty much do anything in it, I
really don't need any external plugs, while keytrak sounds good it's
no longer available commercially, last I heard, Mark Brown, its author
was absorbed by Newtek. (Or abducted, heh heh.)

Coming from an Animation Master background. . . I can tell you flat
out that that is not true. Joe and I sat down with LW for about a
week. . . going through every tutorial we could find. Lightwave on its
own can't hold a candle to AM's ease of use and powerful
rigging/animation tools. Without Messiah bolted on to LW, I would have
given up on 3D all together.

Getting Animation Master was a pipe dream wasn't it? *sigh* My startup
already has clients, <blah blah blah>

Pipe DREAM!?! Gah. . . I successfully ran a production company for
YEARS where AM was our ONLY tool. I may not use it now, but that is
due to shortcomings most users aren't ever going to run up against. I
believe that once they get their renderer sorted out. . . there will
be a lot more little companies taking advantage of AM's power.

I'm starting to re-gain my faith. . .

William Eggington --
  02 February 2003
Re: Re: Many thanks!

Quote: Originally posted by Wegg
I'm starting to re-gain my faith. . .

Isn't this one of the seven signs of the apocalypse?

Zealot #227

Seriously though, check out Eggingtons reel. They did some damn fine work with AM so it can definitely be done. The difference may be though that in Wegg's situation he was already very experienced and he picked some of the best AM people around at that time.

Maybe try to find an AM user near where you live to show it to you. At least that way you can try it out and see if you like it. Don't forget, Hash has a 30 day refund so if it doesn't work out for you, you can return it.

  02 February 2003
Re: Lightwave to Animation Master

Quote: Originally posted by Primus
Learning curve is no problem, after a while, these programs tend to become similar to each other.

Actually, you may have to overcome a pretty big learning curve with Animation Masters modeling system. Its all spline-based, so if you're a poly person it'll take a while to get some decent results.

The toon shader is nice, but I think LW's is better. Here's a model I did rendered with both packages.

AM Toon Shader
LW Toon Shader

Rigging and facial animation in AM is a breeze. I've just started learning Messiah. I miss poses. I miss Smartskin! I damn near cried watching the CharacterFX training dvd on Messiah showing how to fix bad arm deformation/muscle bulge with the Morphblender. Incredibly complicated compared to AM.

I left AM because of last years instability problems, but even if AM fixes their crash problems I'm not sure if I'll go back. Modeling with polys/Sub-D is faster and gives me much more control than Hash Patches. And now people can actually hand me models to animate instead of having to say "Im sorry, the animation package I use doesnt import poly models very well, I'll have to rebuild the model from scratch."

Go with LW! The hair left in your head and the cash you save on Aspirin will be worth it.
I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered!
  02 February 2003

personally I like the AM toon better, more crisp!


If you've never used AM, then it's not just transferring knowledge from LW, MAX, or Maya to AM. In theory, maybe, but in practice it will take you time to learn how to model in AM.

I would have no problem recommending AM in a production environment, but you don't think you can use many outside sources for models have to usually build all the models yourself. At work we have 15 copies of AM, unlimited NetRendering, and when we do character work, I use AM exclusively. We have a VERY tight timeline on our projects and AM's tools are THE best I've ever used for character stuff.

We've done multiple projects from big to small in AM, and yes we've had issues, but I've never missed a deadline when using AM.

I've also used AM in print (comic work) and although it renders slower than, say Cinema 4D, it still gets done.

What it really comes down to is the skillset of the people you have working on the project. If you said you had Wegg, Balistic, JoeW, Cosman and a couple of others working with you on this project, I would say choose AM and drive those guys to a nice dinner.

If you are an excellent LW base, sell the car, make up the cost later on of all the seats you need.

I hope some of this helps. Definately check out AM tho, it's well worth the $300.

- pjc
  02 February 2003
Ah counter arguments I really like my car and relearning an app isn't too difficult, people who stayed in our company often had to relearn apps in the middle of production just to keep jobs.

Right now cost is a MAJOR problem. Also I really like my car.

Quote: Coming from an Animation Master background. . . I can tell you flat out...

Hey Wegg, I come from a MAYA/MAX/LIGHTWAVE background. I've never used Animation Master, so I don't know what I may be missing I'd like to find out. But in defense of Lightwave, I've been using 7 for over a year and rigging takes less then half an hour for me, complete with the new constraints from LW 7.5. It may not be easy but it can certainly be done. Again, I'd love to find out and cost is a HUGE issue in the matter.

I come from a traditional 2D animation background, and working like a robot for 13 hour days is compulsary. I'd like to get great results for less work if it's possible. If animating in AM is easier than GREAT! I need all the pluses I can get, but I'm willing to invest time and effort as well to get past ANY humps or mountains along the way. In terms of work that is I'd like to not be bothered by a problem like: Open software, software crashes, hard work lost, file corrupted, open backup, software crashes...

PJC, Kricket thanks for the responses. I modelled this in Lightwave in about 8 hours Lightwave model . I don't need this type of complexity.

I've tried modelling in Hamapatch, some people suggested that it was very close to the Animation Master paradigm. It's somewhat similar to modelling in point by point in Lightwave mixed with splines in Maya. I've modelled extensively in splines in Maya. And I thnk I can live with AM's modelling paradigm (not the ideal at all but I live with compromise everyday.) The characters will be simple and will be NOWHERE near the complexity of the model I linked to.

So I'll ask the question again, I've seen what AM can do. Stuff like Navone's Alien Song is about as complex as I'll get. Advise me please, I'm sticking my neck out here, I've no wish to get deeper into financial troubles. (Plus I'm really attached to my other present physical possesions) Any further answers are much appreciated.

Can Animation Master cut the cake on a tight production schedule?!? What's the most stable version I can find out there to purchase? Really after my former studio was dealing with Maya's support subscriptions, Lightwave with a free unlimited network renderer and no upgrade hassle is beatiful. The thought of paying subscriptions is really not appealing. I'd like to stick it out with one version that can meet my needs. My next upgrade will be Lightwave, not AM 200x ver. x.

(Lightwave raised prices and I'd be stuck with a couple of seats and two animators. NOT ideal. Money back after 30 days is also not an ideal as the schedule is tight, if it takes that long to figure out it sucks, then I'm screwed on time.)

I'd ideally like to get my hands on the most stable AM version bearing in mind the simplistic nature of my needs. So the cost of AM is right for me at the moment. It'll really be a pipe dream if I meet my budget, got the software but only to have it render so slow and crash so much that it makes my work unbearable. IS it THAT bad? Hell I'd love to test drive a seat but...

It's all or nothing here, if I can pose a character with constraints, set a keyframe, adjust the curve for timing, then it works for me. That's all I really need. I'll be making talking heads

My Fault, I'm based in Asia right now, China is the land of Maya. Lightwave is just barely getting started here, SoftImage probably has a bigger user base, as with MAX. AM however is non-existent. So I realy have no one to ask... Thanks for the opins! My group is taking a gamble and will learn along the way. (Yeah the project is that good... we're taking a dive with our eyes open anyway...) Thanks for the replies!
  02 February 2003
Well, as long as you're going to be keeping it simple you ought to be good to go with Animation Master. It only really starts to get unstable when you try to get "clever" and try to push the software.

Get the newest version, AM 2003. Its pretty stable.

If you do get AM, make sure to buy David Rogers book because the included manual is pretty pitiful.

Also (plug) I've got some toon shading tutorials at you may find useful. They were written for 8.5 but the toon system hasnt changed too much.
I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered!
  02 February 2003
If I remember correctly the full network license costs like $599 or $699 and then each extra seat is $50 or $99 (don't know if that included an unlimited number of render nodes). Call or mail Hash inc. for the exact numbers and details.

If you know Maya, LW and Max, I don't see a problem with learning AM...despite lack of manual, AM is easy to learn compared to something like Maya.

The production rate you talk about is quite high. It's 10min a month on 5 people, assuming 21 workdays a're up to 5.7 sec of finished animation per person per day. That's a somewhat high number for animators on TV productions, if the only thing they're doing is animating. If you're going to add rigging, modeling, rendering, editing, compositing etc. I think you are going to have too little time. And going for 45min I think is unrealistic, even with cartoony 2d rendered characters (at least if you want to keep a reasonably high level of quality).

You should check out that's an Australian studio that uses AM and does a lot of cartoon rendered stuff. Maybe they'll be willing to give you some idea about how well AM works in a commercial production environment.

Good luck with the project,

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