Lightwave Modeling
By Mathew Duafala

*Part 1     Part 2      Part 3     Part 4

This will be a multi-part article on various modeling techniques in Lightwave 5.6 (‘though almost all the techniques should work in 5.5). I also plan on showing how to setup the creature for organic animation using bones, Morph Gizmo, and MetaMation. The first and most important part of any model should be the concept sketches. I know that many of you that are just starting out probably want to just jump in and model, but as with most things in life, if you spend just a little time planning it will payback in spades down the road.

First let’s start off with a basic character design. Fig 1 is what I came up with a couple of weeks ago. This is just a design based on some type of dinosaur.

Fig 1

As you can see it isn’t anything particularly complicated. When developing concept sketches, you don’t need a lot of detail; in fact too much detail will just make the object harder to visualize. Now, if you have a scanner, and the picture is in orthographic views (i.e. full profile and straight on) then you can scan it in and use that as a direct guide. If you don’t have a scanner, or the picture isn’t in orthographic views, as is this one, then don’t worry. The modeling process is still essentially the same and still not that difficult. I will assume from here on out that you are familiar with the basic modeling commands. If you aren’t then you can look each one up in the manuals as it is used.

Fig 2

Now, if you scanned in the picture, load it in to modeler as the view down the x-axis. Make a box in modeler and size it so that it is approximately the same size as the head. If you don’t have the head loaded then just make a box with approximately the same ratio as the length to width. Now select the polygon on one side and set it’s value to x = 0. Once that polygon is set to 0 delete it. This will allow us to model only one side of the head and mirror the other half later. Now that that poly is deleted, hit the tab key and turn the five remaining sides into a spline patch (actually a MetaNurbs patch if you want to be exact). Now since we will need to add more control points to our spline cage with out it looking too boxy we will use the Metaform plus plugin that should have shipped with your software. This is definitely one plugin that should be added to your hotkeys. The reason that we use the Metaform plus plugin is that it will subdivide the object with out altering the look of our spline cage. After subdividing it with a division level of 1 you will notice that our cube is now looking rather rounded, and when you hit tab again it looks exactly the same as before. However now that we have more control points we can start pushing and pulling them to form the cage to approximate the shape of the head.

Fig 3

When we have the shape approximated as best we can at that subdivision we could Metaform plus it again and move points and repeat as necessary but that will produce an object that has two many points. It will slow screen redraws and animation; and it will be a bear to work on. So to aid us in our Paleolithic venture we will employ a freeware plugin called planemeta splitter (zip 22k). What this plugin allows us to do is add geometry selectively to our object while still keeping the object compliant with the requirements for MetaNurbs.

Start by selecting a single polygon near the tip of the upper lip fig 4. In the plugin’s options you will see an even or odd option, this has to do with the point order of the polygon and there isn’t any way to tell which direction it will work without using trial and error, so keep the undo key handy. Note: if you select more than one polygon then the plugin will say ‘invalid start polygon’. Simply unselect the polys and try reselecting one polygon again.

Fig 4

Once you have those polys split then simply push and pull the points to get a closer approximation of the shape and then select the polygons that comprise the mouth area. Once these are selected smooth shift them with an offset of 0m and a smoothing angle of 180 deg. Then stretch them in a little bit and smooth shift them again. The second time you do this you will want to set their value (with the set value command) equal to 0 on the x-axis. See fig 5. Once that is done you can delete them. This formed the mouth area and we can go back in and add more detail as necessary later. Now keep using planemeta splitter to add detail and then start pushing and Pulling points to get a more refined shape.

Fig 5

If you need the help you can look at fig 6 and try to determine where exactly I added the detail and how I moved the points.

Fig 6

In the next article I will go into how to add the eye and horns. Good luck!

Mathew Duafala