In my previous post on the unified mesh system, I have spent some time highlighting the way that the traditional Lightwave 3D® mesh system has worked. It is important to remember that a lot of this technology dates back over 20 years and allowed some of the groundbreaking 3D shows to be created on days when computer systems were significantly slower than an average cell phone today. One of the challenges that we face of course is how to remain true to this rich legacy while at the same time laying the foundation for the future.
The next LightWave® release will be instrumental in helping make some of the changes to our mesh system, letting us create the foundation it for the next 20 years of 3D history, The true limitations of the historical system basically broke the data for scenes and meshes into two distinct pieces: Modeler able to work on the details of the mesh like polygons, vertices and nodes, while Layout was able to animate and deform those meshes. Starting in the next version of Lightwave we are breaking down those barriers to allow Layout to have full access to the entire set of data that forms a scene – including the elements that previously only Modeler understood.
While this obviously is a great step forward under the hood and is going to form the foundation of what we do moving forwards, you are going to see the tip of the iceberg even in the next version of Lightwave, allowing us to have a true deformation stack that can be reordered, improvements to morph and deformation speed, and much more.
The unified mesh system is exactly what it sounds like; it is a single unified modern mesh system which includes all of the benefits and functionality of the previous two separate systems and more. This is a nice step forward architecturally for LightWave Layout because it gives Layout the ability to create geometry and it provides full awareness of vertices, polygons, and edges. Layout now having the ability to actually create geometry is a very significant change because of the major limitations that it removes for LightWave Layout development.
Some of you may remember the attempt to add modeling tools to Layout many years ago. As a user I was very excited by this concept but the reality is that such an endeavor was doomed to failure because as I mentioned Layout was not able to create editable geometry.
Because the next version of LightWave Layout will have the unified mesh system, these previous limitations are now a thing of the past. That really has been our goal, to smash the previous architectural barriers that have stood in the way of implementing the types of innovative workflows which we envision for our users.
The unified mesh system is an important architectural step in making it possible to develop mesh editing tools and other geometry manipulation and modeling tools directly within the LightWave Layout Environment. Of course, please understand that I am not saying that major modeling tool development has already happened but that the barrier that was preventing them from significantly being developed has now been removed. It is crucial to lay the architectural foundations first, and then after that is in place the new tools and workflows can be developed.
Replacing the two legacy mesh systems in Layout with one unified system was a technical challenge but by using our previously mentioned “Borg Queen” approach it was an amazingly smooth and solid process.
As a LightWave designer, I am extremely excited by what the unified mesh system will make possible for design, modeling and effects workflows in LightWave as we begin to take advantage of the new unified mesh system architecture.
Another relevant thing to point out is that the unified mesh system which we have implemented in LightWave Layout is an improved version of the modern mesh system which we developed for ChronoSculpt. Some of you may have witnessed the standing room only crowds that we had at SIGGRAPH when we demoed ChronoSculpt. Folks were amazed that we were manipulating such complex geometry so quickly and excited by the animated geometry deformation and sculpting tools. Because the unified mesh system now implemented in LightWave Layout was developed from the ChronoSculpt mesh system Layout will get the same advantages for memory usage and deformation speed as well as the benefits of reducing the overhead which was required for the previous two systems. That overhead impacted memory usage, performance, as well being much more complex to interface with when developing. Now instead we are able to work with one single proper modern mesh system which greatly simplifies the development process.
The unified mesh system does make our development job easier and will allow us to implement workflows involving the mesh system much more easily than we were able to do in the past. However, I have always valued a realistic phased approach on projects and that is how we are developing LightWave. This means that you should not expect a fully replicated modeler or all of the power of ChronoSculpt to instantly appear in the next release. Those are clearly not realistic expectations but instead I am hoping to communicate the extreme importance of giving LightWave modern architectural updates and how that opens up so many more possibilities as we move forward.
Truthfully, taking on the task of replacing the two legacy mesh systems with a new modern unified mesh system was a huge task and that alone would be enough to do in one release cycle but we haven’t stopped there in our efforts to modernize and improve LightWave Layout. In future posts I will discuss more of the architectural evolution that has been underway for the next release so stay tuned.
Till next post….Keep on creating at the speed of Light!