I’ve been gone for a while with no updates, so I thought I’d punch in and let you know what’s going on. After six months of battle, tonight I finally came to the frustrating conclusion that LightWave 2019 is irretrievably broken and that publisher Vizrt-NewTek is never going to invest the resources necessary to bring the old girl up to par. The new volumetrics system in LightWave 2019 has been giving me fits for weeks now. LightWave’s OpenVDB support is aggravating and tetchy. The VDB and volumetrics pipelines into OTOY OctaneRender (my GPU renderer of choice) are poorly-documented and fraught with issues. (But to be fair, I also lay some of the blame at OTOY’s feet for being unforgivably far behind on documentation; the Octane online docs are now three full versions out of date.)
The coup de grâce was delivered earlier this evening when–to work around NewTek’s software deficits–I downloaded a recommended plugin to fix a problem I was having with visualizing dust clouds. The damn thing not only crashed Layout and corrupted my scene file, it looks like it’s managed to hose the entire LightWave installation. ARGGGHHH. Now I will have to spend my limited free time reinstalling software that has subsystems dating back to the Clinton administration.
And that’s really the main problem. When I look around now at the various DCC websites that I haunt, I realize I’m one of a rapidly-shrinking handful of boomers left who’s still tethered to this software dinosaur. Modeler/Layout hasn’t changed its destructive modeling paradigm or its antiquated schizoid user interface since I hopped on board in 2002. That’s right–my LightWave license is now old enough to vote, even though the software it’s linked to is hopelessly antiquated. And it’s that ancient UI, more than anything else, that seems to be what’s driven everyone else away. You just don’t find the vast volume of third-party support and tutorials for LightWave that you do for its commercial competitors and Blender. Not only does this make it super-hard to learn and advance skills, it also all but assures that venturing into intermediate and advanced features is going to be fraught with difficulty (if it’s not outright impossible).
The writing’s on the wall: everyone else is abandoning the USS LightWave, and I’m finding it difficult to envision the software’s future as a going concern. So that’s it; I’m done. The Enterprise and Constellation will be the last big models that I create in LightWave. I have a perpetual license so I’ll keep the software handy for rendering out the main ships (they’re finished, so I might as well keep ’em). But everything else? The planet killer, the shuttlecraft, the destroyed planets, and everything beyond this project?
They’re going to be created on Blender and rendered on Octane. I already know Octane, it’s definitely not going anywhere, and Blender is on a rocket’s trajectory in rising mindshare. Best of all, it’s open source, and has a fanatic base of talented developers who aren’t going to let it slip behind. And even more importantly (to me), I have several friends who are already Blender users–built-in tech support! So tomorrow evening I’ll download the free Blender+Octane combo, fire up one of the gazillion online tutorials including my friend Eric Reinholt’s excellent series, and dive in.