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In LightWave 10 Essential Training, author Dan Ablan provides thorough, step-by-step instructions on building 3D models, scenes, and animations in LightWave 10. Beginning with a tour of the interface and LightWave's two main programs, Modeler and Layout, the course covers key concepts such as building models from basic polygonal shapes, assigning textures, and employing lights and 3D cameras to build real world scenes. Also included are tutorials explaining particle animation, dynamics, and bones. Exercise files accompany the course.
Setting up bones in an object is not as difficult as you might think. I often like to approach them kind of like a human structure. So we're going to start out with this object that was built earlier in the course, a nice little bottle in Modeler. It has subdivision surfaces on. So it's nice and smooth and has a very nice mesh to it. Now we can take a look at the Wireframe and you'll see that it's made up of multiple segments. So it's going to bend for us very nicely. So setting up bones in here is really pretty easy. What I'm going to do is come down to my Front View. I'm going to press 1 on my keyboard and I'm going to come to the Setup tab and I'm just going to say Add > Bone, one bone.
We can name it whatever we want, but Bone is fine. You'll notice it comes in right at the zero axis. Take a look. Press 4 on your numeric keypad to look at the Perspective view and you can see that bone is right down the Z-axis. Well, I wanted to face up in the bottle because again, we're setting this up, think of a human form. So I'm going to press Y for Rotate and I'm going to rotate it up. But I want it very precise. So down here in my numerics, I'm going to enter in -90. Rotate that up. Then I'll press T, which is Move under the Modify tab.
I'm going to move this down to the base, and that's where we'll come back to our Front View by pressing 1 on the keyboard. Right-mouse to move it down and right at the base, and Period key will zoom us in a little bit. Now you have to consider what size this bone is. But this is a really important thing. So listen hard. You can't just size the bone. If you size it with the Transform tool, what will happen is once those bones are active, it will size your object, and that's not what you want. Notice that the bone is dotted. There are dashed lines. That means it's inactive. Hit the P key with the bone selected and you get the Bones panel.
What you can do with this is increase the Rest Length. That's what we want. So we're going to click and drag that up about that far. We want about a third of the bottle. So you always want to increase the Rest Length. You do not want to change the Size. Big difference there. Then I don't want just to add another bone. I want to add a child bone, and the reason is let's say I take this bone and I rotate it. Well, I want to bones following it to also rotate. So I want a child bone. A child bone will actually create the exact same bone right on top of it.
So I'll hit that Child Bone. Same size as it right on top. If I added just another bone, what's going to happen? Well, it would dump it right in layout, right down the middle again, not sized, not positioned. Okay, so to get rid of that, if you accidentally do that, press the Minus key, and that will remove that selected item, and that works the same for objects and lights as well. So back to the Front View, press 1. The top bone is selected. We're going to add another child bone, and you can name these if you want.
Base bone, middle bone, top bone. Now I want this to be a little shorter. So I'm going to press the P key and I'm going to bring my Rest Length down. I'm going to have it go right to the neck kind of like that. Then we'll add another child bone, and then this one I want to also make shorter and we're going to have this on control just the neck of this bottle. Then we'll add one more child bone and that'll be the head bone and this one of course will be filling the top like that. That's it.
Your bones are set up. Of course, you could put arms on here if you wanted. You can extend them out and the way you would do that is select this middle bone and you would add a child bone and rotate it off to the side, but we don't really have arms sticking out of here, so it's not necessarily important. But that's how you would do it, because you want those to be a child and the reason is let's say you take this middle right here and want to move it. Well, pretend that's the upper body. You want those arms to actually follow. Now notice that the bones aren't moving the object at all. Okay.
Well, the reason is they're not active. To make them active in the Bones panel, you have to say Active, okay? You need to press R and it is right there, Bone Active. But this is what happens. A lot of people do this. They stop, they email me. "Oh my gosh! My objects are in that stuff." It's not. You only have one bone active. Think about this. The bone came down to Z-axis that way, then you rotated it. Well, the bottle is following suit to that rotation from the one bone. But if you press your up or down arrow and go to the other sets of bones and activate them, they will now hold your object in place.
You always need at least two bones. One to hold the object and one to actually deform it. So this base bone here is really holding it in place. That is the parent bone. If you open the Scene Editor, you'll see that that first base bone has all the other child bones following it. So I'm going to close this out. So what happens now if I select some of these bones and move them? Well, look at that. We got a little dancing bottle. Remember, I've got Bone X-Ray mode on. So if you don't see your bones, make sure you do that. Bone X-Ray mode.
You can use your up and down arrow to go to each one of these and move it around. You can jump into VPR mode if you've got textures on here,and you really see what that looks like with the render and a shadow. But it's a great way to put some life into your objects quickly and easily. I've seen animated toasters and of course full-blown characters, but I really like people to kind of get into animating inanimate objects like this and really perfect your animation skills by bringing something simple like this to life, and bones are the way to do it.
They are pretty powerful in that way. They work pretty fast and not too hard to set up as long as you do the process right. So there are a number of different things you can do with bones. You can move paper. You can distort paper. You can create cloth and make them just kind of wrinkle. So I've done draperies where I've put bones in there just to kind of use them to deform things. You don't necessarily need to always have a character animation to use bones. However, you can go that route and bring bottles to life, and cans, and inanimate objects.
But there is some other fine- tuning that you do as well. I'm going to show you that coming up. But try your hand at bones. Load this model up, or load one of your own models, put the bones in, and do just three or four bones just to get started, and get a feel for how they work.
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