Join Dan Ablan for an in-depth discussion in this video Understanding the Surface Editor, part of LightWave 10 Essential Training.
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After you've created a model, you are going to need a surface on it, that is of course if you want just a flat gray model. But you'll see the surface that are in both LightWave Layout right here on the top-left-- you can press F5 to open it-- but you'll also see it in Modeler. So if I click over here in the top right to jump in LightWave Modeler, you'll also see the Surface Editor here. This is the exact same panel in both programs. I am going to show you how to work through this Surface Editor and how to create surfaces, but we are going to do it mostly in LightWave Layout. So let's click the dropdown in the top-right and say Switch to Layout.
So let's work out way through the Surface Editor. What I am going to do is load up a file here. I am going to say Load Object from the File dropdown menu. And from the Chapter 5 folder, I will open up the 05_01_Balls scene. Now it is just a series of balls on flat ground. You will surface this yourself shortly. But what you will see when this comes up is a number of different surfaces. These were all set up in LightWave Modeler. You've got a surface for the ground, the red ball, the yellow ball, the blue, and the green.
So let's just work with one of these. In the Surface Editor, it kind of looked overwhelming at first, but it's really not. Let's start over here. The Edit by > Object or Scene will allow you to look at editing of your surfaces when you've got a much more complex scene. So for instance, right now we have this set up to edit by object. If you choose by scene, you will get a warning that says, "Surfaces with the same name will be edited as a single surface," and we will say yes, we want to proceed. And what this will do is show you every surface in your scene.
So how does that compare to an object-based edit? Well, what that means is if you've got multiple objects that are the same in your scene and they have the same surface name but different surface properties, you can kind of get yourself in a little bit of trouble by naming it Scene, by setting Edit by to Scene, because the same surface will be edited together. So the way to avoid that is to name everything accordingly. So if this is the red ball 1, it would be red ball 2 for another one, for a copy, red ball 3, and so on.
So you never want to name something exactly the same, even if it's in multiple parts in the scene, and then you will avoid Edit by altogether. If you have got a very large scene with a ton of surfaces, you can say Filter by, and say let me see surfaces with textures, or let me see ones with just shaders on, or let me see ones that just have their own preview. For the most part, you are not going to use that too often. Also, if there is a pattern, if I have let's say a ton of geometric shapes likes squares, triangles, and so on, I want to see the surfaces just with the name 'ball'.
That will show me those, and if you notice, the ground surface is not visible anymore when you have a scene that is very large and has a lot of surfaces. So over in the top-right, you can see most of the main controls. This little guy right here will actually shrink your panel down a little bit if you don't want to see your surface list. You can load and save a surface. You can rename a surface. You can also display any version of the surface you want. For the most part, we are always going to keep this on Render Output, and that shows right here in this icon. You can change and look just at the Color channel only, the Luminosity channel.
So if we had Luminosity up, you would see just that. But for the most part Render Output is what's going to be your most common. Let's work our way down. This Basic tab is going to give you all of the main surfacing tools you'll need. The Edit Nodes we are going to cover in the next video. From there, you've got the color of your surface, the luminosity, which is like a self-brightness. So if you bring this up, the object becomes self-bright like a light-bulb. Diffuse tells the surface how much light to take from the scene.
When I bring it down, you could see it gets much darker. And you are going to vary this Diffuse value based on the lighting in your scene. If you have got very, very bright lights, well you can tell the surface, don't accept as much light. Specularity is how shiny it is, and you could see a little hotspot come up when I increase that. The Glossiness, if it is a low gloss, now it is going to be more like a plastic ball. If it's a high gloss, it will be more like glass and you have a very tight hotspot right there. So high gloss and low gloss. If it has reflections, and we will set Reflections with another tab in just a moment. Transparency, if you are going to make transparent objects like glass.
And when your Transparency is on the Refraction Index becomes available. Light refracts or bends as it goes through transparent surfaces. So when you look at a glass just on your desk, for instance, or through window, the light, what you see through it, bends, and looks somewhat distorted. That's what refraction will do. Translucency is different than Refraction and Transparency. Let's say you have a piece of paper you hold up to a light. You can see through it. If you put your hand behind it, you can see a shadow. But if you turn away from the light, the object looks solid.
Well, that's a translucent object. It is different than transparency. Consider a thin piece of paper as translucent but a thin piece of cellophane as transparent. Bump Maps, if you are going to put them on, normally set to 100% by default, and you'll do that with the Texture Editor, which is right here. And Smoothing, which is one of the most important things with a lot of your objects. So I am going to zoom in here just to see this. This pink spotlight right here, I am just going to click on that, and we are just going to move that out of the way for the time being so it doesn't interrupt. Smoothing, let's take the big red ball over here.
We will select that surface, and that tells the Surface Editor that's we are working with. We will click on Smoothing, and you can see that all of those polygonal facets disappear. This is called a Phong Shader. There is a number of different shading types in 3D, but this smoothing value uses a Phong shading. I am going to get set this to 0, and if I just click and drag this up, you'll see the surfaces. See how that changes? So sometimes you don't need it at its full default 89%; sometimes you only need it at about 20% or 30%. This is very important when it comes to fonts and things like that.
Vertex Normal Maps, this is something you would set up on your points, or your vertices in Modeler for other types of image mapping, and this would go along with it if you can exclude it from the vertex stack. And sometimes your objects are double-sided. If you have a polygon, let's say like a piece of paper that is very flat and you want to see both sides, you hit Double Sided. Lastly, you can set a nice comment: Red Balls Are Great. And this is really good if you trying to remember what you set this for, what clients it was, how they liked, things like that. Just a little note. In the Advanced tab, you can change the Alpha Channel so that you can key this over.
You can drop it over on other image later on, perhaps in Photoshop. Special Buffers are used to record different settings, which we will set later in the Image Editor, which is under the Windows dropdown. You can set a Glow property for the surface. You could tell it when it renders to render just the outlines and choose the size of those outlines. You can set a vertex color map, and this is again something to set up with the vertices, the point of the model in LightWave Modeler. And then you could do things like color highlights. Let me show you how that works. If I put Specularity on and put a nice and high and a little gloss. You can see that that hotspot right there on that red ball, it is white because the light is white.
If I go to Advanced and I bring up the colored highlights, it colors the highlight the color of the surface. So certain properties, like a plastic ball for instance, wouldn't often have a big white hotspot; it might have more of a colored hotspot, a bowling ball for instance. Certain things like that would have colored hotspots. You can have a colored filter you put on. Additive Transparency is going to be used for, honestly, planets. There is not a whole lot more that you are going to use that for. And what that will do is allow you to diffuse sharpness, and you will get this nice, very sharp falloff and that's really designed for planets, these two settings.
And then you have a Bump Dropoff so that your bump maps can fallback a little. And your Compatibility, if you are working with older LightWave programs such as 8.5 or 9.3.1, certain surfaces won't have some of these properties so you can set a compatibility. Back in the Basic tab, when you set Reflections, you have to reflect something, and a reflection is based on the environment. So if you go to the Environment tab, this is the area where you can set reflection options, such as reflect the Spherical Map, meaning that anything I reflect is mapped spherically in this LightWave 3D world, in this little virtual TV studio.
So that object would reflect everything around it. But if I put Ray Tracing, it is going to reflect what's next to it: other geometry. So we will do that in a minute. Then you can choose what the Reflection Map is. It is great for putting metals on. You could put fractal noise images in there and reflect, have some shine to it. Then you could change the angle of that image map. You also have Refraction options that work very similarly to the Reflection options. Under Shaders these are additional properties that you can put on that are computer generated.
So very easily you can put on a snow shader, or you can put on a water shader, and these will show up as you render. Lastly, is your options up here, your preview options, and that just changes your icon up here, whether you want to look at it as a cube, background black or checkered, or to see what is in Layout, and we need something else in there to do it. Antialiasing to clean up those edges, so it is a little bit cleaner, and then a Refresh Rate could be Automatic or Realtime. I generally like to leave it at Automatic because what it will do is allow me to make a change and then it ill update.
If you have it set to Realtime, as I make changes you will see that change, and that could be little more taxing on your system, so I kind of like to leave it at Automatic. The last thing you are going to see here are these E buttons and these T buttons. The E button means envelope. So if you are thinking about animating, think of the word E. I know it doesn't make sense, but in olden times, E would go to an envelope. You are technically enveloping a value. Okay, but E opens the Graph Editor so that you can animate.
That makes sense, doesn't it? So we are going to close this Graph Editor. We are going to talk about that in a whole other video. If you accidentally turn on one of these, hold the Shift key and click on it to get it off. But the E buttons will allow you change that value over time, and I'll show you how to do that. The T button is the Texture Editor and there is a whole another panel you have to learn, but it will make a lot of sense when we work our way through it. This allows you to put textures on objects. And that's it. That is the Surface Editor. So it's not as bad if you think.
I just want you to remember to work your way down one step at a time. Don't just get in there and start clicking buttons and hoping for a change. Just do one element at a time, and you'll be fine. So the Surface Editor allows you to create all the surfaces you need for all of your polygons in your scene. It works very well with the Node Editor as well as the Image Map Editor and the Texture Editor.
- Understanding and navigating 3D space
- Configuring menu and keyboard settings
- Molding basic geometric shapes
- Creating detail using subdivisions
- Casting reflections and creating surface textures
- Building and lighting a 3D scene
- Incorporating and animating cameras
- Simulating collisions using dynamics
- Determining the proper anti-aliasing filter for renders
- Rendering a project as movie files and image sequences
- Exporting a full scene