NewTek releases LightWave 7.5

NewTek has released another significant upgrade to its flagship 3D graphics and animation package: LightWave 7.5 is now shipping. The new version incorporates a multitude of new features and functionality.

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New animation tools include sliders to help you control anything that LightWave can animate. The new Expression Builder enables you to create expressions without memorizing command lists, and it in incorporates a collection of customizable expressions, an online technical reference and a "wizard."

Dynamic Parenting and Simple Constraints have been added to help simplify interactions between animated objects. The Path Tool now lets you drag all of an item's motion key frames around in the 3D viewport.

The software also features enhanced OpenGL feedback, which boosts interactivity by showing frame ticks on motion paths and joint limits on rotation handles. Motion blur and depth of field effects can be previewed, as well.

LightWave 7.5 makes some changes to the way that character animation tools work, too -- Motion Mixer 2.0 sports a new interface, new motion weighting, and new blending features. X-Ray mode lets you look at the skeletal structure of your character in a solid shaded OpenGL mode. And other performance boosts provide users with greater responsiveness in inverse kinematics, bone deformation, and more.

New lighting effects have been added; Colored Shadows, for example, can be used to create tinted, less intense shadows adjustable on a per-light basis. Per-light object exclusion is new to this build -- it lets you set lights to affect only certain objects, according to NewTek. And Luxigons attach lights to polygon objects in the modeler, making it possible to create models that carry their own lighting rigs.

LightWave 7.5's rendering capabilities get a makeover too. The software sports new Multiple Bounce Radiosity solutions, while Matte Objects and alpha properties makes it easier to do special compositing without altering object surface properties. Virtual Darkroom 2.0 adds grain and realistic light response to renders, sports a simplified interface, and more than 20 presets. Multiple render buffers are saved out in layered Photoshop format, too.

NewTek ships LightWave 7.5 in various flavors for Mac OS, Mac OS X and Windows. The suggested retail price is US$1,595. Upgrading from LightWave 7 is free -- visit the LightWave Web site for details and download links.

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