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Warp speed...

by Mr. Wilde4/19/08

Before the Lightwave Group's site went down, Robert Wilde produced and posted an animation that was very well received by the community. Because of this and the quality and look of the animation, he was called on by the community to make a tutorial or walkthrough as to how the animation was produced. He kindly obliged. With the loss of the LWG site, this walkthrough was almost lost too, until it was found in one of my old archives. What follows, is what was posted by Mr. Wilde:

First of all, only the ship, the stars and the planet surfaces are rendered in Lightwave. Everything else, like the glow of the stars, the atmosphere or the glow of the ship lights are done in post.

I rendered an extra pass of only the windows and warp nacelles and used the zoom blur filter in After Effects (same in Photoshop) to create the light streaks. It requires some tweaking. The first time you add the zoom blur, the image gets quite dark and almost disappears.


I had to copy and blur a lot of layers, play with levels and saturation to make it look good.


There are two bad things about that: first, it takes a shitload of time to render. Zoom blur and gaussian blur combined are killers. Second, you are basically limited to shots where the ship is flying straight towards the camera or straight away from it. You can't do advanced movements like a curve or something, and if the ship leaves the frame, so do the bright surfaces, and your beautiful light streak will be suddenly gone.

I tried to create this effect in LightWave, because that would give me more possibilities, but failed. The original effect in the movies was done simply by overexposuring (is that a word?) while they moved the model. That way they got beautiful light streaks. Every window, every lit surface, turned into a bright streak. Like when you take a photo of a street at night. The cars vanish, all you see is their lights that turned into bright lines.

LightWave has the "Particle blur" feature, so one-point-polygons can turn into a line. But that doesn't work for real geometry like windows or warp nacelles, unfortunately. I don't know about LW 9.2, but in LW 8.5, you can't do that as far as I know.

The stars: Yep, I used two starfields for that. A basic star cloud for the background stars AND fog, so the stars disappear in the distance and get brighter the closer the are to the camera. Once the ship goes to warp, I began to move it past the camera and turned Particle Blur on so they stretched a little.

The other one is a tube-like starfield for the longer warp stars.


I played with both starfields in post again, bluring (and zoom blurring at the end) them and changing their colors. If you render them in LightWave, they are nothing but white points/white lines, they look much better if you add some motion blur afterwards and give them a blue-ish color or even a rainbow-like color.


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