LightWave Core: Utilizing the MDD Format

LightWave Core is the next-generation 3D that features a very flexible user interface, which is customizable to a great extent and offers python scripting integration to provide real-time codes and view previews. The LightWave Core uses the MDD file format. The MDD format was born out of necessity and is created by the makers of LightWave Core. It was designed to resolve issues pertaining to interchange of animation data.

The MDD format is supported by most 3D animation packages applications today. For the LightWave Core, the MDD is native and is the perfect solution to allow CORE animation data to be used within the LightWave Layout application. Applying the MDD format essentially means that the animation is applied as displacement. In effect means morphs and all – no bones are transferred to final rendering.

Step 1: Import Plug-Ins

You will need to procure that “DP Kit plug-in for LightWave”. A simple Internet search should turn up the plug-ins described here. You will also need to download the MDD Pointer-plug-in to use with objects that have no other displacements than MDD.

Step 2: Export Displacement Map

You will make sure that your model has UV enabled in “Texture-panel”. Next, go to the lowest subdivision level in Geometry panel and you will now create a suitable displacement map in the “Displacement” panel. You will then configure “Adaptive” and “SmoothUV” along with the intensity values. If required, you may edit the displacement map later in a photo-editing tool also. Once the map is generated, you will go to “Alpha” panel, select the map and then click “DE Options”. It is advisable that you go with the default settings in the “Displacement Exporter”.

Step 3: Basic Setup

You will now export animation as MDD by selecting the mesh and clicking on “Export MDD”. Now, install the DP Kit plug-in and load your object in LightWave Core. You will then apply textures in Node Editor including the displacement-map. You will navigate and apply the following sequence, Add Node -> Math -> Vector -> Subtract and Add Node -> Math -> Scalar -> Multiply.

Step 4: Controlling Displacement

You will go to the “Object Properties” (geometry tab) and then set Render Sub-Patch to “Per Polygon Level”. Doing this will set the polygon details to generate while rendering. You will press the “T” key to control textures and set up 2 layers with your displacement map as lower and a gradient as upper. You will now prepare the gradient with 3 parts: displacement at maximum, at minimum and at maximum. Next, you will set values for each part of the gradient.

Step 5: Activate MDD

You will now insert your animation displacement file (MDD) by using the “Displacement Node Editor”. This will be through the “Object Properties” and “Deform Tab”. You will open “Node Editor” and add it with “Add Node” -> “DP Kit” -> “Displacement” -> “MDD Pointer”.

You should now have successfully utilized the MDD format in LightWave Core.