LightWave: Using SpriteGen

LightWave 10 is the newest addition to a long line of industry defining products. It is the next-generation in 3D modeling and animation software and provides a completely customizable user interface that is highly flexible.

The latest edition provides and supports a host of new features including full support for COLLADA, InterSense VCam support and the SpriteGen. SpriteGen is a particularly useful feature that saves up a lot of effort on part of the 3D artist and goes easy on the system hardware configuration and resources. The tutorial below focuses on using SpriteGen in LightWave.

Step 1: Understanding SpriteGen

Sprites essentially are simple two-dimensional images that are used in a larger scenario or sequence by 3D artists. They are used a lot by games and game companies. In the LightWave scenario, a sprite is a two-dimensional image that captures each frame of a short animation that is laid on the image like a storyboard. A single sprite could contain a sequence of images depicting an animation. All of this is contained in one single image file. The benefit is that this single sprite does not take up a lot of space like other animation files namely the “.avi” and “.mov” formats. That’s why games like to use a lot of sprites. This makes it extremely relevant to LightWave. It saves a lot of time and a lot of memory.

Step 2: Using SpriteGen

Assuming you are working on LightWave 10 on the Windows environment, you will go to “Load Objects” and then “Load Scenes” and select a relevant and appropriate scene to create a sprite setup. You will proceed to create a simple animation. Once this is done, you will move to the “Global Render Control” and choose the saving format as “SpriteGen” under “Output” tab. This will bring up an option panel where you will enter the organization information (tile width and tile height) on the SpriteGen and click “Save”.

Step 3: Creating an Animation Loop

You will now load a pre made object like a box and simply use the saved Sprite as a texture on the box. You will need to properly calibrate the sprite as a texture on the box using a graphical movement chart and adjust it on the proper axes. Once successfully mapped to the pre-made object, you will move through the sprite image and setup an animation on the texture. You will now put in the travel coordinates corresponding to the edges of the pre-made object. Once the animation is setup, you will click the play button in the bottom right hand corner and play the animation. You have now setup a successful looping animation using SpriteGen by simply looping the original sprite through the plane of a pre-made object like a box.

The chief advantages again would be providing a lot of time, memory and space saving for standardized in-game animations and elements like particles, burning fire, smoke, showers and jets. Also, this would significantly reduce the render time of the animations that you would develop.