T h e E v o l u t i o n O f L i g h t W a v e 3 D
by Dean A. Scott and Ben Vost
This page is a compilation and an archival record of how NewTek, Inc's., LightWave 3D computer graphics software has evolved and changed interface styles, box packaging, and logo design over the course of time, now in its 21st year and 10th version. Nowhere else on the web will you find such a comprehensive collection as this!
This is a work in progress as screen grabs of past and future version are obtained. We are still seeking screens of LightWave 2.0 on the now defunct Commodore Amiga running NewTek's Video Toaster. If you're able, get a screen grab of LightWave and Modeler 2.0 and send them to Dean or Ben (unless you feel adventurous and want to upload them and edit the respective location yourself! - it's not hard since the Gallery function of this site processes large images into thumbnails as well as medium size images as needed automatically).
Additional info, such as pricing and features will also be included as time goes on and as YOU the visitor supply (see Ben's note below). If you have any questions, comments, or resource locations, just drop me a line.
(Notes from Ben: The format of this page is a wiki, which means that details can be added, mistakes corrected and most importantly images contributed to the pictures for each version. I really want to build this page into a comprehensive history of LightWave since the beginning)
(Notes from Dean: Thanks, Ben, for taking my initial history page (with permission) and updating it to include this cool feature that only improves what I started back in 2002.
Sept. 19, 2005
Bernhard Bazant loaded up an Amiga emulator on his Linux machine, fired up LightWave 3.5, 4.0, and 5.0, and took 25-something screen grabs for me using my "famous" Babylon 5 clone models! Thanks Bernhard! That and I made all the box shots with transparent backgrounds for a somewhat cleaner look.
1988 - Precursor to LightWave 3D
Before LightWave came Videoscape 3D and Aegis Modeler 3D on the Commodore Amiga. Videoscape was written by Allen Hastings and Modeler 3D by Stuart Ferguson, giving a historical basis behind the split personality of LightWave 3D. Have a look at the sticker on the Videoscape 3D box to see how things have evolved since this program was state of the art...
Of course the Videoscape solution wasn't the only one available to NewTek when they wanted to add a 3D graphics application to the Amiga Video Toaster back in 1989 - it was almost equipped with Dr. Eric "Juggler" Graham's Sculpt 3D...
- screens courtesy: Ernie Wright (Videoscape #3 and Modeler 3D) and Hector Moratilla (Videoscape #1 & #2)
- Videoscape box courtesy: Franck Lafage
- Modeler 3D box courtesy: Stuart Ferguson (the programmer) and Gökhan SÖNMEZ from AGF, Turkey
1990 - LightWave 3D 1.0
1990 saw the first actual release of LightWave on the Commodore Amiga-based Video Toaster. NewTek had been promising its arrival for about two years at this point, but the problem lay with the chipset for the Video Toaster itself, not LightWave. At this point in time, there were 3D programs available, but they tended to cost tens of thousands of dollars, while the whole Toaster retailed for less than $5,000. The only real competition for 3D on the Amiga at that time came in the form of Imagine.
- screens courtesy: Ernie Wright
1992 - LightWave 3D 2.0
The Video Toaster got an upgrade in 1992 and so did LightWave. Later that year NewTek released the "LightWave 2.5 Pro" slice upgrade. This was the first version to have built in lens flares and some other "special" goodies for the Lightwaving Toaster users.
- No large screens available! Thumbnails are placeholders only.
- Someone fire up LW 2.0 on their rusty, err, I mean, trusty Amiga and send some screen shots to Dean or Ben (loaded with some interesting model and scene, of course)!
1993 - LightWave 3D 3.0/3.1
LightWave was still locked to the Video Toaster with the VT4000 that came out this year, however a small company called Industrial Might and Logic catered to a growing number of people that wanted access to LightWave but didn't or couldn't use the Video Toaster (because they had Amiga 3000s or lived in countries that used a television system other than NTSC). IML (natch) created their own dongle (named "LightRAVE" often referred to simply as "RAVE") that emulated the presence of the Video Toaster card so that LightWave could be run on machines apart from the desktop video card.
- screens courtesy: Bernhard Bazant
- box shot courtesy: Norm Pickthall
1994 - LightWave 3D 3.5
The first official stand-alone version for the Amiga (no Video Toaster required)
- box courtesy: Gökhan SÖNMEZ
- screens courtesy: Bernhard Bazant
1995 - LightWave 3D 4.0
This was the first version ported to Windows Intel PCs and DEC Alphas.
- PC screens courtesy: Anthony Rosbottom
- Amiga screens courtesy: Bernhard Bazant
1995 - LightWave 3D 5.0
This was when NewTek really started to branch out. LightWave was available for Intel and now also for SGI, DEC Alpha, Macintosh, and in its last version for Amiga
- PC screens courtesy: Norm Pickthall
- Amiga screens courtesy: Bernhard Bazant
- box courtesy: Norm Pickthall
1997 - LightWave 3D for the VTNT
Finally, NewTek managed to bring out a version of the Video Toaster for the PC platform on a PCI card. Obviously it had to come with LightWave as had previous Amiga incarnations, so here is the Video Toaster bundled version.
- screens courtesy: unknown
1997 - LightWave 3D 5.5
- screens courtesy: unknown
1998 - LightWave 3D 5.6
- screens courtesy: Norm Pickthall
1997 - Inspire 3D 1.0
Also in 97, NewTek released a cut-down version of LightWave called Inspire 3D for the PC. It offered the same ease-of-use as LightWave but was much simpler in terms of its abilities. Still it brought many people into 3D who could then move up to Inspire's bigger and more powerful brother once they had a handle on what was needed.
- Screens courtesy: Ben Vost
- Box courtesy: Franck Lafage
- Logo courtesy: NewTek Europe
1999 - LightWave 3D 6.0
The redesign version! LightWave got a major redesign and a new element - the Hub - was introduced to synchronise files between Layout and Modeler automatically. There were numerous other changes, such as a new, user-editable menu system, the ability to have multiple layers in a single object along with the ability to keep them in sub-patch mode, rather than having to freeze when you saved out of Modeler.
First commercial application to introduce HDRI, and first incarnation of new render at 128-bit. First implementation of Monte Carlo and Interpolated radiosity for LightWave3D.
Modeler introduced many new tools like skelegons, and upgraded many modifiers to interactive tools.
- screens courtesy: Czech LightWave Users Homepage
2000 - LightWave 3D 6.5
Because of the major redesign, more than a few people complained about the stability of LightWave in its new incarnation, but NewTek was on the case. A year after the release of 6.0 they brought out 6.5. It fixed most of people's major concerns, but also added cloth dynamics and Motion Designer 2 - in a free upgrade!
- screens courtesy: Dean Scott
2001 - LightWave 3D 7.0
LightWave 7.0 added new radiosity methods and integrated new character animation tools: motion mixer for non-linear animation, new bone setup for faster preview, new subdivision options to speed up animation workflow. The SasLite hair and fur solution was added, along with many other additions.
- screens courtesy: Dean Scott
2002 - LightWave 3D 7.5
Another free upgrade to LightWave including such features as improved radiosity and caustics, better OpenGL performance, BVH motion capture support, Powergons (polygons with scripts attached), Bandglue and the truly well-named Magic Bevel amongst other things. 7.5 was eventually followed by 7.5b (06-Mar-03), which was not very successful and had a number of problems, and so was replaced almost immediately by 7.5c (16-May-03). This remained the cutting edge of LightWave for a time, but once LightWave 8 was released a last update to 7.5 (7.5d on the 27-Aug-04) was released to counter problems with Apple's OpenGL implementation in OSX 10.3.
The 7.5b, c and d revisions were the first visible fruits of the new development team's labours.
- screens courtesy: Ben Vost
- box courtesy: Darkside Animation
- logo courtesy: NewTek Europe
- Update PDF
2004 - LightWave 3D 8.0
A long hiatus caused by the split between the original programmers and NewTek management meant that LightWave 8 had to be created by software archaeology - digging through the code in an attempt to understand it. This work paid off and resulted in the first new version in two years officially released on 30-Jun-04. For some people LightWave 3D 8 was only a commercial plugins collection, but it was the real starting point of LightWave3D Reborn. The new Team start to integrate many of their external plugins and add powerful features like : Bone Tools (a complete bone edit system), Dopesheet (to edit key in the time line faster and more confortable than in past), new dynamic rigid and soft, soft and hard link to animate with new dynamic, new OpenGL acceleration and preview, and many other small but important improvment
- Screens courtesy: Ben Vost
- Box and logo courtesy: NewTek Europe
2004 - LightWave 3D 8.0.1
First patch to LightWave 3D  released 01-Sep-04.
2005 - LightWave 3D 8.2
Second free upgrade released 18-Jan-05
This update included a method of making distortion-free UV maps for subdivision surfaces and was a world-first. Apart from bug fixes it also introduced PLD anti-aliasing, improvements to VIPER and IK Booster. Also included was a Linux version of Screamernet supplied as an RPM. This has not been updated since.
2005 - LightWave 3D 8.2.1
Patch for 8.2 released 02-Mar-05
2005 - LightWave 3D 8.3
This was the fourth free update made available to registered users of LightWave 3D 8 on 09-May-05. It offered improvements to HyperVoxels, Photoshop export and lots of other things...
- Screens courtesy: Ben Vost
2005 - LightWave 3D 8.5
Fifth free upgrade released 10-Oct-05
This new update adds GLSL compatibility to LightWave's Layout section and Multishift to its modelling tools along with plenty of bug fixes and implementations of feature requests.
On the 20-Oct-05, NewTek also released a 64-bit version for Windows XP Professional xp64 edition. This allows people with 64-bit Windows-based machines the chance to access more than 2GB ram. As of writing, this version does not exist for the Mac since OSX is not a completely 64-bit OS yet.
2006 - LightWave 3D 9.0
- box and logo courtesy: NewTek
More details to be written up including screenshots, box artwork, etc. - B
This is the second evolution (6.0 was the first overhaul) of LightWave and the feature list is very exciting! There's also something of a white paper devoted to future LightWave development at the same site:
2007 - LightWave 3D 9.2
- Boasts massive improvements across the renderer and shading pipeline
- Three radiosity modes: Backdrop, MonteCarlo, Final Gather
- Interpolated radiosity switch for fast radiosity solutions for any of the three modes
- Photoreal motion blur and adjustable shutter efficiency to eliminate strobing
- Photoreal depth of field
- Physically correct materials
- Much-improved Modeler OpenGL
- Layout previewing of motion blur/depth of field
2007 - LightWave 3D 9.3
- Point/Edge Rendering in new cameras
- Single-sided area lights
- OpenEXR image loader/saver
- Volume stacking (means an end to using reversed geometry to indicate changes of IoR)
- New subsurface scattering nodes Fast Skin and Sigma 2
- Macintosh Universal version for improved Intel-based Mac rendering (roughly 3x faster on average)
2007 - LightWave 9.3.1
- A maintenance update that provides improved reliability and speed enhancements to the additions made in LightWave v9.3.
(note: the Windows installer contains both the 32-bit and 64-bit versions)
2008 - LightWave 9.5
- Enhanced radiosity with disk-based cache and unique animated radiosity caching mode.
- FiberFX hair and fur rendering system supports combing, dynamics, raytraced fibers, radiosity-shaded fibers and modeled fiber creation.
- Much improved IK/Rigging features, Same As Item controller, improved IK stability, Pole Vector, Align to XY Plane IK goal.
- Joint bone types, easier to rig, allow correct twist along their lengths and allow for stretchy limbs.
- HDR antialiasing options in the image viewer.
- Lights are now an API allowing for third party lights to be coded with the SDK. New light types included are Dome, IES/Photometric and Spherical/Ball lights. Area lights quality improved.
- Collada, FBX added and OBJ I/O support improved.
- Interpolated Soft Reflections/Refractions for Node-based surfacing.
- Composition Overlays for composing shots.
- EXIF metadata support for images loaded and rendered.
This version was not available for Macintosh OS X, just Windows 32- and 64-bit.
2009 - LightWave 9.6
- FiberFX Cloning - Provides the ability to place multiple instances of hair on the same object
- Layout Snapping - Allows the quick connection of one item to another, saving time and additional steps
- Ray Cutoff - Enables artists to decide at what point to stop further ray bounces when rendering a scene with a great deal of reflections, refractions and transparency, saving significant project time
- New and Improved Buffers for Export - Enables multi-pass pipeline users to output more buffers (layers) in high dynamic range, rather than be limited to 8 bpc (bits per channel), for greater flexibility
- Multi-Threaded Pixel Filters - Provides faster rendering for projects that integrate pixel filters
- Depth Buffer Normalizing - Allows 3D scene elements exported into film or video footage to automatically blend properly, even if moving relative to one another
- Open to Other Render Engines - Other rendering engines conforming to the LightWave v9.6 SDK can be used directly from within the LightWave interface
- Three New Nodes
- Car Paint: Greatly eases the creation of a complex polished surface
- Flake: A procedural texture based upon the flakes often seen in car paint
- Curve: Allows the creation of complex gradients
- Drag and Drop - Allows an icon of an object or scene to be directly dropped into the Modeler or Layout window to load
2011 - LightWave 9.6.1
The last release of LightWave 9 was actually publicly made available in June 2011 (although it had been available to open beta testers for a year before), long after the release of LightWave 10. It added a couple of bug fixes, but more importantly a 64-bit version for Mac owners.
2010 - LightWave CORE
Announced 04-Feb-09, cancelled 23 June 2011
CORE was announced to have a lot of innovative features:
- Complete rewrite, will not have all of LW9.6's features, will introduce new features replacing sets of LW9.6 features
- Internal application structure and SDK expose all features openly allowing easy future development
- Linux support. Equal support for Linux, Mac and Windows
- Qt cross platform GUI. Skinnable dynamically via CSS and viewport color configurations
- Complete loss of LW9 and earlier plug-in and scripting backwards compatibility
- With Qt, have cross-platform plugins using same sourcecode. Easier Windows / Linux / Mac / 64-bit / 32-bit support, requiring only a recompile for that OS.
- Internal architecture's full exposure allows all subsystems to interact with each other, e.g. hair influenced by water simulation
- Partial LWS file compatibility specifically if the LWS uses plug-ins from LW9 and older
- SDK now a more vital component to LightWave as it's used by NewTek for actually building LightWave CORE. Previous SDK enabled 3rd party support only.
- New Collada-based file format superceding LWS and LWO
- Unified modeler and layout, if user desires. Dockable UI, tear-off menus.
- History / modifier stack
- GPU awareness for on-GPU acceleration of subdivision calculation allowing radically larger numbers of OpenGL preview polygons faster
- Brush editing
- Lattice deformation
- "Construction" viewport plane
Even with these features, what was lost was a sense of LightWave about the program and with a change of management of the development team it was decided that was needed was the use of CORE as a testbed behind closed doors to bring these new technologies to LightWave as it was already known. This led to the release of LightWave 10.
2010 - LightWave 10
LightWave 10 is the first new ordinal release of LightWave since 2006. It added three major new functionalities - Colourspace management, VPR and the Virtual Studio.
- Colourspace management
Because LightWave operates in a linear fashion with regard to colour whereas normal everyday colours displayed on a monitor are subject to the sRGB colourspace, meaning they have a Gamma of 2.2 applied, it always meant that lights had to be forced in the past, or colours tuned to match expectations. LightWave 10's colourspace management meant that it was simple to make LightWave behave in a colour-managed way.
- VPR or Viewport Preview Renderer
In many LightWave users' opinions Worley Labs FPrime was their main reason to use LightWave, but there were more and more things that FPrime couldn't show, particularly with nodes needing pre-processing, or the new radiosity schemes introduced in LightWave 9.3. LightWave 10 has introduced VPR that converts the OpenGL view normally found in a viewport to a realtime renderer.
- Virtual Studio
This is ... to be written when I've slept...
2011 - LightWave10.1
2012 - LightWave 11
LightWave 11 adds a lot to LightWave, making it one of the most complete new ordinal versions ever. Here are some highlights:
Although instancing has been available to LightWave for a long time through commercial and free plugins, this is the first time that LightWave has the ability to generate billions of polys at render time itself. Instances can be seen in OpenGL and VPR.
Using the simple rules that govern flocking in nature, LightWave now creates huge flocks of "animals" (in conjunction with instancing).
- Unified Sampling
Previously in LightWave you have needed to tweak anything that uses sampling in all the places that do so. This also slowed down the render dramatically and now it has all been unified you get the concomitant speed-up in rendering as well as simpler use.
- Bullet Dynamics
World-class realtime hard-body dynamics are now in LightWave and are very easy to use - you only need tell LightWave that an object is dynamic for it to be.
An integral part of the dynamics system now is the ability to break stuff apart and you can now do so in Modeler and Layout.
- Virtual Studio Tools
Control Layout through 3D Connexion devices or even PlayStation Move controllers.
- Interchange Tools
Add seamless workflow between LightWave and ZBrush through GoZ or Unity.
- Shadow Catcher Node
A simple way to add an object to catch the shadows and reflections of your LightWave objects in a composite with real world elements.
The powerful scripting language has been added alongside LScript, but can directly access the SDK.
2012 - LightWave 11 SP1 (11.0.1)
A bug fix release with over 130 issues corrected or improved. The Unity workflow also got a significant boost with a new Applink package.
2012 - LightWave 11 SP2 (11.0.2)
A second bugfix release. It adds no new features, but merely corrects problems in previous releases. 78 fixes have been tracked.
2012 - LightWave 11 SP3 (11.0.3)
A third service pack release. The sole feature in here is a new licensing system that allows for a software licence rather than using the hardware dongle that LightWave has been tied to since it was first split from the Video Toaster.
2013 - LightWave 11.5
A massive free update that includes the following and more:
Nodal flocking - Predator/Prey behaviour - Attract/Avoid meshes
- Bullet Dynamics
Deforming bodies - Forces
After Effects interchange
New UI - Bundles and Braids
Full rigging system
Line Pen - Heat Shrink - Axis Translate/Rotate/Scale - Transform - Chamfer - Place Mesh - Slice - Thicken - Straighten - Edit Edges - ABF Unwrap UVs - Select by Normal - Pick Surface - New Paste Behaviour
- Workflow Enhancements
Node Editor Probe - Curved node Connectors - Dome Light with Image - MDD Multi-Loader - DoF, Motion Blur and Refraction in VPR - Advanced Camera support in VPR - Rolling Shutter - Motion Path Frame display - Nodal Metalink - Fit Selected and Fit All
New Plugin architectures - Single Shot format
2013 - LightWave 11.6
At SIGGRAPH in Anaheim, CA this year the LightWave Group prereleased LightWave 11.6 along with a plugin called NevronMotion for retargeting motion capture files and ChronoSculpt, a separate program for adjusting MDD, Geometry Cache or Alembic files. More details will follow on here once all three are fully released.
Released 31-Oct-2013 LightWave 11.6, ChronoSculpt and NevronMotion are released.
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Layout 11.6 showing Spline Control
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Modeler 11.6 showing Mesh Repair
Features new to 11.6 include:
- 3D Display - Displays VPR or OpenGL in stereoscopic 3D on a suitably-equipped TV or monitor
- 3D Printing - New tools and loaders/savers to help with 3D printing. LightWave can now load and save STL, PLY and VRML format models, and there is a tool that checks the mesh is good to print (no single point or two points polys, etc.)
- Alembic - Support for the open scene format
- Assignments - A set of scripts to help with hierarchical operations in Layout (parenting, targeting, etc.)
- CgFX shaders - Game engine shaders for display in OpenGL
- Color Picker - Because Ken Nign now works for the LightWave Group he has brought his excellent Jovian colour picker plugin into LightWave as its main picker
- Compound Nodes - Node container to simplify networks
- DPX (Digital Picture Exchange) Image Loader/Saver - Image loader/saver for a digital intermediate format used a lot in production
- Genoma Spline Control - New subrig parts to add Spline Control features to rigging
- Input Node - New permanent node (like the Surface node) that contains many things that might be needed. A necessary addition needed for Compound nodes to work
- Light Falloff clamping - Now lights can have their falloff clamped to prevent overly bright areas inside the falloff zone
- LUT Expansion - support for more colour lookup tables (LUT)
- Matching Perspective to Camera or Light - you can now size up a viewpoint in the Perspective viewpoint and copy it to the camera, or add a new camera. The same applies to matching the Light View with an existing or new light
- Python Reduced Instruction Set module (PRIS) - PRIS is designed to make coding scripts for LightWave more like LScript, rather than C
- Raycast Node - A node to allow you to sit something on a horizontal surface automatically, rather than needing to do it manually. Particularly useful if the surface is irregular and animation needs to take place on it
- Spline Control - A new system using nulls, bones or other items to create a spline that can be animated itself, but also serve as a path to animate other things along
2013 - LightWave 11.6.1
Bug fix release (46 problems resolved)
2014 - LightWave 11.6.2
Bug fix release (75 problems resolved)
2014 - LightWave 11.6.3
Bug fix release (licensing problems resolved)
2014 - LightWave 2015
LightWave dropped the version numbered in favour of annual numbering. This new version features:
- VPR in multiple viewports;
- Background Importance Sampling for quicker noise-free radiosity renders;
- Bullet Constraints;
- Better I/O with FBX, Alembic and point cache file improvements;
- Genoma 2 is an advanced rigging tool that is considerably more powerful than the original Genoma built into 11.5;
- Clip mapping is at last a surface property;
- Perspective Matching for still background images to better put 3D into them;
- Quicktime is supported in 64-bit versions of Windows
- any font supported by your OS can be used in Modeler
- dozens of workflow improvements
2014 - LightWave 2015.1
Update 1 brings stability and bug fixes
2015 - LightWave 2015.2
Update 2 brings stability, bug fixes and also these additions:
- OSX Support Full-screen mode for Layout and Modeler
- Re-purposed "Enter License" tool
- Small update to Transform Gizmo's rotate handle colors to match the color of the axis around which the rotation takes place.
- Support import of Mixamo rigs (https://www.mixamo.com/)
- Added 'Invert Color' option to the Image Node.
- Add User Preference For Double-Click deselecting in Modeler
- Made the NEW COMMAND "Drop/Restore selection" the default over Drop Selection in the menus and key configurations.
2015 - LightWave 2015.3
Update 3 brings more stability fixes.
About this history
Copyright 2002, Dean A. Scott, chrusion | FX, all rights reserved. Updated wiki version and editing by Ben Vost, 2005-2014