Lightwave 3D Group spins out of Newtek to take on virtual production

Group president Rob Powers has the industry cred to take on Autodesk and Lightstorm.

One of the newest companies to appear on the scene is Lightwave 3D Group. The Lightwave team has spun out from Newtek and is ready to stand on its own. It is being headed by Rob Powers, who led the Lightwave team within Newtek. Dominick Spina has joined the com­pany from Nvidia. He’s taking the role of chief marketing officer.

Rob Powers (center) and his team introduce Lightwave’s virtual production tools at Siggraph 2012 in Los Angeles. (Source: Lightwave 3D).

The company took a new booth front and center at Siggraph, and Powers was on the stage every hour. The major message from the com­pany was their expertise in virtual production. Across the aisle, Autodesk was also talking about their talent in virtual production and their association with James Cam­eron’s Lightstorm and Weta Digital in the creation of virtual production workflows. Powers has been work­ing that line as well as a result of the work he did on Avatar and helping develop the original digital produc­tion system. Powers developed the virtual art department (VAD) used on Avatar. Powers also acted as VAD supervisor on the Peter Jackson and Steven Spielberg film, The Adven­tures of Tintin.

At Siggraph, the company demon­strated Lightwave 11.5 Virtual Studio Tools. The tool set includes real-time performance capture for virtual cam­eras, character puppeteering, and virtual lighting tools. In demonstrations, actors used Sony Playstation Move controllers to capture and play back live perfor­mance. One of Lightwave’s differenti­ating features is the ability to use off-the-shelf tools to create high-end digital content. A video of the tools in use is available.

Lightwave’s Virtual Studio Tools also have lots of “through the virtual cam­era” functions including location scout­ing by moving around virtual sets to pick locations as well as the ability to adjust models, sets, and lighting in real time. Lightwave is strongest in television production, and the company believes these tools will help budget-conscious productions save money and time.

Lightwave 11.5 supports recording from several devices simultaneously to create multiple takes for playback. Con­trol Booth and Device Manager tools enable the production crew members to configure and use controllers with mul­tiple devices. As an example, Lightwave was early to offer support for the Inter­Sense VCam Tracking System and the 3DConnexion 3D controllers.

Our take

Virtual production tools represent one more collapsing piece of the pro­duction pipeline hierarchy. The more connection there is between content creation software, the content capture tools, and the people working on the set, the better the ability the team has to actually see what they’re creating. All this magic is happening through the co­operation of many teams—teams that used to work separately in very sepa­rate phases of production. In addition, the teams are using many tools. No one owns the pipeline, and as a result of all the different input from different people and companies, it’s becoming a much better pipeline.

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