THE MODIFIER STACK
December 18, 2015
LightWave provides several ways to deform a mesh. Morphs, Bones and several Displacement types are working together to give the mesh the desired final shape. What is absolutely important (especially if we’re dealing with a subpatches) is the order those operations are performed and if they should happen on the cage or the subdivided object.
Apply a displacement before the object subdivision (so on the cage vertexes), and you may not get what you need, since the potential detail of a Displacement or Procedural map gets lost. Or apply a morph before Local or World displacement and, again, get what you most likely don’t need. Not only you can apply displacements in different ways and from different “places”, you can also, in most cases, decide when those should be applied. And there you have several selectors where you can choose the order for the single deformer/subdivision operation: First, After Morphing, After Bones, After Displacement, After Motion, Last, Before Bones, Before Local and World Displacement…all very familiar terms for any LightWave user.
Some experience can of course lead to some reliable rules absolutely perfect for certain situations. Are we dealing with a rigged character whose surface detail is controlled by a ZBrush generated Displacement map? Set your subdivision order to After Bones, apply your displacement using nodes (Before Local Displacement) and be happy. You’ll get the bones in your rig deforming the base mesh only (faster), the subdivision happening after bones (which leads to a better final result) and the displacement applied to the subdivided mesh, so the detail will be there (as long as you have a good number of subdivisions set!). Hard? Once you get how it works, no. Can it be improved? Yes, for sure.
So we get to the main topic of this post: the New Modifier Stack. For sure you’re familiar with the Deform Tab in LightWave2015. From there you can assign a Morph Target, add Morph Mixer, apply a Displacement map along any axis, access the Displacement Node editor…and you can also use the Add Displacement menu to get access to a list of deformers that can be applied to the mesh, and added to a list. That list is actually working as a modifier stack, since you can add, reorganize, disable, copy and paste deformers. Sadly, that can only be done for plugin based deformers, and there’s no way to selectively decide if they should affect the cage mesh or the subdivided one, or be applied before or after bone deformation…
The New Modifier Stack finally solves all those issues. Any deformer is now added to the same list, and it is possible to precisely define the order of any operation. You can of course enable and disable the modifier according to your needs. If you’re animating you really want the maximum playback speed, so you can quickly disable the Subdivision modifier, without having to change any defined subdivision number. Of course the same applies to any ZBrush generated Displacement or any procedural map. Switching from the minimum to the maximum detail requires just a few clicks! Isolating the effect of any deformer is also something extremely useful while working on complex scenes requiring several interacting animation tools.
We’ve made our best effort to make old scenes load fine in this new version of LightWave while still updating the architecture and workflows in important ways. As the scene is loaded the deformation tools are automatically ordered into the New Stack so they reproduce the same final result on the meshes.
The New Modifier Stack and the addition of some important nodes allow for some unprecedented level of character and FX setup in LightWave. Creating corrective morphs is now very easy thanks to the way the deformation tools can interact. You can see some exciting examples in the video!