Doug Graham reviews LightWave 8 Killer Tips
Doug Graham reviews LightWave 8 Killer Tips
A Creative COW Book Review

Doug Graham reviews LightWave 8 Killer Tips

Doug Graham Doug Graham
Stafford, Virginia USA

© 2004 Doug Graham and All rights are reserved.

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Video editor and COW leader, Doug Graham takes a look at LightWave 8 Killer Tips by Dan Ablan and Randy Sharp. ~ This book is published by New Riders. Doug says, ...Don't read this book or you may find yourself "running out to spend $600 on an upgrade to LightWave 8.'' He did.

Click here to order LightWave 8 Killer Tips from amazon.comDan Ablan has become well-known for his excellent series of tutorial books on LightWave, the popular 3D modeling and animation program from NewTek. Now, he and Randy Sharp have produced something considerably different in “LightWave 8 Killer Tips”.

This slim volume (214 pages) is one in a series of “Killer Tips” books. Each one covers a different major graphics application, and is “nothing but tips”. The concept was developed by Scott Kelby, who noticed that the marginal tips and tricks that he found scattered in larger books of the “How To Master Program X” variety were the things he always looked for first.

First of all, let me say what this book is not. It’s not massive. Dan’s latest “Inside LightWave 8” book ($59.99 from Amazon) is over 1,000 pages plus a CD-ROM. “Killer Tips” is barely a quarter of that size. If you assess the value of the book on page count alone, the “Inside” style of book is the better buy. On the other hand, there are 247 individual tips, which makes the price per tip about eleven cents…and if you find just one of these tips that saves you a few hours, or solves a tricky problem, the book will more than pay for itself.

It’s not a substitute for either the program manual or a book of tutorials like “Inside LightWave”. You won’t be able to learn the software from a copy of this book.

Having said that, let’s go on to what “Killer Tips” is. It’s a great way to learn some of the less obvious controls and hidden features of LightWave. Or, if you are already a power user, it’s a good way to remind yourself of things that you might not have used for a while. Many of the tips are simply descriptions of shortcuts in the user interface that are at least mentioned in the LightWave manual…but they are a lot easier to find here.

Dan and Randy use humorous lead-ins to introduce each of the tips in the book. At times, I felt that this was just adding unnecessary text (especially since much of the humor isn’t really that funny). But after thinking about it, I realized that the cute little introductions were actually a pretty good way of describing what it was that the tip could do for me. One area where the “cute” approach does get in the way, though, is the titles of the tips. These titles are what appear in the Table of Contents, and they are often not very descriptive of the tip. Thus, the Index at the back of the book is the place to go to find what you need, rather than the Contents pages. Since the “Tips” series are really reference books that aren’t intended to be read cover to cover, but rather dived into while looking for something in particular, I hope the editors will fix this shortcoming in future offerings.

You won’t use “Killer Tips” like a book of tutorials, to aid in “learning by doing”. Instead, the book is more of a monitor-side reference, which you’ll refer to while actually working on projects of your own. Many of the tips are ways to save time while modeling, animating, or rendering, and even a few mouse clicks can add up to a big savings in time and money, when they are repeated hundreds or thousands of times.

Although the title is “LightWave 8 Killer Tips”, the majority of the tips will apply to earlier versions of the program as well. In other words, it does a fair job of providing tips that are specific to the new features of LightWave 8, but users of previous versions won’t feel they’ve been left out, either. However, I would have liked the tips that were specifically for new LightWave 8 features to have been labeled as such, to make it easier to see just what I might be missing (my current installed version is 7.5; more about that in just a minute.)

The tips in the book are divided into ten chapters, dealing with the user interface (Chapters 1 and 2), Modeler (Chapters 3 and 4), lighting (Chapter 5), animating (Chapter 6), Bones (Chapter 7), surfacing and texturing (Chapter 8), rendering (Chapter 9), and a concluding collection of miscellaneous items. So the scope of the book is pretty broad, stretching across all the major task areas that a LightWave animator will encounter.

Another way to approach a book like “Killer Tips” is to think of it as you would a user forum on the Web. How many times have you gone on line to search a forum, hoping to find that someone already has posted the answer to a “How do I…” type of question? “Killer Tips” is a bit like a user forum that can sit on your desk. The “signal to noise ratio” is also a lot better than you’ll find in most Web forums.

One final caution regarding price: “LightWave 8 Killer Tips” may look like it costs only $28, but be careful of the hidden cost. After you read it, you may find that you are running out to spend $600 on an upgrade to LightWave 8. I did!

COW Rating: The book is worth your time and money, folks, but because of the poor Contents issue, and because I’d really have liked to see about another hundred tips in the collection…and because Dan and Randy have just cost me $600…I give it four cows.

Doug Graham

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