Master water in LightWave
Water is a topic that surfaces on a regular basis. Here, Craig Clark looks at perfecting simple yet good-looking water in LightWave
This article looks at creating simple yet attractive water in LightWave. The Internet will readily give up various tutorials for creating and rendering realistic, heaving oceans, but what I am looking at here is simple but effective water which I use when creating cross sections of submerged subjects, such as boats and hydro dams. This water is very quick, but creates a nice, rich effect at the same time.
The water we are going to create is of a style you would use in a cross-section illustration. Therefore, as the base geometry, all we need to do is create a box that will encompass or adequately accommodate our main model. Select the top polygon, side polygons, and the bottom polygon in turn, and assign separate surfaces so that we have the surfaces split up for the water surface, the sides, and the bottom.
Basic surface settings
Basic settings for the water come first. For the color, I chosoe the Bondai Blue from the LW11.6 color picker, but any color you want is fine. I use the same color for the sides too. For the bottom you can go for a river/sea bed color rather than the same blue. I also add turbulence procedural to the bump channel for the water surface.
Let's get nodal!
For the main water shading, we will be using the dielectric node, which is used for glass typically, but any material that has transparent properties and an IOR higher than 1. For water, the IOR should be 1.33, but really you can use whatever value gives you the most pleasing result. The most critical parameter for this purpose is absorption. The smaller the number, the less light is absorbed by the water, and so the clearer it becomes. I higher value will make the water appear denser, and therefore show more of the underlying color.
Copy and paste
With all the properties for our water's surface ready, we can transpose them on to the surface for the sides of the water (and the bottom if you want a box of water). In LW11.x you can right click a surface and copy, and then on the destination surface right click, and select which properties to paste. In this instance, I only paste the basic tab. That way the dielectric node isn't copied. The sides only want to have the color; we don't want any bump, reflections, or IOR.
Get ready to render!
Before we render, we give our water a basic environment to pick up. I set the standard Lightwave gradient backdrop, and using the new option in the compositing tab, I then set the option to use a backdrop color (black) so that the gradient is used but not seen in the render directly. I'm using a single light in the scene, just to keep a bit of contrast, which works nicely with the water. The last job is the main focus of the scene, in my case a Singapore Navy warship.
Top tip 1: Show VPR some respect!
VPR is much more stable in LW11.6, but in earlier versions, make sure you switch off VPR before flicking back to modeler. If you don't, there is a 90% chance that when layout updates the models, VPR will crash layout.
Top tip 2: Small is good!
If, like me, you run relatively modest hardware, it can be useful to run layout with multiple viewports so that VPR runs at a reduced size, making it a little zippier at rendering.