LightWave 3D Creates a Virtual Set for TV, Movies

Battlestar Galactica calls for environments that are out of this world. These worlds can cost millions of dollars to manufacture, and they also constrict the imagination of writers because, well... they have to be physical. So, in order to produce the next installment of Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome, NBC Universal decided to attempt a pioneering feat: Create these worlds digitally.

This new series, which made its debut on Machinima Prime's YouTube channel (and later will be broadcast on the Syfy channel, and released on DVD & Blu-ray, On-Demand, and for digital download), was shot entirely against a green screen, using a stage piece for just three minutes out of the 89 minutes recorded so far. The advantage to this type of shooting is cost. The budget for this new series was just a few million dollars, and with that, they will create a 10-webisode "backdoor" pilot for a potential new TV series.

To realize this sci-fi drama's virtual set, producers use LightWave 3D 11.5, the latest version of the software (watch a demo below).

Apart from the monetary advantage, the visual effects supervisor for the show, Gary Hutzel, said that achieving a look that was emotionally gripping but still subtle to the viewer was successfully implemented by the software's latest visualization tools and lighting effects. This software was used during the series' 10-year span, but never to this extent.

This new version of the software includes features that surely helped the show's production. New modeling tools for easier functionality and architectural advancements lead to the creation of more than 20 virtual sets. The new Genoma feature streamlines the creation of biped and quadruped animated creatures using modular rigging tools and premade skeletal parts like arms, legs, spines, and wings as rig presets.

Action scenes got a more realistic look with LightWave 3D's new soft-body bullet dynamics that provide different effects when shooting into cloth, rubber, etc., and take into account bone deformation and wind force ripples. New flocking features include organic movement for scenes between opposing groups like pray and predator, and many other mass multi-node interactions.

Interchange tools now allow the producers to view individual elements in Adobe After Effects to perfect lighting, camera settings, and to also use Adobe's Camera tracker. LightWave 3D 11.5 is also compatible with ZBrush, using tools like its GoZ, which makes it easy to get the perfect textures on renderings.

With these tools, a team of 10 CG artists accomplished all the set building, perfected lighting, designed all of the action sequences, and lined up shots to create the feel of previous Battlestar Galacticas, while making scenes look even more sci-fi. "What person who fancies himself a filmmaker doesn't dream of being able to do that? ...This is the kind of power that comes from that unassuming little CG package called LightWave," said Doug Drexler, CG supervisor on Blood & Chrome, about bringing the writer's imagination to life via the award-winning software.

Watch an episode to see it firsthand.

Click here to watch the show's trailer.

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