A bonus, but unsupported, weapon:

Network Rendering with FPrime 3

LightWave does not yet give users any option to choose which rendering engine to use. FPrime works around this limitation by providing a substitute custom Render Mode panel. Network rendering is considerably more complex. Screamernet, LightWave's network rendering tool, does not have the ability to host FPrime. A standalone FPrime is quite possible, but nearly pointless since LightWave's proprietary effects (surface textures, Nodes, ACT cameras, HyperVoxels, etc) aren't exportable.

FPrime 3 does offer a new temporary alternative, . The workaround is complex because it builds on top of LightWave's already elaborate network system. Essentially, for the PC, we're providing an unsupported but working tool which emulates a Screamernet node. It looks and acts like a LightWave node to a LightWave render controller, and ideally is a drop-in replacement.

This works by using a new program called WSN (as opposed to LightWave's LWSN). WSN responds to the exact same flags, options, and arguments are LWSN. WSN launches a copy of LightWave Layout (yes, Layout) , and automatically starts an FPrime render process inside it. This depends on using Layout in LightWave's dongle-less demo Discovery Mode. Because of the (quite unsupported) novel use of Layout as well as the extra layers of complexity in just setting up the system, we offer complete documentation and FAQs below, but not guarantees of success nor support.

Start with LWSN!

Before trying to use WSN, it is critically important to initially configure and test your setup with classical LightWave Screamernet. You must get this working before you even try to get FPrime involved in any way! Screamernet setup is complex, error prone, and confusing even to professionals, but there is documentation in LightWave's manuals and independent guides. An excellent one for the PC is by Matt Gorner and can be found at http://www.newtek-europe.com/uk/community/lightwave/gorner/3.html. A good guide for the Mac can be found at http://www.dreamlight.com/insights/10/welcome.html

It is very important to get LightWave Screamernet host and nodes working before trying to use FPrime for network rendering. FPrime starts with, and builds onto, that Screamernet setup.

Network rendering on the PC

On the PC, FPrime has a companion program called "WSN.exe" (as opposed to LightWave Screamernet, which is "LWSN.exe"). WSN responds to the identical command line arguments as LWSN. WSN.exe doesn't do any rendering itself. Instead, it launches a copy of LightWave Layout and has FPrime take control. FPrime then responds to Screamernet commands just like LWSN does. Since WSN is designed to emulate the behavior of LWSN, switching from LWSN to WSN is ideally as simple as just changing your LWSN command line or shortcut to list WSN instead. One requirement of WSN is that the WSN.exe program itself must be kept in the same directory as LightWave, since WSN.exe will launch the Lightwav.exe executable.

WSN will print progress and error messages similar to LWSN, though not necessarily the exact same render status progress lines.

WSN supports both "-2" and "-3" Screamernet modes. It will still work if you rename the executable, which is sometimes useful if you have scripts or controllers that expect to see "lwsn.exe".

Network rendering on the Mac

On the Mac, FPrime rendering nodes are not invoked by a launcher program like the PC. Instead, it's a mode you manually start from Layout which turns that launched Layout into a node. First, you should use a text editor to create a file named WSNOptions.txt in LightWave's configuration directory. This file should have two lines in it, corresponding to the Job and Ack filenames that you use for normal Screamernet rendering.

Start Layout normally, then manually invoke the Generic command "WSNClient". This will immediately start FPrime acting as a Screamernet node, communicating through the job and ack files listed in the options file. When the node is told to quit by the controller, FPrime will release control of Layout.

The node will print some status messages in a window, but there is no manual way to break a Node out of emulation mode other than having the controller close the node, or by forcing Layout closed using OSX's "Force Quit" tool.

FAQ

  1. How do I set the antialiasing level? Like LWSN, WSN follows the antialiasing setting defined by the scene itself. Set LightWave's camera AA to the level you want WSN to render to.
  2. How do I use FPrime's Progressive Rendering mode? WSN emulates LWSN, so it only follows the antialiasing level given by the scene. FPrime is certainly capable of progressive rendering, but LightWave's render controller isn't designed for the unique idea of revisiting frames endlessly. It (and other third party render controllers) all work with the understanding that frames are requested, rendered, and saved.
  3. Can I use a third party render controller? Yes, but the complexity is increased even more. But since WSN is emulating the behavior of LWSN, it's often possible to use alternative controllers since they don't even realize that something has changed. One tip specifically for ButterflyNetRender, you probably will need to rename WSN.exe to LWSN.exe and manually copy the LightWave files (Lightwav.exe and the .dll files) into the directory BNR runs LWSN from.

PC FAQ

  1. I'm having problems getting WSN to run, what's the first thing to check? The first step to any WSN problem is to make sure that LWSN itself works properly. LightWave network rendering is challenging to set up, and WSN adds an extra layer of complexity on top of that setup. If LWSN does not work (with no FPrime involved at all), then WSN will not work either.
  2. LWSN works great, but WSN doesn't. The best way to proceed is to recheck each step of the setup. Is WSN in the same directory as LightWav.exe? Make sure LightWave has the fp3.p plugin installed (using Add Plugin). It doesn't need to be licensed, but it does need to be added to LightWave. Also make sure that your node is using the proper config files. WSN tries to give as much status and debug information as possible, so study those logs for clues.
  3. I'm still having problems! Study WSN's output logs, there are a lot of clues about each step of WSN's progress. Perhaps the most common problem is path names.. it's easy to get confused with a typo, or with using a local path name when you mean a network path name. Paths need to be correct not just in the render controller, but also in the WSN command line options, in the content directory, and in LightWave's configuration files. It gets even more complicated if your config files and/or the plugins defined in those config files are on a remote machine.
  4. I have a dual CPU machine. Should I run two copies of WSN? You can, but probably you don't want to. FPrime itself is multithreaded and will use all of your CPUs to render automatically. Running two or more nodes will work, but will double RAM use since you'll have two copies of everything loaded at once. If you do run two copies of WSN, they may render at different rates since they're fighting over available CPU power.
  5. When I run WSN, I see a LightWave window open on my screen and then disappear. It's annoying. WSN actually launches a copy of Layout. By default that Layout is minimized, but it's still a full copy of Layout, and LightWave will open windows (especially when scenes are loading). There's no way to stop this.
  6. WSN doesn't work when run as a service This is mostly a problem when the Rush render controller uses service mode to run GUI-less applications. WSN has no GUI and has no problem with this, but WSN launches LightWave which is a GUI application, and is unresponsive when run as a service. This isn't a problem when WSN is not run as a service.

Mac FAQ

  1. How do I stop the node mode and get control again? You must use Screamernet Shutdown from the Screamernet controller. It would be better if there was a manual override button but this wasn't easily possible.
  2. What directory do I need to create WSNOptions.txt in? The LightWave configuration directory. This is the same place LightWave writes its configuration files. If you're not sure where this is, you might search for the LightWave configuration file itself, named LightWave Layout 9 Prefs. The WSNOptions.txt file should be created in this same directory.
  3. How do I create WSNOptions.txt? Any text editor can create it, but probably OSX's built in TextEdit is easiest. The file should have just two lines in it. They should contain the path to LightWave's Job and Ack files. This is very similar to (but simpler than) the LWSN cmdLine file that you set up for LightWave Screamernet. After you have LWSN working, you can just copy the same job and ack file names from LWSN cmdLine to WSNOptions.txt. The two lines will probably be something similar to:
    YourHD:Applications:LightWave9:Programs:job1 YourHD:Applications:LightWave9:Programs:ack1