LightWave 11 is a modeling, rendering and animation system used extensively in broadcast television production, film visual effects, video game development, print graphics and visualization.

Lightwave 11 is the latest version of its Emmy® award-winning, professional 3D modeling, animation, and rendering software that lets artists broaden their creative exploration. LightWave 11 incorporates many new features, such as instancing, flocking and fracturing tools, flexible Bullet Dynamics, Pixologic™ Zbrush® support, and much more. With its innovative tools and unlimited creative possibilities, LightWave 11 is ideal for all genres of 3D content creation-from film and broadcast visual effects production, to architectural visualization, and game design.

LightWave 11 is designed to support the creative process, providing the artist with the ability to interact in real time with 3D content, to work seamlessly with the full range of software applications in production pipelines, and to render on unlimited render nodes.   LightWave 11 incorporates groundbreaking technology, such as the Virtual Preview Renderer (VPR) for onscreen real-time rendering and Anaglyph Stereoscopic Preview for real-time interocular, 'red-blue' anaglyphic separations.


Lightwave 11 New Features


Instancing lets you create mass duplication of objects in a scene, with very little overhead. Previously, you would simply run out of memory. Now, with the ability to have huge ‘virtual’ polygon counts, artists can populate their scenes with incredible detail, and yet retain reasonable render times.

While instances can be thought of as clones of the original source objects, they don't need to look identical. They can be randomly scaled, positioned, rotated and even surfaced completely different from the source. This means you can use instancing for any number of use

Use the Flock controller, which calculates crowd avoidance of neighbors, target alignment, and cohesive attractions, to create realistic natural motions, with ease.These are the three elements of any flocking system.

Classic examples of flocking motion are:

  • Flocks of Birds
  • Schools of Fish
  • Swarms of Insects
  • Animal Herd Behaviors
  • Craft Maneuvers (planes, alien ships, etc)


This new Modeler tool was designed specifically to compliment Bullet dynamics in LightWave Layout. It allows the artist to pre-fracture objects ready for destruction.

There are a number of different methods and associated settings to fine tune the look of the pieces as they are broken up. You also have the ability to create an Endomorph of the resulting fracture, which means you can animate the explosion, with or without using dynamics.

Weight maps can also be applied to the source object to control the density of where the fracturing takes place, making Fracture a flexible tool for creating breaking objects in LightWave.

Bullet Dynamics
Bullet is a fast, production proven, open source physics engine that is used in many high profile, effects-driven films and real-time game engines. Bullet features 3D rigid body dynamics originally created by Erwin Coumans.

LightWave 11 features the Bullet dynamics engine directly in Layout so that it can be used with the new Fracture tool in Modeler to create compelling physics-based animation. Things like collapsing buildings, explosions, and even natural placement of items in a random pattern, would otherwise be difficult to do by hand.

Virtual Studio Tools
The Virtual Studio Tools first made an appearance in LightWave 10, as a way of using third party controllers to animate items in your scene.

LightWave 11 continues to expand on this concept by allowing more controller types, such as the affordable Playstation® Move. These third party controllers use the new SDK available for the Virtual Studio Tools, which now allows developers to hook into the system directly.

Using the new Control Booth and Device Managers in VST, users can now manage every aspect of how their controllers are configured, and how they are used within LightWave. Essentially, anything that can be animated in LightWave can be controlled, using any device.

It is also now possible to modify how the data input is manipulated as it is captured into LightWave, using the Node Editor. This allows for complex logic to affect the input. Once a virtual performance is captured, the data can be edited in the Graph Editor, letting you hand edit any live-captured performances.

Virtual Studio Tools in LightWave 11 is a significant evolution of this technology, and with the new SDK, third party developers can extend and enhance it even further.

Interchange Tools
GoZ™ is an interchange technology from Pixologic®, that allows applications to send model and texture data to and from ZBrush™ for sculpting detail on a base mesh. It has proved incredibly popular among many 3D artists. Now, LightWave 11 brings that technology to you.

The GoZ implementation in LightWave Layout and Modeler is robust and fully featured. It allows you to exchange model data, along with all the associated texture maps. The Modeler implementation even lets you use ZBrush for sculpting Endomorphs for things like facial morphs.

GoZ now allows LightWave to be even more integrated within studio pipelines, making it a great addition to the LightWave 11 toolset.

Render Buffer Enhancements
Saving and viewing the various buffers produced by the render engine to make up an image, is now more powerful and much easier in LightWave 11.

The new Compositing Buffer Export panel now makes it possible to select which objects are to be included with the buffers you specify, and easier to select which buffers are to be exposed for saving or viewing.

This makes rendering out for compositing much more streamlined, as it combines and extends the functionality of two different panels you had to visit in previous versions of LightWave. It also allows saving of presets for the commonly used buffers to aid in setting up for output, something that was not possible before.

Python Scripting
Python is an industry standard programming language prevalent in most CG pipelines. The inclusion of Python in LightWave 11 allows even further integration of LightWave into studio pipelines, as those familiar with Python can quickly begin writing tools for LightWave.

FiberFX Enhancements
FiberFX now has a new volume rendering mode. “Stroke” is the original shading method for volumetric rendering. When set to “Solid,” the user can apply shading and material like any normal surface. This lets you create very complex looking fibers, easily, and perform parametric cylinder rendering of the fibers.

FiberFX volumetric rendering has also been enhanced with smooth line rendering to match the pixel filter look, as well as render buffer support for all fiber types.

New optimizations that make the building and relaxed distribution of fibers multi-threaded, give you faster render times and interactivity when working with fiber setup and styling. Additionally, the FiberFX instance accelerator demonstrates benchmarked rendering improvements of 2x for complex situations.

FiberFX has also benefited from the new instancing system in LightWave 11. Volume mode now uses the new built-in instancing system. The old FiberFX Instancing Tab is no longer needed and has been removed.

FiberFX has also been given enhanced nodal support in the following areas:

  • Instance Info node now works to change color on FiberFX instances in Solid volume type
  • Added support for nodal color input to the stroke or ribbon type of volume rendering
  • Add nodal color UV texture mapping support for volume stroke rendering, including smoothing
  • Add nodal color UV texture mapping support for rasterized fibers, including smoothing
  • Add alpha input into FiberFX node editor
  • Add alpha mapping support for texture mapping

User Interface Enhancements


Workflow Additions and Changes
Features are nothing without good workflow. That's why LightWave 11 has a number of improvements to areas of the workflow, no matter how small they may be, it all adds up to a better user experience and faster working environment.

Node Editor Search
The list of available nodes can now be searched to find a specific node more quickly. There are also options for case-sensitive searching and flat list results (the matched nodes will appear in a flat list as opposed to a hierarchal list showing the node group they are located in). There is also a quick option to clear out a search and get back to the full list. All of these options are found in the popup menu to the right of the search field.

Adding Multiple Nodes
The addition of the node tree list means that multiple nodes can be added all at once, rather than one at a time. Simply select the nodes you need and click the Add Node button. Alternatively, click the first node, hold the Shift or Ctrl key (depending on the type of selection you are doing - contiguous/non-contiguous), and double-click the last node. The previous way of adding nodes via the popup menu, is also still available. The small drop down arrow next to the Add Node button is where the original node menu is located.

Many options that affect the final render are located in a number of panels. Previously the user had to switch panels often to check all of these settings. In LightWave 11, the main panels have been grouped together for quick access within the same panel.

The Render Properties panel now hosts the Camera and Light options. The shortcuts for opening these panels are still the same as previous versions of LightWave, so it will not disrupt your workflow. It just means that checking your render settings is now much easier with all these items in one panel, under their respective tabs. The Render Properties panel can now also be accessed by the shortcut Ctrl p.

Faster Access to the Morph Mixer Interface
The Morph Mixer plug-in is especially important for character animators, but was buried away in a large list of plug-ins. On the Object Properties panel under the ‘DeforOBJ I/O Enhancementsm’ tab, there is now a button to quickly add and access the Morph Mixer interface.


Further Enhancements & Optimizations


IK Evaluation Optimizations
Performance has been improved for the IK rigs to speed up character animation, allowing for easier and smoother posing while working. Also GLSL speed in Layout is improved.

Scene Loading Speed Optimizations
A huge speed boost has been added to Scene and Object loading, in some cases - 7x faster.

Modeler Optimizations & Enhancements
Multi-Layered Object is now much faster to work with than previous versions of Modeler.

Off-Axis Alignment
Items can now be modeled off-axis and automatically aligned to the origin. This allows details to be added, such as bolts or nurnies to be placed and aligned to a complex surface.

Shadow Catcher Node Material
Shadow Catcher allows comping of shadows and even reflections onto a background plate by rendering to an object that is modeled to match the ‘real’ ground in the background. The Shadow Catcher node then only renders the shadows and reflections of other scene items, while ignoring the ground model surface. The result is believable, perfectly blended shadows and reflections in the background plate, just as if the CG elements were actually in the original photo.

Print Render Utility
Working out how big to make your camera frame size for print has long been a question asked by many. And while the math is simple, it’s process is ripe for automation. The ‘Print Assistant’ utility in LightWave has been replaced with a much more fully featured version. This version supports all major print units and has a large list of preset standard paper sizes, making it a useful update for those working with LightWave for print.

Unified Sampling
The sampling of anti-aliasing, shaders, and lights has undergone a significant change to a more advanced unified sampling system. The result means better quality sampling, often at lower render times.

The new system results in changes to the anti-aliasing, with ‘Samples’ and ‘Quality’ settings located around the interface. They are all now using absolute samples and are located in only two places: the Camera and Render Globals panels. Previously light quality was calculated as a squared value. For example, if the user entered a value of 4, the actual number of samples taken would be 4x4, which equals 16.

Nodes handled things slightly different, they would try to get as close to the absolute number of samples entered, but sometimes might not be able to. These areas are now on equal footing, which means they work together for a better image quality.

VPR Enhancements
VPR now allows the ability to select a surface by clicking on the object in the viewport, which then brings up the surface editor with the surface highlighted. This new functionality makes it much easier to make modifications to surfaces. Lens Flares are now supported directly in the VPR, also the unified sampling updates are also present in the VPR which give improved quality.

HyperVoxels™ Blending
The Metaball blending method for HyperVoxels has been re-implemented and can be used with all HyperVoxel types. Rather than just retaining the two former preset choices (Metaballs 1 and Metaballs 2) the implementation has been revised to allow for control of the algorithm via a percentage entry field and animation of the value using Envelopes and Textures.

OBJ I/O Enhancements
The OBJ file format is now more robust, supports a wider range of material tags, and loads faster to optimize I/O with other external applications.




Interactive Display and Rendering Tools

  • Viewport Preview Rendering (VPR): See instant results with realistic view of scenes and objects with interactive light, nodal shading and scene set up
  • CG Hardware real-time viewport shading enhancements: Real-time OpenGL view of Ambient Occlusion, Bloom, Stereoscopic Anaglyph and HDRI background images
  • Linear workflow: Supports consistent gamma, color space, and custom Look Up Tables (LUTs) for more realistic lighting, and to maximize compositing flexibility in a professional pipeline

Data Interchange Enhancements

  • MDD with powerful new enhancements include support for Autodesk Geometry Cache: Freedom to move deformations and transforms between applications allowing for an extremely flexible, extensible pipeline for animation, dynamics, effects, and rendering
  • FBX: Load and save camera data, lighting, objects with UV maps and image maps, parenting hierarchies, etc.
  • Collada: Easy transfer of camera data, lights, object placement, image maps, etc., from one application to another
  • Improved ZBrush Interchange: Improved ZBrush Interchange Easy transfer and manipulation of UV maps from ZBrush
  • Improved OBJ UV Support: Delivers the ability to import and export any number of UV maps

New Immersive, Real-Time and Game Tools

  • Support for the InterSense VCam virtual camera system used in feature film Virtual Art Departments (VAD): Gain a true “on location” experience through interaction with massive 3D scenes in real time with control of light placement and camera directly in your 3D application
  • Support for 3Dconnexion line of 3D mouse: Move through the virtual world and interact with models and scenes controlling cameras and lights in real time
  • SpriteGen Automates creation of sprite animation images for real-time and game engines

Bullet Rigid Body Dynamics

  • Integrated dynamics and simulation: Create dynamics, calculations and simulations for effects such as collapsing buildings, breaking glass, etc.

UV Mapping Tools

  • Transform
  • Scale Rotate
  • Move
  • Separate
  • Stitch
  • Relax
  • UV Unwrap

Character Animation Enhancements

  • FiberFX: Complete hair and fur solution for all platforms.
  • Collada, FBX and OBJ I/O support: Improved compatibility with other applications.
  • Enhanced IK and Animation Systems: Provides improved character animation controls.


  • IES Lighting: Accurately duplicate physical lights from manufacturers’ datasheets.
  • Radiosity Cache: Unique animated and static caching with size multipliers.
  • Photoreal Motion Blur: Artifact-free live action blur as if photographed with film
  • New anti-aliasing methods: Greater control for balancing quality with render speed.
  • New global illumination and radiosity: Easily create photorealistic scenes, sharacters and products while simulating the effect of real-world lighting in photography.
  • Progressive previews for global illumination: Provide immediate feedback
  • Implementation of state-of-the-art BSP/KD Tree Algorithm: Provides much faster and more efficient raytracing; bigger scenes render a lot faster.
  • Improved multi-threading with dynamic segmentation: Insures maximum use of available CPUs, optimizing render times.

Adaptive Pixel Subdivision

  • Speed increases many times over previous versions of LightWave: More efficient render times for today's increasingly ambitious high polygon-count scenes for production.
  • Adaptive subdivision of a mesh based upon distance from the camera and visibility: Allows for effective use of system resources for workflow viewing versus rendering.
  • APS Choice: Per Object, Per Polygon and Per Pixel: Provides the widest range of flexibility.

Advanced Camera Tools

  • RealLens Camera: Physically correct cameras allow recreation of any real-world camera lens for matching footage rendered in LightWave to real-world photography. (a must for compositing CGI and real footage together)
  • New rendering technology produces scenes using arbitrary camera lenses and warps: Create fantastic effects such as: camera plane deformations, arbitrary projections, UV map generation, true orthographic rendering, space warp simulations, lens distortion duplicating real-world lenses or "imaginary" lenses and one-camera 360° panorama rendering.

Node Editor

  • subsurface scattering materials and shaders: Accurately simulates lighting and shading for materials such as marble, milk, etc., as well as a specific and easy to use material for skin shading.
  • Material Nodes: Conductor, Dielectric, Delta and more: Allow for the creation of physically accurate surfaces such as glass, liquid and metals quicker and easier than ever before.
  • New Make Material and Standard Nodes: Allow for conbination of shading models and other node maps to create your own distinct material.
  • Blinn, Oren-Nayar, Ambient Occlusion and other shading models: Provide unlimited shading possibilites.
  • Shaders for sub-surface scattering & anisotropic specular & reflection shaders: Allow for easy-to-use chromatic dispersion in surfaces, and offer spectacular visual impact.
  • Support for normal maps from ZBrush® and Mudbox™: Adds incredible detail to low-poly models via displacement.
  • Workflow flexibility: Nodes can be used freely with layers and even shader plug-ins.
  • Full support of native controls and envelopes: Best of both worlds when texturing materials - quick and easy traditional layers and powerful and flexible nodes.
  • Full SDK support: Allows third-parties to create nodes (including shading models) and for third-party renderers to interface with and query nodal shaders. A vast selection of third-party nodes and cameras is already available.


  • Improved editing performance: Create and edit your models and meshes faster than ever before.
  • New screen drawing system in OpenGL: See the results of your changes faster than ever before.
  • Catmull-Clark subdivision surfaces: Expand and simplify the modling workflow by widening subdivision capabilities to include edges, edge weighting and n-gons.

Other Benefits

  • Native 64-bit support: Ability to access more RAM allows for creation of more complex and realistic scenes, as well as production at higher resolutions for film, high-definition television and print.
  • Multiplatform: Provides complete operating system flexibility from work to home: Windows 32-bit, 64-bit, Mac Universal Binary.
  • Dual & Multicore support: Allow you to tap into the full power of the latest advancements in hardware technology.
  • Unlimited Free Render Nodes: Make photorealistic rendering affordable across a large network.

CORE Technology

  • Parametric Modeling - offers the freedom to change model attributes allowing you to explore options and make modifications at any stage in the creative process. All of your actions are preserved and updated using the modifier stack.
  • Interactive Viewport Preview Rendering (VPR™) - any viewport can be switched to a VPR view, including multiple viewports with different angles. Based on the CORE render engine, all VPR views match the final CORE render output and are fully interactive, allowing you to create new models, modify existing ones, and interact with lights and cameras in the VPR viewport.
  • Rendering - the CORE renderer, a subset of the LightWave renderer, is fully multi-threaded and leverages modern light transports, materials descriptions via CORE shaders, and global illumination.
  • Integrated Bullet Physics library - offers fast, robust modern dynamics and simulation.
  • Animation of All CORE Attributes and Modeling Functions - animate any data element offered in CORE, including direct animation of points, edges, faces and items (objects). Keyframe animation and procedural animation are offered.
  • Python-Based Expressions and Scripting - a fully scriptable environment via Python and the CORE SDK can be used to create expressions and perform math operations in any data field. It can also be linked to the rotation of an object to change the color of another object.
  • Simple Compositing Environment - good for blending layers, adjusting image sequences, and more. Supports plug-in products that conform to the OFX (OpenFX) standard proposed by The Foundry.
  • Fully Accessible SDK - the completely open SDK gives full access to CORE to extend the out-of-box functionality of CORE.



Specifications & Licensing

System Requirements


  • System RAM: 512 MB minimum requirement, 1 GB recommended
  • Graphics card: nVidia FX 5200 series (minimum) or ATIFireGL V 5100 (minimum)
  • Graphics support: Full OpenGL (OpenGL 2.0 support, or ARB_shading_language_100 OpenGL extension in earlier versions, required to use GLSL features)
  • Graphics driver: Latest from chipset manufacturer
  • Dedicated video RAM: 64 MB per display minimum requirement, 128 MB recommended
  • Minimum resolution: 1024x768 minimum requirement, 1280x1024 recommended
  • Hard drive space: 230 MB for program installation (not including content)

Windows 32-bit:

  • Operating System: Windows XP
  • Processor: Intel or AMD

Windows 64-bit

  • Operating System: Windows XP Professional x64 Edition
  • Processor: Intel EM64T or AMD64
  • System RAM: 1 GB


  • Operating System: Tiger (10.4.10 or later) or any version of Leopard
  • Processor: PowerPC G4 800Mhz or faster; any G5 or any Intel-based Mac



LightWave v9 will utilize the hardware lock dongle for software protection. The dongle should remain attached to the artist's system when LightWave 3D is in use.

For artists operating on the 32-bit PC platform, LightWave v9 will work with the parallel-port dongle.  It is encouraged that all users to upgrade to the newer USB DUO dongle which is free with an upgrade.  Support for parallel-port dongle's will continue for the foreseeable future.

For artists wishing to utilize the 64-bit PC platform, we are only able to offer support for the USB DUO dongle at this time. We will continue efforts to work with the dongle manufacturer to provide 64-bit drivers for the parallel-port dongle in the future.

Network licenses are not available.

Additional Info

Upgrades / Support



  • Upgrade to Lightwave v.9 from previous versions
  • Upgrade with digital or printed manuals


RFX is available for all your support needs.

Technical Support is free to registered product owners.


Newtek Also offers HardCORE

LightWave HardCORE, membership program., join today and gain access to preview builds of LightWave 10 immediately, along with these additional benefits:

  • Exclusive access to ongoing builds of LightWave 10 and beyond
  • LightWave 10 upgrade at no charge
  • Price guarantee of $495 for the next five LightWave upgrades
  • Private community area with forums for interaction with one another and LightWave development management
  • Permanent membership in LightWave HardCORE as long as you purchase each new upgrade within the defined grace period
  • VIP invitations to special events

Must be a registered owner of LightWave v9 to qualify. Need to upgrade or buy a new copy of LightWave v9? Your LightWave v9 upgrade and new purchase automatically comes with a membership to HardCORE. Make your purchase on line here or from the NewTek reseller in your area.

HardCORE team Option:

NewTek invites you to participate in this innovative and exciting process which is simple to join and will give lasting benefits for years to come.

To become a LightWave HardCORE member you must hold a licensed and registered copy of LightWave v9. Your LightWave v9 registration entitles you to purchase an annual membership for US$495.

All new purchases and upgrades include an annual membership to the LightWave HardCORE community.

HardCORE membership includes:

  • Exclusive access to ongoing builds of LightWave with CORE Technology
  • Shipping versions of LightWave delivered during membership year
  • Continued updates to LightWave v9
  • First to receive the Cocoa® version of LightWave
  • Private community area with forums for interaction with one another and the LightWave development team
  • Exclusive development presentations and updates
  • LightWave with CORE Technology training videos
  • VIP invitations to special events
  • Personalized membership card
  • Exclusive LightWave with CORE Technology t-shirt


Related Products

3D Content Pack

3D Logo Animations Include:
Program open and bumper animations for each sport, featuring a logo showcased in a sports arena or stadium setting. Logo treatments for team and player identification with areas to customize with logos or pictures of players. Animations can accommodate single and multiple teams and players. Program title or team logo animations for program or segment introductions, award ceremonies and team introductions. Fast-paced bumper and transitional animations featuring football, baseball, basketball, etc. with an area for logo, image and/or video to be placed on the object.

Bonus Features
Easy Surface – a powerful selection utility that provides quick access to pre-determined surfaces for easy color and texture changes. Custom color presets for the most commonly used team colors.

3D Content Pack is loaded with dynamic, pre-built, animated scenes designed for use with 3D Arsenal and LightWave 3D.

It contains more than 50 professionally produced sequences including logo animations, opening titles, bumpers and transitions for football, baseball, basketball, soccer and hockey.