Lightform Creator Software Tutorial
Welcome to this beginner’s introduction to Lightform Creator software!
In this guide I’ll walk through everything you need to know to get started projection mapping using Lightform Creator software with your Lightform AR projection mapping device.
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Lightform creator is content creation software that runs on PC or Mac. A perpetual license for the software is included with the purchase of a lightform device.
Download Lightform Creator.
I am using the LF2+ but you might be using another Lightform device like the LF2 or the LFC kit.
This guide will assume you are having your Lightform device paired to your computer and you’ve successfully made a scan of your scene.
Starting from 00:49 Interface
The main view in the centre of the Interface is known as the Artboard and it gives us an interactive view of our canvas where all our content is created.
The size of this artboard is determined automatically based on the resolution of the projector you used for your scan.
Any content that goes outside the edges of the artboard won’t be sent out of the projector.
Inside your artboard, you will see your scan.
When your Lightform device performs a scan, it uses structured light patterns to gain an understanding of your scene from your projector’s point of view.
This understanding of your scene includes colour and depth information which gets stored in the scan.
Lightform Creator can use that data to quickly select objects and apply dynamic effects.
If you are using a mouse with a scroll wheel you can zoom in and out of the artboard by using control or command + scroll wheel. Or you can pinch on a trackpad.
If you hold down space you can pan around. You can also pan around using two finger drag on a trackpad.
The section above your artboard is called the Toolbar.
It contains editing tools, masking tools and content creation tools which we will cover in more depth later in the tutorial.
On the left side of the Interface you will find the Layers Panel which displays all of our surfaces in a list.
If you twirl down the arrow to the left of the surface’s name, it expands to reveal all the assets assigned to that surface. These assets consist of effects, generators, video and images.
You can select a layer at any time by clicking its name in the list.
You can rename layers by double clicking the layer name.
The list can be reordered by dragging layers into a new position in the stack.
You can also lock layers so you can’t make changes by clicking the padlock icon.
You can turn a layer’s visibility off and on by clicking the eye icon.
You can duplicate layers by right clicking and selecting Duplicate.
Depending on what is selected at the time, the Properties Panel on the right side of the Interface will populate dynamically with parameters that are relevant to the selected layer.
You can deselect all active layers by clicking in an empty area of the Interface. If you do this, you will see the properties associated with your scan in the Properties Panel.
In your Scan Properties you have the option to make a new scan or modify your existing scan.
You can also access these properties by going to Edit>Scan Properties.
You can access the Asset Browser on the far right of the Toolbar by clicking the icon that looks like a photo.
The Asset Browser will expand on the right side of the Interface. In here you will find tabs for project assets, built in assets and stock content.
If at any time you want a real-time preview of your artboard on the scene, you can click Preview to the upper right of your artboard.
Clicking the down arrow next to Preview brings up the Preview Preferences. In here you can choose whether you want to see masks, or your cursor position visualised as crosshairs in the preview.
You can also set the quality of the live video stream.
There are other preference settings in here that relate to the artboard and interface.
These preference settings can also be accessed by Mac users by going to Lightform>Preferences and Windows users by going to Edit>Preferences.
Once you have finished editing your project, you can publish it to your Lightform device by clicking Publish above the artboard.
Just above the Slides are some basic controls where you can play, pause or stop playback of your slides.
Surfaces & Masking
Starting from 04:49 Surfaces & Masking
What are surfaces in Lightform creator?
Think of surfaces like smart groups into which we put our content like images, videos and effects.
All the masks and warping we apply on the surface also apply to everything contained inside the surface as well.
How do I create a surface? Well, you do that using…
Surfaces are created using the masking tools.
We use these tools to define the areas we are interested in augmenting.
The Pen Tool can be found on the Toolbar. It can also be activated with the shortcut P.
This tool is used for manually defining vector paths by clicking out a series of points.
You can simply click to create points.
You can finish a shape by closing it or using Enter on your keyboard.
Once you complete a mask, a surface is created automatically.
You can go back and alter your vertex points. Click and drag on a control point to reposition it.
If you click and drag when creating a new point it will create a bezier curve.
You can change the tangent of the bezier curve by adjusting the control handles.
By holding Alt or Option you can manipulate one handle independent of the other.
You can convert a point you have already made into a bezier curve by holding Control or Command and clicking and dragging on the point.
The Shape Tool can be used either to create a rectangular or an ellipse-shaped mask.
Using the Rectangle Tool, which can also be enabled with the shortcut R, you can click and drag out a rectangle to use as a mask.
Hold shift to make a perfect square.
You can enable the Ellipse Tool with the shortcut E or by right clicking on the rectangle icon.
Click and drag to create an oval.
Hold down shift to create a perfect circle.
The Magic Wand tool – which can be accessed with the shortcut W – can intelligently select areas of the scan with similar colour or depth.
In can select based on either Colour or Disparity.
In Colour Mode, if you click on a coloured area, the tool will look for other adjacent areas of a similar colour and include those in the selection.
If you have Connected selected, the Magic Wand tool will only select areas that are adjacent to where you click.
If connected is unselected, the tool will consider the whole artboard when it’s deciding which areas are eligible to be added to the selection.
If you change the tolerance you alter how strict the tool is when its considering which colours to include in the selection.
If you lower the tolerance, only colours that exactly match or are extremely close to the original colour will get included. Higher tolerances will allow more and more similar colours into the selection.
The tool can also differentiate areas by disparity – in this mode, the Magic Wand considers the 3d depth information in the scene and selects based on areas that exist at a similar distance from the projector.
In Add Mode, we can click additional pixels on the artboard to capture more areas in our selection.
If you feel like you’ve included too much in your selection, you can shift into Subtract Mode to remove areas from the selection. You also enter Subtract Mode by holding Alt or Option while you make your selections.
Once you’re happy, you can click Create Surface and a masked surface will be created with adjustable vertices.
Modify Edge lets you grow or shrink the selection by a given number of pixels.
The Fit Accuracy slider lets you decide how precise you want your mask to be. Masks with higher accuracy will hug the shapes in the scan more tightly but require more points.
The Magic Brush, which can be called up with the shortcut Y, operates in a very similar way to the Magic Wand except that it is more akin to painting in the selection with a brush.
You can adjust the brush size to suit the area you are trying to select.
If you’d rather take a more manual approach you can use the Brush Tool which uses the shortcut B.
With this tool you can paint in areas to select as you would with a pixel mask in a graphics editing application like Photoshop.
Starting from 10:37 Editing
Once you have created a mask, you can use various Editing Modes to change or refine it.
You can enter Edit Mode with the shortcut V. It is also the mode you enter by default if you exit another tool using ESC.
You can move multiple vertices at once by holding shift and clicking to either add or remove them from your selection.
Or you can drag out a selection box around multiple vertices.
Like with the Pen Tool, you can convert linear points to bezier curves by control or command clicking and adjust using the handles.
Hold control or command with shift and click on an edge to add a new vertex point on the path.
You can delete a vertex by selecting it and pressing delete on your keyboard.
Move Mode allows you to move a surface or layer and to also scale and rotate content layers.
Access it on the Toolbar or with the shortcut M.
In this mode you will simply see a bounding box around your content.
Click and drag inside the bounding box to move your selection.
If you select an asset layer, you can scale by clicking and dragging on the corner of the bounding box. You can constrain the proportions of your layer by holding shift while you do this.
If you hover close to the bounding box your cursor will become a rotation icon. If you now click and drag, you can rotate your selection around the centre point.
If you hold shift you can rotate in increments of 10 degrees.
The Perspective Warp tool allows you to give 2d content the impression of having 3d perspective by adjusting its corners. This is also sometimes known as ‘corner pinning’
Select a content layer and click the Perspective Warp icon in the Toolbar or use the shortcut W.
Drag a corner of the layer and release to pin it in place.
The Perspective Warp tool doesn’t just deform the content, it applies a 3d-like perspective to the layer with a hypothetical vanishing point.
There are some perspective-related controls to be found in the Properties Panel when a content layer is selected.
By default, straight out of the box, content appears flat without any deformation. If that content is within a surface that does have perspective warping applied, you can use Fit to Surface in the Properties Panel, to automatically make the content adopt the perspective of the parent surface.
If you know that, going forward, you want all content within this surface to adopt the same perspective warping you can select the parent surface and toggle on Auto Fit New Content in the Properties Panel. Now all content you place within the surface from now on will have the surface’s perspective without you having to use “Fit to Surface” on each one individually.
Starting from 14:12 Asset Browser, Effects & Generators
Using control or command P calls up the Asset Browser.
There are three types of Assets which can be accessed under the three tabs: Project Assets, Built-in Assets and Stock assets.
Project Assets are media items you have imported into the project yourself.
Lightform Creator supports many common video and image formats but the developers recommend video encoded with the h264 codec in an mp4 container.
You can either drag and drop your own media into the project assets panel or use the Choose File function.
Make sure you have your chosen surface selected then either double click the asset or use Insert Content to add it to the surface.
You can use Lightform Creator’s Built-in Assets which include effects, generators, images and videos.
You can search for assets and view thumbnail previews inside the Asset Browser.
To add a built-in asset to a selected surface, either double click the thumbnail or use Insert Content.
You can modify an effect or generator by selecting the layer in the Layers Panel list. It’s properties will appear in the Properties Panel where you can adjust the parameters to dial in a custom look.
All asset layers will also show properties like opacity, blend mode and transform values which you can edit in the Properties Panel.
Effects vs Generators
What is the difference between Effects and Generators?
Effects use scan data to produce context-aware graphics that are congruent with the 3d shapes in your scene.
Generators on the other hand do not take scan data into account and are simply procedurally generated 2d graphics.
Lightform Creator also provides access to a catalogue of stock video and animations which you can browse and download from.
View what’s on offer by clicking the Browse Catalogue button.
Find an asset you want to use and either double click it or use the Download button.
The clip will download and appear in your Stock Assets tab.
To add it to your selected surface, either double click the stock asset or press the Insert Content button.
Since you have now downloaded a local copy of this stock asset, it will appear here in your stock asset library for all future projects unless you delete it from your computer.
Starting from 16:54 Adding Text
Add text using the Text Tool which can be enabled using the shortcut T.
If you have a surface selected when you enable this tool, a text layer will be added to that surface.
If no surface is selected, then a new surface will be created containing the new text layer.
You can now edit the text’s properties in the Properties Panel and do things like change the text content, font, size, colour and alignment.
I would recommend not resizing the text within the Properties Panel, but instead scaling the text layer and then, in Edit Mode, enlarging the corner points of the surface to accommodate it.
Starting from 17:45 Blend Modes
By default, layers are sat on top of one another like pieces of paper in a stack. You can’t see layers that are sat below another layers.
This is because the Blend Mode is set by default to normal.
What are blend modes?
They affect how the layer’s pixels blend with the layers below.
Each of the 19 blend modes in the dropdown list at the top of the Properties Panel represent a different mathematical calculation that is applied to the pixel values, producing a different blended look.
The icon off to the right of the blend mode dropdown in the Properties Panel is the Inherit Alpha icon.
If you use Inherit Alpha, then the upper layers in the list will only be visible where there are pixels on the layer below – it’s like using the lower layer as a cut-out for all the layer above.
This is most commonly used to add visuals on top of text.
Starting from 19:06 Slides
Slides give you a way to store variations of your composition and play them in sequence with set durations and transitions.
Surfaces exist across all slides.
However, the content you put on a surface is stored uniquely on a slide. So each slide can feature different visuals on our surfaces.
In a nutshell: surfaces are global across slides, whereas content like effects, generators, images, videos and text are slide-specific.
You can create a new slide with the + icon.
To Delete a slide, right click the thumbnail and choose delete. You can also Duplicate the slide in the right-click menu.
Double click on the slide name to rename it.
Once published, the slides will play left to right in sequence. You can re-order the sequence by dragging and dropping.
If you hover over the thumbnail, you can set loop behaviour.
You can also toggle whether your slide is shown or is hidden when you publish your project.
The slide duration is shown below the slide, which is set to 10 seconds by default. This determines how long the slide will play for before moving on to the next slide once the project is published.
You can change the duration in the Slide Properties.
You can also tell the slide to loop in the Slide Properties and specify if you want the slide to fade in or out.
If you have a video layer on a slide you will usually want advance to the next slide only once the video has completed. You can do this quickly by selecting the video layer and, in the Video Properties, click Set Slide Duration. Now the slide will have the same duration as the video.
Starting from 21:27 Publishing
Once you’ve finished editing your visuals, you are ready to publish your project to your Lightform device.
Do this by clicking the Publish button.
Unlike with the real-time preview, once you have published your project you no longer need your computer – your project will run directly from the device itself.
Only one project can be published at a time. If you publish a new project, it will overwrite any projects previously on the device.
Publishing involves rendering your project to video and then uploading the project to the device.
Publishing with Lightform is done wirelessly over Wi-fi or ethernet. This can be done with or without an internet connection but your Lightform device and your computer must be connected to the same network in order to publish a project.
The developers recommend connecting the device using an ethernet cable to reduce lag or latency.
How long a project takes to publish depends on how many slides you have, how long they are and how many assets they contain.
The developers recommend publishing projects under 60 minutes in length for the LFC kit and 20 minutes on the LF1 and 2.
You can speed up your publishing times by installing a fast GPU which will decrease render times. You could also switch to a faster network or connect to your network with an ethernet cable instead of Wifi to decrease upload times.
Saving & Archiving
Note that publishing is not the same as saving your project.
To save your project go to File>Save project. If you want to archive a full backup copy of your project with all its associated assets, use the Archive Project feature.
Starting from 23:08 Control Page & Audio Reactivity
Once your project is published you can access playback controls on the Control Page.
You can stop playback, pause, play and skip to the previous or next slide.
If loop is enabled, playback of a slide will repeat until you move on to the next slide manually or with OSC controls.
You can see a list of published slides.
The slide currently being played is indicated with a blue outline. To switch to another slide, click on its name in the list.
Here on the control page you can also switch between different Lightform devices.
You can also see information about your device.
There are tools that are useful when setting up a new device – you can show a camera stream, turn a test card on or off or start the pairing process.
If you are experiencing any issues with your hardware you might choose to restart the device in here.
If you are using an LF2 you also have options here to adjust the focus and change the orientation of the projector.
You can also set up OSC mappings here.
A Lightform set-up has the ability to make visuals react in real-time to sound it detects in its environment.
Assuming you have a sound input that is correctly set-up and calibrated, you can enable Audio Reactivity on the Control Page under Audio Reactivity.
There are two modes, Basic and Advanced.
Basic offers you a simpler interface for adjusting audio-reactive Filters.
Gain Filters react to the audio’s volume. Choose the filters you want to apply from the list and set their intensity.
Speed Filters speed up or slow down with the presence of sound.
Within the Filter Sensitivity settings, increasing the Attack makes the filters react more quickly to increases in sound. Increasing the Release make the filters react more quickly to decreases in sound.
In Advanced mode, you have more settings on offer to fine-tune how your filters respond to audio.