MARKET: Lightwave is a popular and easy to use choice that is widely used for video and television production around the world.
KEY FEATURES: Lightwave includes a powerful polygonal modeler that also produces polygon-based subdivision surfaces that Newtek calls "MetaNURBS" (despite that name, Lightwave does not support NURBS modeling, MetaNURBS is a trademark Newtek uses for its subdivision surfaces.) Even though the modeling lacks associativity, which consequently makes some types of revisions much slower and does not allow many undo steps, it does perform well, is simple to learn, and experienced users can get high-quality work done with it. The animation still has a lot of catching up to do with Maya or Softimage, but is a workable solution for the average company's animation needs. Lightwave's renderer is a well regarded raytracer, which also includes Image Based Lighting and (if you have time to wait) global illumination support. Lightwave's renderer has been used for many commercials and TV programs. Very few of the leading film studios use Lightwave, but it is often used by smaller companies contributing opening title sequences, monitor screen graphics, and other smaller parts of a film's CGI.
HISTORY: Lightwave was first introduced as the 3D component of the Amiga-based Video Toaster from NewTek. The Video Toaster was a pioneering product in the field of desktop video, giving people a production switcher, a character generator, 2D Paint and 3D animation, all in a low-priced box that could be hooked between two Super VHS decks for a complete editing and effects system. The first few versions of Lightwave would only run on Amiga computers that had Toasters installed, and used Toaster RAM to hold buffer information during rendering. Later, Lightwave was freed from the Toaster, sold separately, and ported from the Amiga to the PC and Mac.