NewTek, Inc. announced today the release of LightWave 3D version 7b. Defined as a free maintenance update for version 7 of the company’s flagship 3D rendering package, the 7b update is billed as a “very significant upgrade” because of speed increases and optimizations the company has made for the AltiVec (or Velocity Engine) instruction set that can be used with Power Mac G4s.
NewTek executive VP Brad Peebler noted that LightWave 7b takes care of minor bugs, as well. The speed increases aren’t just the result of AltiVec optimizations, either — NewTek engineers have retooled some of the application’s core code as well.
“We have been in constant contact with our users and our partners, and this update to LightWave  is a result of their input. We were very proud of the LightWave  release, and the ‘b’ patch makes it that much more powerful,” said Peebler.
In addition to Altivec optimizations, the new update to LightWave uses the Motorola math library, which boosts rendering performance under Mac OS X. OpenGL optimizations are also present that can yield a 20 – 80 percent speed up in some instances, according to NewTek. The Mac OS X version also supports the use of TrueType fonts.
NewTek noted in a series of benchmarks that LightWave 7b is as much as 87 percent faster, depending on the render function. NewTek has published those benchmarks on the LightWave 3D Web site.
Through the end of the month, users of any previous version of LightWave can upgrade to the latest version for US$495. After then, pricing will vary depending on what version you’re upgrading from. The full LightWave 7 package carries a suggested retail price of US$2,495.