Newtek is releasing LightWave 7 at Siggraph today.

LightWave is designed for professional 3D animation, movie and gaming production. It's got built in rendering, modelling and animation engines.

Version 7 will be released simultaneously for Mac OS 9.x, Mac OS X and Windows. Andrew Bishop, Newtek's press relations and market-development manager told Macworld: "I can't stress enough how big this release is for us. It's a killer product. It's undoubtedly the most powerful 3D package in the world today."

"LightWave 7 is the world's first 3D application with non-linear editing support for under £15,000", claimed Bishop. It will retail at £1,395, or as a £300 upgrade for existing users.

Heavyweight product LightWave 7 is a heavyweight upgrade offering hundreds of new and improved features. Newtek claims it contains over 600 new plug ins.

Renowned design houses have already used some of LightWave 7's new features in beta form. It was heavily used in both the Tomb Raider movie as well as forthcoming blockbuster, Driven.

New features include: a Squash and Stretch tool; the capacity to Load and Save Hierarchical Motion data containing all the relevant components, motions and channels for a character group for realistic animation; and the ability to allow mass scene changes to be made with a few commands.

Some unique additions include Fluid Dynamics, hair and fur Rendering and a built-in database for managing 3D assets. The hair and fur rendering uses the Sasquatch rendering engine, which Newtek calls the "fastest, highest quality hair-renderer in the industry."

Another improved feature, Sky Tracer 2.0 offers a completely new, streamlined user interface. A new "SunSpot" control allows users to enter specific time, date and global positioning data to generate accurate sun positions.

In the frame The application offers an OpenGL-based interface that enables hundreds of curves and thousands of key frames to be edited in real time.

New Edit functions include the ability to set up Bone, Light and Object properties and effects. Tags, Motion Options and Item Flags are also supported - designed to make workflow more productive and faster.

The Facial Animation tool has been improved, it now supports Endomorphs and also a Motion Mixer, which lets users insert morph positions into a model file and blend between them.

Collision Spawning now creates new particles with independent attributes. New Wind types include direction, explosion, rotation, cylinder-explosion, doughnut, turbulence, vortex, path, sticky, random, hemisphere and drag.

"Professional animators like frequent upgrades, and this is the fourth upgrade to our product within the last year. It's significant for our market," said Bishop.

More details about the application will be available from Netwek later in the day.