The company I work for does commerical video work (instructional/training video) and some broadcast commericals. Our primary application is Final Cut Pro, but we do need to do 3D work from time to time and we use Lightwave.
I’ve been using Blender since version 1.8 and own the only published book that I know of (The Blender Book by no starch press). I introduced the program a little over a year ago and the company started to take a serious interest because it could be used with Apple’s Xgrid (so I don’t have to install screamernet on 78 machines) and the fact the program is Free and works pretty well with OSX.
We were starting to do some rapid prototyping and sample animatics to show potential clients because the quick rendering engine. There were even a couple simple 3D text animations we did for one production video in Blender. But then we ran into the dark side of Blender: the fact that changes were being made so quick that if we left it on the shelf for three months, everything seemed to change.
We had gotten in some new systems and downloaded the lastest build of Blender last summer because we needed a real simple 300 frame animation. Well the interface had changed, the way some things rendered changed and required us to change so settings, and the final thing that got Blender deleted from every machine in the company: the animation curve got changed from linear to Bezier by default.
Not a big deal until you waste ten man hours trying to figure out why what should have been a 15-minute job from start to finish wasn’t working correctly. Finally we saved the mesh as a LWO, went into Lightwave, did the keyframing in about 20 minutes and 90 minutes later had the animation finished.
For us what makes Lightwave so attractive? Well now with it’s lower price it is extremely affordable and has an intergrated rendering engine that is capable of doing broadcast quality work out of the box. Furthermore, the colleges we hire from give their video production students at least an “intro to Lightwave 101” course. The local community college also offers beginner and intermeate lightwave courses that we will pay for employees to attend. $450 for two semesters extremely cheap training.
But a big kicker is the documentation. Everytime we upgrade, we get 600-page manuals and we can walk into any Barnes and Noble or Borders and walk out with a half dozen books on lightwave for a few hundred dollars.
Another major advantage is the number and quality of models out there for Lightwave. Yes they may cost us money, sometimes several hundred dollars each, but is it worth every penny in time saved usually.
We can’t do that with Blender. Blender has been changing so rapidly that sometimes it is like a whole new application every six months. Also finding models, for those of us that lack those skills, has been a challenge up until the BMR was established a couple months ago. (which is a shock considering it is easier to find free models for lightwave than blender)
If anything, Blender by its very nature, is sometimes trying to be all things to all people. For instance, I am never going to use the sequencer. But I have Shake and FCP. Blue/Green screen functions in those programs are far better than the Chroma-Key plug-in. I don’t need it and any developements to the squencer is likely to get ignored by me.
Anyway, that’s my .02. I will continue to use Blender at home because it’s a neat program.