haha. yeah we use xsi.
now, I speak only for myself, so this is MY view (and NOT my employer’s view). also, we’re all learning here, so this is just one person’s perspective from one person’s experiences so far.
LW was my first love and I know it inside and out. i’m a 'Waver at heart. I like the ‘all-in-one-box-at-one-price’ approach. and I like a separate modeler. the idea of doing both in the same space just freaks me out. but that being said, if I was going to swich…XSI would be it. I like their interface and production-focus approach. the tool really feels like it was intended to be used by a team, not just by one artist. so you don’t have to hack things together to make it production-friendly (which i feel is sometimes necessary in LW). at the same time, it’s not like Maya in it’s over-complexity-in-the-name-of-teamwork setup.
as a Lighter/Compositor, lighting/rendering in XSI is the way 3D should be. you can render a preview, or you can draw a region in the viewport and render that! sometimes i just leave the viewport render area drawn and tweak changes to my lighting.
also, XSI has the BEST implementation of render passes in any pro package IMHO. You create a new pass, and all your settings are the same as the default pass. then you can add your objects to groups called Partitions. once in those groups, you can give them independent properties just for that pass. without modifying the original object. these can be visibility properties, shadow casting properties, materials, light sensitivity, anything you can do with the object, you can override here. brilliant.
the same Partition and Override system can be applied to lights too. turn some off for a certain pass, or swing the key around, or turn off specularity just for that pass. Brilliant.
And all of the passes have their own render options, so in 1 SCENE FILE, you can output all your outputs. I love it, and I think it should all be this intuitive and straightforward, yet rhobust.
so, that’s my take on things.