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A Hollywood Star Called...Newtek?

Tinseltown's leading supplier of animation software is gearing up for HDTV

Remember the Video Toaster? In 1990, the funky Amiga PC add-on made it possible for a novice to create, animate, and edit video on a PC--launching a video revolution in television animation and movie special effects. Creator Tim Jenison's plug-in card and graphics software replaced television studio gear costing up to $100,000, unleashing a new wave of Hollywood innovation.

For a time, Jenison's NewTek Inc. was the toast of technology startups. But when Amiga PC maker Commodore International Ltd. went belly-up in 1994, Jenison's San Antonio company nearly burned up with it, forcing the 43-year-old inventor back to the drawing board. For the past four years, NewTek has survived by churning out innovative computer graphics software, which has helped to craft everything from fireball-spewing dragons on television's Xena: Warrior Princess to the intergalactic spaceships in the movie Lost in Space. NewTek's Lightwave 3D software was among the technologies used to simulate the Titanic in the recent hit movie. Margot Pipkin, head of TV animation production for DreamWorks SKG, says Jenison's software is "taking over Hollywood." NewTek expects to be modestly profitable this year, on revenues of $17 million.