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3D Applications

There are many 3D applications, and each has its own strengths, style, workflow, and conventions—but the principles for modeling, texturing, lighting, animating, and rendering are all the same. This section introduces the most widely used 3D applications in the industry.


Originally spawned from Alias|Wavefront’s Power Animator, Autodesk’s Maya (, shown in Figure 4.18, is one of the most popular, high-end 3D applications in the VFX industry. Maya has a steep learning curve, but has powerful animating and simulation tools and is almost infinitely extensible with its plugin and customization capabilities.

Figure 4.18

Figure 4.18 Autodesk’s Maya user interface

3ds Max

Autodesk’s 3ds Max ( (Figure 4.19) is also part of the Autodesk family of products. 3ds Max has very strong roots in both architectural and gaming 3D but is widely used in many facets of VFX.

Figure 4.19

Figure 4.19 Autodesk’s 3ds Max user interface

LightWave 3D

NewTek’s LightWave 3D ( (Figure 4.20) spawned from NewTek’s Video Toaster in the early 1990s and, because of its speed, flexibility, and superb renderer, it quickly gained a foothold in television and film VFX, especially in many popular sci-fi series such as Star Trek and Babylon 5.

Figure 4.20

Figure 4.20 NewTek’s LightWave 3D user interface

Cinema 4D

German-based Maxon also released Cinema 4D ( in the early 1990s (see Figure 4.21). Cinema 4D, though not too popular in those formative years, has quickly grown into a powerhouse 3D application fully capable of stunning 3D and VFX work.

Figure 4.21

Figure 4.21 Maxon’s Cinema 4D Lite user interface


In the early 2000s, some senior management and developers from NewTek, wanting to take 3D software in a different direction, formed Luxology. Their 3D application, Modo (, shown in Figure 4.22, quickly became a leader and favorite in the industry for its innovative workflow and features.

Figure 4.22

Figure 4.22 Luxology’s Modo user interface


Originally created by Dutch animation studio NeoGeo and Not a Number (NaN) Technologies as an in-house 3D application in 2002, Blender ( (Figure 4.23) was released as a free and open source 3D computer graphics software product under the GNU General Public License. Blender has been used in many areas of VFX production and continues to develop amazing innovative features—and all for free!

Figure 4.23

Figure 4.23 Open source Blender user interface

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