Have you ever wondered how action movies get such incredible scenes and events to appear so realistic? Well, the answer is with VFX (visual effects). VFX is essentially the process of taking real world footage and enhancing or changing it in some way. It mixes generated images with real world footage to create scenes that might be difficult or dangerous to film in real life.
So, instead of actually having a large explosion in a metropolitan area, they will film said area and then use VFX to create a realistic explosion by altering the footage. It looks awesome, but does take some seriously powerful software as well. In this guide we will study that software and break down the best VFX options on the market.
Maya is one of the most widely used VFX software options, and for good reason. It’s exceptional at a variety of different important aspects, including 3D movement, animation, modelling, simulation, and rendering. It also lets you build incredible worlds, and adds a number of high-quality effects to your work.
Anything, from full-on battle sequences to 3D hair blowing in the wind, can be handled with Maya. It’s able to do just about anything thanks to its advanced versatility and has been used in a range of Hollywood blockbusters, including Harry Potter and Transformers. Whether you want to create realistic looking water, or have a dust storm appear out of nowhere, Maya is a good option.
There are a laundry list of other features we could mention here, ranging from cached playback to a time editor and color management. The software is not cheap, but it’s certainly worth it if you want one of the best programs out there.
2. 3Ds Max
3Ds Max is another offering from Autodesk (the makers of Maya), but it offers a unique experience for VFX artists. If you want to create 3D models that are both complex and detailed, 3Ds Max can certainly help you out. Despite this, the software is easy to use and also quite beginner-friendly.
3Ds Max has a range of different tools for creating and perfecting models, and modifying it at any level is easy. Creating procedural animation is simple, and the software can create seamless and realistic particle flow effects. All of these features, and the complexity in which you can operate, makes it a great choice for video games as well as movies.
While the two aforementioned pieces of software are superb, they also come with a decently high price tag for the hobby VFX artist. If you’re looking for something free and open source, consider checking out Blender. While it might not have all of the bells and whistles of the more expensive options, the program is still feature-rich.
The software can help with rendering, animation, motion tracking, rigging, simulating, and just about every other process in the 3D pipeline. It’s quite powerful, and makes editing your models incredibly easy. It also offers things like manual and auto object tracking on top of camera reconstruction. You can also draw in 2D and combine it with 3D.
The community that supports and uses Blender is also incredibly strong. They will be able to answer any question, and have created a wide range of different tutorials to help you become an expert.
Houdini is a popular tool that combines power with simplicity. It’s a node-based software system that prides itself on how easy it is to use. The user interface is clear and easy to navigate, and the infrastructure easily lets you add different custom effects to your design.
Creating multiple iterations of your designs and work is simple here, and sharing the workflow with colleagues and team members is a breeze. It’s flexible and has a range of tools to help you do everything from creating a level in a video game to setting up a battle scene in a field.
One of the coolest things about Houdini is that it comes with a couple different versions so you can choose one that’s right for you. There’s a free version for newcomers and hobbyists, one that focuses on animation and VFX, one that’s designed for modelers, and one that comes with the full 3D experience for those who need it. More options are never bad.
Adobe has several great tools, but After Effects is certainly among the best. This piece of VFX software is great in post-production and can help you spice up your footage with some interesting and realistic effects. It has been used in everything from small shorts to full-length Hollywood features.
This is good for beginners, but has an extensive enough toolkit to keep professionals happy as well. It gives artists and creators a ton of control to build what they want and allows for data-based animation. You can quickly create titles, introductions, and transitions for your project as well.
The software is also fully compatible with other Adobe products and software. It lets you start from scratch, or build off of presets depending on what you prefer. As an added bonus, the software is always being updated with new features and functionality.
Any of the above VFX software options can help you create brilliant effects in film, TV, commercials, and personal projects. They are quite strong and have a ton of versatility to ensure you’ll always have what you need.
Do you know any other pieces of VFX software that we should have mentioned here? If so, be sure to let us know in a comment down below!
Jessica is the co-founder and content manager here at AnySoftwareTools. She has been fascinated by the startup culture in Silicon Valley and she loves building things from zero to one. When she is not writing, she loves getting close to nature and shoot photos with her iPhone and Canon EOS 80D.