Visual Effects (VFX) Software used by the PROs

Visual Effects is a term that is used by films, advertisements, music videos, games, and many other moving media to describe digitally generated images. The entire work of Visual Effects is not limited to one program, it is a very complex and vast area.

We have seen mystical realms that exist only in the cinematic universe, we have seen space, we have seen cities devastated by an alien invasion, a global phenomenon. We have been given a preview of what could be a zombie apocalypse and how to survive it (maybe). We have seen doctors and tests by scientists go wrong to unleash this mysterious beast that has caused havoc all over the world. We saw life and felt a lot closer to our favorite superheroes, all thanks to the special effects.

In order to create an illusion of a realistic looking world, Visual Effects is the integration between actual live footage and digitally generated imagery. Visual effects are distinct from special effects. VFX are effects that can not be achieved on stage, or can not exist in real life. That being said, because new worlds, superheroes, monsters, supernatural powers are being developed and digitally regulated by computers, it could be created by anything powerful, and this is software. Without them, nothing will ever be made.

Modeling, animation, shading/texturing, effects, rendering, match moving, rotoscoping and compositing can be categorized into VFX. We will speak about the most used applications in movie production houses today. All studios are different, yes, but just a few influential ones revolve around the software they’re using.


3D Model of Venom
3D modeling is the creation of a three-dimensional character or object  inside a simulated software. It can be made of simple shapes all the way up to complex high-polygon models.

There are five (5) software for 3D Modeling:

  1. Autodesk Maya
  2. Autodesk 3ds Max
    • For 3D Modeling, Autodesk Maya and Autodesk 3ds Max has become the industry standard. Both are capable of building 3D characters, animating, rigging, creating particles and more. Both are very powerful software which also cost a very high price. Autodesk has been the leading name in 3D design, engineering and entertainment software.
  3. Pixologic ZBrush
    • ZBrush is industry standard for 3D Sculpting. 3D Sculpting is modeling a 3D object / character as if it was made out of clay.
  4. Autodesk Mudbox
    • A powerful 3D Sculpting tool as well, counter part of ZBrush.
  5. Modo



Animation still comes down to this in all its ways, a process in which shapes, characters, objects are given life by digitally manipulating them, making them gestures that are lifelike, natural, fluid. There is only one name in 3D Animation, Autodesk Maya, which reigns supreme.

Within Autodesk Maya Animated Character
The industry standard for computer graphics is Autodesk Maya. In the production of Academy Award winning films like The Matrix, Spider-Man, Avatar, Finding Nemo, Up, Frozen, Pacific Ring, Jurassic Park, and so much more, it has played a key role.


In Maya & Photoshop Texture Painting
Texture and Shading adds information to your designs. Typically, the same program used for shading is what is used in constructing a 3D model. Common shading systems include Autodesk Maya and Autodesk 3ds Max.

Textures are photographs produced using applications such as Foundry Mari, Adobe Photoshop, and Material Painter.


Simulating Water in Houdini
These 2 supreme software simulations such as smoke, fire, flood, rain, and other fluid elements are: Houdini and Autodesk Maya. Houdini is the standard for simulation of results, compared to Maya, it is much stronger in dynamic simulations. Houdini is an application of 3D animation and special effects, designed for 3D animation and VFX work for film, TV, video games and virtual reality.


3D Rendering is typically the final step of the process of making 3D. Your software extracts the data from the scene and measures the final score. A single image or a collection of images compiled together is typically the output.

This is normally related to the program for modeling and shading, responsible for the final generation of 3D images. Movie houses use three (3) tools, Autodesk Arnold, VRay, and Pixar’s Renderman, which has been used 27 times out of 30 Oscar-winning Visual Effects films.


The method of collecting knowledge about camera motion from the film footage. There are three (3) primary software applications. The most common and efficient 3D Equalizer, which has been used since 1996. SynthEyes, and PFTrack by The Pixel Estate.


Rotoscoping within Mocha
An old VFX technique that’s still used to this day.  It is the process of tracing over footage, frame by frame,to be used in live-action and animated films. Silhouette and Mocha Pro are the go to software for the pros, both has advanced  tools necessary for VFX houses.


The final Visual Effects level. In order to create an illusion that they are all part of a single scene, VFX Compositing incorporates various elements from different sources to incorporate the VFX into the live footage, merging them together to create the final shot of the film. Nuke is the software used for compositing. (Amazement! This isn’t After Impact, nope.)

Nuke is a program for compositing on nodes, while After Effects is a layer-based software. A node-based composition allows you much greater control over your composition, and it is much easier to operate on a node-based software than layer-based.

After Effects is an incredible tool that allows you to build almost every form of animation and effects, but its layered-based method is too restricted for a complex compositing task with compositing and how it is constructed. Yeah, it was used alongside other applications in films, but not as the predominant one for compositing. For TV advertisements and movies that are not visual-effect-heavy, but not really ideal for huge projects, After Effects might work.

Blackmagic Design Fusion is a less common compositing app, but some production houses are still using it.

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