Programs most commonly used in the VFX industry?

Which programs are most commonly used in the VFX industry? What would be best to learn, if you some day wanted to work for a big VFX company e.g. ILM (just a dream)? I’m not saying Blender isn’t good, i just think i need experience with more commonly used programs.

It’s a number of years old:

Learn Maya and you’re set.

XSI has been picking up its pace, but Max is becoming less common in both VFX and Games industry. But Maya is basically the industry standard.

maya and zbrush.

Lately modo also appears in quite a lot of ILM making ofs and interviews, mostly for concept art and modeling.

In simple terms…
Animation, modelling: Maya

FX work like smoke, particles, destruction: 3ds (w. Fume, TP) & Houdini

Compositing: Nuke

General knowledge: Python scripting

There’s also a sh!tload of inhouse tools out there, some pure apps but also as plugins, scripts, addons, ‘gizmos’ a.s.o…


If you know what you’re doing, it’s not very hard to learn a new app. If you can model, you can model. If you know lighting, you know lighting. If you know texturing, you know texturing. If you can composite, you can composite. So try to keep your knowledge as generic as you can. Watch modelling tut’s in Blender as well as Maya, 3ds. Particle & FX tut’s for 3ds & Fume as well as Houdini. AE tut’s as well as Nuke tut’s. A.s.o…

Sorry if this is a dumb question, but why would one be thinking that XSI is gaining ground when the development has been at a near standstill since it was bought by Autodesk.

The idea that Autodesk simply left XSI (and it’s incredible ICE technology) by the wayside has even been exemplified by the fact that their website redesign hid it behind the ‘other software’ category and not placing it side-by-side with Maya and Max.

However, there’s been recent discussion on CGsociety of the idea of Autodesk making part of the code open for user development and many think that will rejuvenate the software (though Autodesk even doing that is not a given).

XSI is done. Just forget it.

XSI was a horrible idea from the beginning, almost on par with humans coming down from the trees:wink:

On the 3D side, I actually started out in Softimage back in the 90’s, from 3.x something up to the last version 4.0 - the latter released at the same time as XSI 1.x… But XSI was a shock, a space age GUI in extreme contrast from the spartan SI|3D interface. It was too much for me to bare so I left SI for Maya and started fostering my hatred for Mental Ray & it’s node based shading system instead, hehe… :smiley:

( nowadays I love nodes, I did not, back in the day… :wink: )


You could just have a look at the jobs on offer from the vfx studios. I did it quite recently (although for entirely different reasons), it was only a small sample so could not be considered definitive. But essentially Farmfield hit the nail on the head, Maya & Houdini (roughly equal) closely followed by Nuke, and zBrush (although often they specify zBrush or Mudbox), then python or Mel. Oh, also several express a Linux preference.

Like I said though small sample not definitive.

The games companies were a little bit more varied, Tekneek mentioned max is in decline, which seems to be the case to some extent. Studios like Naughty Dog and Dice ask for Maya, but as there are so many games studios there’s a lot that do ask for Max, I found ID and Crytek adverts asking for it. Some also ask for Modo.

I guess my point is, have a look the information is available from the industry itself.

Hope it helps

Think XSI was a realy good counterpart and a realy good pensil in skilled artists hands… till autodesk resume xsi.