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3D & CGI VFX have become a standard part of Film making, Media & Television production today. Most Films & Shows incorporate some type of 3D imagery or elements into their visual effects sequences regularly. This is mostly due to two major factors, Cost & Ability.
The cost of creating convincing, photo realistic imagery is a small fraction of what it was 20 years ago when 3D Visual Effects were still in their infancy. Of course, any major Effects House will still contain or use a 'Render Farm' to process their shots, but the actual hardwares performance & cost of that hardware is (*relatively) inexpensive, as compared to the performance & cost of a render system 20 years ago. The performance & capability of computer systems today far surpasses earlier models, so we are getting about 20x the performance at 2-3x the price. These technological advancements in hardware have certainly contributed to the proliferation of 3D VFX in modern day film making.
Secondly, the ability to create convincing images has become more widespread. Hardware contributes to this, but Software development has been a key factor too. There are a number of 3D Software solutions available today, that do much more than people could even dream of 20-30 years ago. These 3D Software programs are also used by many more people then ever. The ability of artist to access & utilize programs that provide 3D Modeling, 3D Animation, Physics Simulators & complicated Particle Systems has allowed the industry to grow exponentially in a relatively short time.
The combination of these factors & end result is that Producers & Directors can create more complicated visual sequences at a fraction of the price that it would cost to do them 'practically' (for real), & in many cases, it gives these filmmakers options to create visual elements & sequences that simply could not be done at all without 3D technology.
Modern 3D VFX software is the result of what originally started as CAD (Computer Aided Drawing/Drafting) software used for Architectural & Engineering design. With a few tweaks to software intended for engineers, it became apparent that there could be great demand to Artist & Imaging professionals to extend the functionality of these CAD softwares. As computers became fast & powerful enough to finally process the data that's necessary for 3D design, many new software solutions were created & continuously improved.
What we are left with today is a number of stunning, photo realistic, visual sequences that can be produced on a number of software systems. Most of these systems can be readily purchased commercially and will run on a common computer. This is a huge difference from the 3D Imaging Industry of the late 1900's.
Popular 3D Softwares today are MAYA, 3DS MAX, Cinema 4D, & the completely FREE, open source 3D software, Blender 3D. Of course there are actually quite a few more systems available, but these seem to be the most widely used in the industry today.
Typically 3D Imagery & Visual Effects require a lot of time & learning. Its some of the most complicated computing that can be done. Artist that work in 3D spend years developing their skills, but surprisingly, because of the availability of the technology & software, there are quite a few 'kids' and teens that have started to experiment with these softwares at a very young age. Within a year or 2, they are creating amazing things & well on their way to becoming successful digital artist.
*Allan McKay. I started following Allan McKay a few months ago & he's got a really great program with super good content. He's very experienced on major motion pictures we've all seen, & he does talks about working on top projects with leading industry professionals. He's also got a lot of these Pro's in his Podcast. Recently I've been catching his Live Videos on Facebook, sharing real insider info & techniques from some of the worlds most accomplished VFX artist. I cant really pick what/where to link to because its all so good, so I suggest you hunt around, dig in to his older stuff, & FOLLOW him on Facebook so you can catch his new Live Videos. (His main focus is ?MAYA/3Ds Max/Houdini/Fume?) Don't get hung up on what software it is, & tune in for the 'Industry Insider' real talk, with him & his talented guest speakers. This stuff is VFX Artist 'Gold' for Movies, Gaming & 3D enthusiast.