Best 3D modeling, rendering and animation software

It’s interesting to look at how gains in computing power have revolutionized whole sections of the 3D animation and artificial intelligence industry. Almost the entire animation industry was located in Los Angeles in 1937. Challengers such as Pixar then settled in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now any individual in the four corners of the world can produce 3D videos thanks to his computer and a dedicated GPU. This democratization is possible thanks to the availability of tools and the sharing of knowledge.

3D rendering software

Autodesk was a forerunner, I remember the hours spent in 1997 on 3D Studio MAX R2 which was the first version usable by most people. The market has evolved a lot since then.

The leading publishers of 3D visualization and rendering software in 2020 are:

Software Publisher License
3ds Max Autodesk Proprietary
Maya Autodesk Proprietor
Cinema 4D Maxton Owner
Blender Blender Foundation Open Source (GPL, free)

Blender, the leader

Open source is a gas pedal of this knowledge sharing. The general public has discovered that the film Titanic was partly created thanks to the Linux Red Hat 4.1 distribution.

Before version 2.8, Blender was powerful, but difficult to use. Blender 2.8 changed all that by making it much simpler. In video games, many studios have replaced 3ds Max by Blender. Compared to 3ds Max, improvements such as shortcut keys make Blender much faster and more intuitive to use.

According to this tweet from Kent Trammell, Blender is now officially the de facto leader in the animation industry as Autodesk tries to catch up.

Best 3D modeling, rendering and animation software
Best 3D modeling, rendering and animation software

Accessible computing power

NVIDIA is the pioneer in 3D rendering acceleration, so you can start learning 3D rendering with hardware simply used by gamers. The rapid progression of GPUs has also helped to increase the quality of personal productions. The NVIDIA Ampere architecture makes it possible to put even more power into a single computer. The PCIe RTX A6000, A100 or A40 card brings this unmatched power in a single GPU.

Case study of a short film with Blender

John Wulffe, a 3D artist, published on DeviantArt one of his first productions : Dangers of a Journey (Short Animation)“(

He calls this 1:35 animation a “training” but we can discover an impressive video. As in the early days of electronic music, the production of 3D animation is starting to become accessible. Anyone can become a content producer like a Pixar employee. We take the example of John because he shared the hardware, software and rendering times for this admirable work.

John used domestic hardware :

John used these software suites :

  • Blender 2.82
  • Vegas Pro 14
  • Audacity (audio)
  • Gimp (image)

Calculation of rendering time

Here are the parameters to take into account if we continue to analyze the “Dangers of a Journey” video:

  • the rendering takes, depending on the complexity of the image, from 30 to 70 minutes per image, let’s take an average of 50 minutes per image.
  • the video lasts 1 minute and 35 seconds, making 95 seconds of video
  • this video is at 24 frames per second

The calculation is as follows: 50 min/frame * 24 frames * 95 seconds = 114 000 min / 60 minutes = 2100 = 1900 hours = 79 days of calculation on a PC to generate the video.

John actually indicates a rendering time of 1900 to 2000 hours. This generation time of 79 days is enormous and could discourage any unmotivated amateur. We will think about whether this time can be reduced.

How to speed up rendering times

You can use online services. For example, the Concierge Render service allows you to render on 500 NVIDIA GPUs simultaneously. You can have your videos generated on up to 64 servers in parallel. The cost is around $0.35 per GPU per hour.

If your finances allow it, you can put several GPUs in your computer and share the memory with NVLINK which is supported under Blender 2.90.

The Future of 3D software: MAYA VS 3ds Max VS Blender

Here is a benchmark and a prospective study between the three leading 3D softwares: MAYA 3ds Max Blender

Maya or Blender which is Better


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