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INDEX 02: 3D Apps: Animation, Special Effects (VFX) and Compositing

Due to its close relationship with film and broadcast TV industries, the animation, special effects, and compositing tools available for the Mac platform are quite extensive. Apple’s platform has full access to nearly all the largest tool families from the world’s leading software developers in these segments.

HERE WE HAVE our complete list of macOS Animation, Special Effects (VFX) and Compositing apps. This is actually the strongest list or 3D macOS category, likely due to this segment’s relationship to film and video editing, a historically strong market for the macOS platform.

On this list, we have included all the major 3D pro packages like Maya, Cinema 4D, LightWave and Houdini—those all fully cross-platform for macOS support. And of course, we have listed here Pixar’s RenderMan. Some of these tools are also listed under other category lists, like Cinema 4D under AEC, as that tool is highly used in that industry segment. Tools in this list also include compositing solutions used in visual effects with films.

There are so many superb software packages for the Mac platform in the areas of animation, visual effects, and compositors; it is hard to select three notable solutions because there are many more than that. If you are here reading this you likely have already heard of the big names like Autodesk Maya, Maxon’s Cinema 4D, Houdini and NUKE. So let’s focus on notable solutions you may not know about yet.

Some Notable Animation, VFX and Compositing Apps

A lot of macOS based 3D professionals are well aware of tools like Maya and After Effects, even if those toolsets are not in their industry sectors. They are some of the bigger names in the industry. One superb software solution is Fusion 9 by Blackmagic Design, one of the larger companies in the film and TV broadcast industries. Blackmagic actually makes a tone of hardware, including the things you would see in a live TV studio. They also make professional cameras. And—importantly—they make the Blackmagic eGPU Thunderbolt 3 external GPU case for enhancing graphics performance on hardware like the MacBook Pro.

The Foundry’s modo is an award-winning mac-native 3D application that was once featured during a Steve Jobs keynote. modo has one of the most beautiful and professional user-interfaces on the planet of any software anywhere. The package continues to gain strengths across modeling, animation, rendering and more.

01 – Fusion 9 is the latest from Blackmagic Design, a leading 3D compositor and special effects package.

02 – modo by The Foundry is more than a very versatile modeler. It is actually a complete 3D package like Maya.

03 – An image from the upcoming Houdini 17, a complete pro 3D package that has been mac native for years now.

Houdini has been mac-native for many many years now. When Houdini came to macOS users it really felt as those the whole of the animation and VFX industry was mostly supportive of the Apple platform. Houdini has recently added the ultra-fast Redshift renderer to its arsenal. Houdini 17 is on its way.


INDEX 02: 3D Apps: Animation, Special Effects (VFX) and Compositing

We have over 32 macOS native 3d applications in this list. We will add to it when we learn of new ones.

  • Animation Master — by HASH, this product is an inexpensive novice-level 3d modeling, animation, and rendering package. (macOS and Windows)
  • Adobe After Effects — AE is an industry standard compositing application and competes with other compositors on this list. It allows for sophisticated pro-level animation and compositing of visual assets including 3D assets and special effects.
  • Blackmagic Design Fusion — Fusion 9 Fusion is the world’s most advanced compositing software for visual effects artists, broadcast and motion graphic designers, and 3D animators. The starting point for all visual effects is compositing, the layering of one image on top of another. Fusion makes it easy because there are only 2 basic tools you need to get started. The Merge tool lets you quickly composite two images together in 2D space, and the Merge 3D tool lets you quickly composite multiple images together in 3D space. (macOS and Windows)
  • Blender — this free open-source 3D application is considered one of the best professional level 3d packages, for 3D modeling, animation, and rendering. (macOS, Windows, Linux)
  • Bryce — Bryce is an easy to use beginners package to create 3D environments. It is made by DAZ. (macOS, Windows)
  • Carbon Scatter 2017 — Carbon Scatter 2017 scatters millions of instances in seconds – create wind-swept forests or animated crowds and render them directly inside 3ds Max, Maya, and Cinema4D! Sadly this product is not going to be sold separately in the future as e-on software is focused on Vue and PlantFactory under its new parent company Bentley. (macOS and Windows)
  • Carrera — An inexpensive mid-range 3d modeling, animation, and rendering package that is used with Genesis character models. Carrera is one of the oldest names in 3d in the Apple Mac universe but has a more limited place in the market these days as it is tightly focused around other DAZ products. (macOS and Windows)
  • Cinema 4D — Maxon’s widely lauded professional but affordable 3D package is used for modeling, animation, rendering and motion graphics, used across broadcast and film, game, architecture and engineering industries. Maxon is a Nemetschek Group company based in Germany. (macOS and Windows)
  • Continuum — Continuum is the Swiss army knife for compositors and video editors. Continuum’s range of powerful VFX plug-ins opens the door for creative work that delivers impact. The possibilities are endless with tools like Title Studio for 2D/3D titling, Beauty Studio for retouching, Image Restoration, and many more. (macOS and Windows)
  • Effects Suite — Red Giant Effects Suite is a set of 9 tools that have served the visual effects and motion graphics community for years, delivering the creative freedom to produce professional effects and motion graphics across a range of professional industries. (macOS and Windows)
  • Electric Image — Electric Image (aka: Electric Image Animation System, or EIAS)  is a classic 3D modeling, animation and rendering software. One of the oldest 3D software packages on the Mac it has been involved in legendary motion pictures from Star Wars to Terminator. It is also a fast render. The product no longer focuses on modeling but rather animation and rendering. (macOS and Windows)
  • Element 3D — Element 3D is a third party After Effects plug. It is used to import 3D objects for particle rendering. It mostly used for motion design and VFX. (macOS and Windows)
  • Flame — Autodesk Flame is a professional, advanced interactive 3D software used for finishing, visual effects, compositing, advanced graphics, color grading, conform, editorial and look development. Unusually, it is a pro app from Autodesk that doesn’t support Windows, due to its development history. (macOS and Linux)
  • Fusion — Blackmagic’s Fusion 9 VR is one of the world’s most advanced visual effects, 3d, compositing, VR, and motion graphics apps used extensively in Hollywood production houses. (macOS, Windows, Linux)
  • FLIX — this app is a leading story development hub for animated film & TV, video games, and storyboards for live action. Created to help collaboration between artists. (macOS, Windows, and Linux)
  • Hiero — Hiero is a part of the Nuke family offering the same powerful timeline as Nuke Studio offering great visibility over projects with seamless timesharing with other Hiero assets. (macOS, Windows, and Linux)
  • Houdini — Houdini is one of the major 3D professional software packages in the market and offers a powerful procedural content creation tool for visual effects, animation, simulation, and rendering. Houdini delivers a complete, complex toolset that can deliver high-quality imagery for VFX, Architecture, Games, and VR. (macOS and Windows)
  • inStudio VR — inStudio VR is an easy to use virtual reality design tool made by Strata. (macOS and Windows)
  • LightWave 3D — one of the top professional 3D packages highly used in Hollywood and across numerous other industries close to and far from the film industry. (macOS and Windows)
  • Magic Bullet Suite — This app is a set of seven tools that bring intuitive, real-time color correction, and beyond, right to your editorial timeline. Includes Color Correct, Stylize, Refine, Cleanup. (macOS and Windows)
  • Maya — Autodesk’s Maya is a leading pro 3D modeling, animation, simulation, and rendering software for character animation, architectural rendering, environments, virtual reality, and motion graphics. There are actually two Autodesk Maya’s, the regular version and Autodesk Maya LT. The LT version is used for character and environment creation and animation, while the regular version is used for complex simulations and motion graphics. (macOS and Windows)
  • Mocha — Mocha is award-winning tracking software built upon a renowned Planar Tracking image engine. Mocha follows “pixel patterns” through the most difficult conditions including objects that go off-screen, objects that are partially obscured, even out of focus footage. There is also the product Mocha VR. (macOS, Windows, and Linux)
  • Modo — Modo is a powerful, professional modeling, animation, and rendering solution for professionals that work the way an artist thinks. The product is from The Foundry.
  • NUKE — NUKE is the industry-leading compositing, editorial and review node based system used for motion pictures, television, and games. It is another product by The Foundry. (macOS, Windows, Linux)
  • POLK — Polk contains 23 effects animation tools. It is another product by Worley Laboratories.
  • RealFlow — Next Limit, the maker of Maxwell, produce RealFlow which is a fluid and dynamics simulation tool for photorealistic 3D and visual effects industry. This stand-alone application can be used in conjunction with other 3D programs to simulate fluids, water surfaces, fluid-solid interactions, rigid bodies, soft bodies, and meshes. (macOS, Windows, Linux)
  • RenderMan — Pixar’s legendary Oscar-winning RenderMan rendering software is used by not only Disney’s Pixar division but by leading film and VFX studios worldwide, for visual effects, animation, rendering, in films, TV, games, and visualization fields. It consists of RenderMan DCC Plugin and RenderMan Pro Server. The former runs inside Maya, Houdini, and Katana. The Pixar Tractor application is used for building out a RenderMan network rendering farm. (macOS, Windows, and Linux)
  • Sapphire — Sapphire is a compilation of plugins for editing, compositing, and motion graphic applications. It is the special effects tool of choice for post-production professionals across the globe because it enables endless creative possibilities and workflow efficiencies. (macOS, Windows, Linux)
  • Sasquatch — Sasquatch is a Lightwave 3D plugin that gives you photoreal hair and fur. (macOS, Windows, Linux)
  • Shotgun — Autodesk’s Shotgun is a software that simplifies production project management and brings creative teams together so they can interact in real time. Used for VFX, animation, and games. (macOS, Windows, Linux)
  • Smoke —  Autodesk Smoke is a video effects software that combines editing tools with compositing node based tools in a timeline based workflow helping increase productivity. (macOS)
  • Trapcode Suite — Red Giant Trapcode Suite is a set of 11 tools for 3D motion graphics and visual effects. Includes Particular, Form, Tao, Mir, Shine, Lux, Stroke, Echospace, Starglow, Sound Keys, Horizon. (macOS and Windows)
  • Universe — Over 65 GPU-accelerated effects and transitions for editors and motion graphics artists by developer Red Giant. Compatible with 3D motion composers like Apple Motion Davinci Resolve, et al. (macOS and Windows)
  • Vue — VUE Pioneer, VUE Esprit, VUE Studio and VUE Complete provide 3D artists with powerful modular applications to create rich 3D Digital Nature scenery and landscapes. VUE xStream and VUE Infinite offer CG professionals the premiere solutions for creating exceptionally rich and realistic Digital Nature environments with seamless integration into any production workflow. (macOS and Windows)


Growing This List

Have we missed a key software package you use or make that should be on this list? If so please email us at [email protected] and tell us about it.

We will be sure to add it to the list at the next update AND we will give you a complimentary annual subscription to Architosh INSIDER premium membership.

series index page: Mac 3D App Guides for AEC/CAID/VFX and Animation industries. 

Architosh will be reviewing and updating all our App Lists on a regular basis. See the dates below.

Listing of Updates by Date

7 Oct 2018 — Creation Date

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