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Top Visual Effects (VFX) Software in 2023

Best Visual Effects Software
Best Visual Effects Software

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To create high-quality movies, TV shows, or commercials, we need to use good post-production software. Some of them are free and others are exclusive to those who have the budget or those who can’t afford them.

They all have different features and tools to offer depending on whether you are a one-man show or whether you work at a top VFX studio.

In this post, we will take a look at several different post-production software and what they have to offer.

1. Natron

Natron is a free and open-source node-based compositing software. It has been influenced by digital compositing software such as Avid Media Illusion, Blackmagic Fusion, Autodesk Flame, and Nuke, from which its user interface and many of its concepts are derived.

Natron is a good digital compositor that can handle 2d and two-point-five needs for compositing work. Its open effects architecture is what makes it one of the most flexible open-source compositors for visual effects.

Natron software in action
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On the surface, Natron has a powerful GUI interface that is a flexible and intuitive multi-platform node-based engine. It may seem to be a simple compositing application but it does have layers of complexity that allow artists to be able to be more creative.

In addition to that, it has a flexible roto tool and roto tool paint toolset that can generate unlimited layers of mask mats and shapes. Which can be effective for those who don’t have the budget to afford to use commercial software that is used in the industry.

Also, Natron has a powerful 2d and planar tracker to help reduce hours of rotoscoping to meet personal or client deadlines.

It has some strong keying and matte generation tools that have been developed by the main effects and software developers and a plethora of other tools from the open-source plugin developing community.

You can get natron from the following link

2. Hitfilm Pro

Hitfilm Pro is a video editing, visual effects, and compositing software for filmmakers and professional motion artists. This program is good for many things but it is not used in the VFX industry for film and TV shows because it is mainly used to create short films and small projects.

Also, there is Hitfilm Express which is the free version for compositing, editing, and grading needs.

Hitfilm Pro software in action
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The main difference between the two applications is that some effects, advanced particle simulations, and 3d modeling capabilities have been removed. But many people start with the free version because they can later add specific elements that they have an interest in by purchasing them individually from the hit film store rather than paying for the whole kit.

There is a big community of hit films and some good resources out there for those who want to learn the software. Including many hours of free tutorials on the hit film site. In addition to their own YouTube channel on which they post tutorials on how to use the software.

You can get Hitfilm Pro from the following link

3. Blender

Blender is a 3d package that is mainly used for 3d modeling and animation. It can also be used for post-production work.

Blender comes with a fully-fledged built-in compositor. This allows you to post-produce your renders without leaving Blender. This is great if you are working on your projects and you don’t want to use multiple applications or because you can’t afford them in the first place since Blender is free.

The compositor comes with an impressive library of nodes for creating camera effects, color grading, and much more. and it can do for compositing images and video files.

Blender software in action
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Blender also features a production-ready camera and object tracking allowing you to import raw footage, track it, mask areas and reconstruct the camera movements live in your 3d scene. It eliminates the need to switch between programs.

The camera and object tracker includes automatic and manual tracking, powerful camera reconstruction, real-time preview of your track footage, and 3d scene, in addition, to support planar tracking and tripod solvers.

Because Blender is free and powerful, a lot of small VFX studios and VFX artists are using it daily on their VFX projects.

Blender was used to create some interesting films such as Tears of Steel which is a short sci-fi film created by the Blender Institute. Skywatch is another high-quality short film also created using Blender in part.

You can get Blender from the following link

4. Adobe After Effects

After Effects is a tool used to create animation, motion graphics effects, and VFX work.

Unlike other products from Adobe such as Premiere Pro which is more focused on video editing, After Effects is designed to create all the cool extras that make the final product look even better.

It’s used by a variety of creative professionals for film and video for websites and social media.

Adobe After Effects software in action
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Even though After Effects is not the best VFX software, it can be used for creating mind-blowing visual effects. Using it, it is possible to build accurate masks and keys, use rotoscoping to separate foreground from background, perform motion and camera tracking and add 3d elements to a scene.

After Effects is generally used for shots requiring basic composition or color correction. Medium and big studios do their heavy-lifting work using software such as Nuke, Fusion, and Flame. But After Effects is used to do most of the things needed for VFX work nonetheless.

It is an award-winning tool. The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences gave a scientific and engineering award to Adobe After Effects.

You can get Adobe After Effects from the following link

5. Blackmagic Fusion

Fusion is one of the advanced compositing software for visual effects artists, broadcast, motion graphics, and 3d animators.

It is developed by Blackmagic Design and initially authored by Eyeon Software.

It is typically used to create visual effects and digital compositing for movies, TV series, and commercials because it has been used for this work on endless Hollywood movies in the last 30 years or so. A lot of Hollywood’s biggest blockbusters and hit television shows use Fusion to create their visual effects.

It has been used in feature films like The Hunger Games, Doctor Strange, and The Guardians of the Galaxy. On television shows like Empire, NCIS, and American Horror Story.

Fusion also plays a major role in the development of cinema for video games such as Dawn of War three, Halo 5, and much more.

This program can be used to track objects, retouch images, animate titles or create particle effects.

Fusion has a massive toolset like a 3d world space along with tools for compositing, keying, painting, animation, VR, stereoscopic 3d, and much more.

Blackmagic Fusion software in action
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It combines effects and motion graphics along with 3d modeling and rendering into a single toolset. That means that 3d artists can import and render 3d models and seas with the rest of the compositing in Fusion without necessarily having to pre-render assets or transfer between multiple applications.

Fusion employs a node-based interface in which complex processes are built up by connecting a flowchart of a schematic of many nodes each of which represents a simpler process such as blur or color correction.

This type of composite interface allows more flexibility including the ability to modify parameters of a previous image processing step while viewing the final composite.

Upon its acquisition by Blackmagic Design, Fusion was released into two versions, the freeware Fusion, and the commercially sold Fusion Studio.

You can get Fusion from the following link

6. Flame

Flame is a unique high-end VFX software that can handle the entire post-production process from editing, color correction, VFX compositing, and motion graphics to delivery.

It has been one of the most important software for advertising agencies and film directors for the creation of high-end VFX and finishing their films for about 20 years now.

Flame software in action
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Usually, Flame is used in the post-production pipeline with other tools and uses production tracking software as well.

Often experienced Flame artists are interested in working on big-budget feature films and TV projects. They work closely with the VFX supervisors for loop development, composition, and post-viz.

Flame artists today are not available as the other artists are from other post-production software such as Nuke, Fusion, and After Effects. Because first of all, Flame subscription is one of the most expensive among all compositing software. Second, the industry has shifted to using software such as Nuke.

You can get Flame from the following link

7. Nuke

Right now Nuke is the most popular compositing software in the VFX industry. Because it has all the tools necessary to get the job done. No matter how complex the project is or what is its scope.

Nuke has advanced node-based compositing, 3d tracking and model-building tools, and much more.

What makes the software desired by artists and studios, is the unparalleled power and performance that meets the needs of modern production work. Because as we know, projects are getting bigger and more demanding.

Nuke software in action
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Using its node-based workflow, Nuke delivers everything artists need to tackle when it comes to the diverse challenges of digital compositing. This includes industry-standard keying, rotoscoping, vector paint tools, color correction, and much more.

Nuke is currently used by most VFX studios around the world and it is dominating the market to a certain extent right now. Nuke users include Digital Domain, Walt Disney Animation Studios, Blizzard Entertainment, DreamWorks Animation, Sony Pictures Imageworks, Sony Pictures Animation, Framestore, Weta Digital, Double Negative, ILM, and much more.

You can get Nuke from the following link

8. Houdini

The most used software in VFX is Side Effects Houdini. Houdini is based on procedural workflow. Artists and studios choose it for making visual effects because of its powerful node-based tools. In addition, Houdini has scripting languages that give artists a lot of creative freedom and power.

Its node-based workflow is ideal for creating sophisticated physics simulations and particle systems in a non-destructive way. This is great, especially for big projects when artists and studios want to make changes and adjustments. For example, when creating Ragnarok, Framestore Studio relied on Houdini to create effects, especially for fight sequences throughout the film.

Houdini software in action
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Double Negative relied on Houdini to create several sequences in Men In Black: International. For example, where the twins face agent H and agent M. Double Negative studio created the energy effect using Houdini’s particle and fluid simulations.

Despite Houdini’s steep learning curve, it is probably the most powerful tool for creating next-level simulations, which is a crucial part of visual effects.

Get Houdini from here

9. Autodesk Maya

Autodesk Maya is another professional, 3d animation, modeling simulation, and rendering software utilized by VFX artists and studios for film and television.

Maya became the film industry standard just after it was released in 1993. This is because it was already well-placed in the market. Maya was already in use at many visual effects studios before its official release. Some of the companies on the list of beta testers were Cinesite, Square, Blue Sky Studios, and Rhonda Graphics.

Maya software in action
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When it comes to animation movies, Maya has been used by several major players in the industry. They include Walt Disney studios, which made Frozen, and 20th Century Fox Entertainment which worked on the Ice Age franchise using Maya alongside other software for sculpting and mesh cleaning.

Maya is an excellent choice when it comes to VFX work because it features many powerful and easy-to-use simulation and dynamics tools. Maya’s dynamics simulation framework is excellent for cloth simulation, particle simulation and hair simulation, rigid body simulation, and soft body simulation.

But you may need third-party add-ons for more freedom and creative power.

When it comes to VFX, Maya has almost everything needed to get the job done.

Get Autodesk Maya from here

10. 3DS Studio Max

3D Studio Max has an interesting history with Maya, since before Autodesk bought Maya. The two software were doing almost the same job. So, Autodesk started directing them in different directions. Even though 3DS Studio Max became known for product design, game development, and architecture, it is also used by a lot of big VFX studios and companies in their pipelines.

Historically, simulations inside 3D Studio Max have been a little bit tricky to do, especially fluid simulations and dynamics, so studios were heavily relying on plugins, such as FumeFX, Thinking Particles, Krakatoa, Frost, and Real Flow that allow artists to do amazing stuff. But during the past few years, Autodesk has made 3DS Studio Max a little bit easier and has the capability of achieving stunning results much faster.

3DS Studio Max software in action
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3DS Studio Max has been used a lot over the past three decades to create amazing VFX projects. For example, during the making of Star Trek Into Darkness.

We can also mention Skyline VFX studios which worked on visual effects for Batman vs Superman, Captain America, San Andreas, Avengers, and ILM Studios worked on Doctor Strange, Ready Player 1, Transformers, and much more.

Get 3D Studio Max from here

11. Cinema 4D

Cinema 4D is probably one of the easiest 3D software available out there. Known for creating abstract animations and motion design, Cinema 4D is also used in big-project Hollywood movies and short films by a smaller group of artists and creators.

Cinema 4D software in action
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For example, it was used to create the Detective Pikachu movie. Territory Studio delivered multiple textual environmental layers using Cinema 4D.

Cinema 4D is loved by artists due to its easy-to-use interface and powerful tracking animation lighting and simulation tools. Get Cinema 4D from here


I mentioned here some of the best options for post-production work whether you want to work on your projects or you want to join the industry. If you are new, you can check software such as Natron, Blender, or Hitfilm Express to build up experience and learn more about the field.

But if you can afford to pay for software such as Nuke, you can learn the software to get a chance to work professionally in VFX studios. I hope you found this post useful and informative. If you have a question or something to add, you can leave it in the comment section below. You can check some of our other posts here

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