firstly please add you full name its one of the rules on this forum.
3d is a really difficult thing to master if your new to it a few tips are.
Using IBL (image based lighting) that means at every live action shoot u need to capture a 360 panorama in HDR so around 3-6 stops for every photo. Then this can be used in your 3d package for your lighting and environment.
I recommend VRAY for your rendering. And using 3dsmax but It all depends on what your doing.
Best realism really comes down to two thing "mostly"
- Textures!!! this a extreme but on the Dark Knight they used 18K textures for some models
If your willing to learn the best to go with NUKE or NUKEX
These are great 32bit float suites, Nuke was originally developed by Digital Domain
back in the day, there now one of the top VFX groups.
If not use after effects.
All this is very advanced stuff your better of learning bits and pieces over a few months and finding people in your community
that are already learning this stuff like at a university who are willing to help you, But obviously I don't know your full situation.
I adore that sequence beyond the power of language to describe; it looks like my house would look, if I was richer than Bill Gates. And yes, I do fully appreciate that the degree of abstract minimalism we see there would make me a more than slightly sinister and unusual figure. With a lot of cleaning help.
Hi As a 3D novice, I'd really appreciate some solid advice on creating 'realistic' 3d objects that can be composited with live action.
My inspiration is 'The 3rd and the Seventh', really a work of art.
What software should I consider as a starting point?
Tough question these days since so many software packages are highly developed almost to the point that they are ready for a structural rewrite. Any of the majors are good. I'd just recommend staying with the most common of the majors specializing in whatever area you want to work.
Photorealism in CGI is still mostly a matter of the animators eye and artistic talent.
I'm surprised no one suggested Flame or Inferno, which I believe are the top of the line. Smoke is nice too. It's a VFX and NLE in one. All of these programs have jumped from one company to another. Right now, it's Autodesk. I believe they'll give you a fully functional version of at least Smoke to learn. The new Smoke is only available for Mac, unfortunately.
I had never even heard of Nuke until now. Shake came and went, it seems. I have not checked the latest version of After-Effects but back in the days (5 years ago) it was more of a motion graphics/2D compositing software. I think it's a great program though, affordable, very easy to learn, user-friendly GUI, lots of effects and plugins, and support for render farms.
For 3D modeling/animation:
I'm not too much into this, but I would go for Maya because it is the easiest one to learn, it's a standard in the industry, and you could make something that looks like it came out of Pixar with it, seriously. Just don't expect to be able to do it for at least 10 years. Also, I think they can give it to you for free to learn but with limitations.
DaVinci seems to be the standard at the moment.
Maya + Flame (+ lots of expensive hardware) and you should be all set.
Flame, Inferno and Smoke are quite old school. Flame and Smoke are still used though - but they are fairly high end and not really what a novice needs to learn or even afford.
Try first learning the basics of 3D, which should take you about a year. Creating realistic 3d models involves a lot of knowledge about rendering and lighting techniques - and when comping with real footage you have to look out for much more on set.
Free software like Blender is more than enough to star with. After that you can get into Maya.
In my opinion this was made with 3DsMax which is (the most) popular programm for bigger 3D Structures and Vray for rendering.
The creator of The 3. and the 7. is a absolut Boss! Modeling and texturing is extreme hard and a job for itself. Rendering is even harder and takes years to learn (and very much talent if you want to be good) 3D Animation/Movement ist also very hard!
Note that if you plan on making a career out of this:
In every "serious" post facility, CGI and 3D compositing are in two different departments. In other words, those who work with Maya usually don't work with Flame and vice versa. Rarely will you get to do both. So I would start off specializing in what you want to do most, 3D comp for ex, and just get a basic knowledge of 3D modeling/animation (or vice versa). This industry is ultra competitive (and equally underpaid btw). So if you want to land a job in it, you need to be the best at what you're going to be doing. Being the best at one of these things is hard enough as it is...
Some one wrote Flame was high-end and yet "old school". #1: Make up your mind. #2: Yes, it is high-end, top of the line even before getting into proprietary software by WETA or ILM, but "old school"??? LOL! It's the gold standard of any top post production company! But I agree, this is probably not what you want to start with! Start with something like Combustion instead. It might be discontinued but you can still find it online. There is even an Apple version of it. Better yet, give Smoke a shot.
As for 3D modeling, I'm gonna stick with Maya. Yes the manual is very thick and there is a lot to learn, but start playing with it a little and you'll find that it's very user friendly and you'll be making pretty cool stuff pretty quickly...
Maya + Nuke is where you ought to be heading. Nuke is the most powerful compositor out there and Maya is extremely versatile and widely used in the VFX industry. With texturing, Mari is fantastic, but that's advanced texturing (multi uv tiling, channels + shaders etc etc) you'll be best sticking to photoshop until you really need to texture something big.
As for renderers, as a beginner you'll probably want to learn mental ray as it is included with both max and maya. But obviously there are better renderers out there, Vray is good, and Arnold is becoming pretty widely used throughout the industry (it is very good!)