SideFX's flexible 3D animation software package is famous for its high-quality graphics pipeline. The software, known as Houdini, is fully capable of modeling, texturing, rigging and animating 3D models. You can create entire worlds of 3D content, or you can fuse your 3D creations into real-world footage. This software is often included in large-scale cinematic projects that require contributions from multiple applications, because it is an ideal tool to draw all these elements together into one place. It is also highly extensible, offering the creative latitude to do whatever you can imagine.

The software comes with a powerful rendering engine known as Mantra. It is capable of photorealistic renditions and supports ray tracing – an essential feature for global illumination. This software's GI algorithm produces photorealistic lighting. Mantra's GI algorithm supports subsurface scattering and ambient occlusion for the most realistic images possible. These types of renders require a lot of computation time, so do not expect the software to spit them out quickly.

Although it is certainly a professional-grade animator, Houdini's feature list is less impressive than those of other software packages when it comes to animation. It doesn't have add-ons such as time warping or stereoscopic rendering. You can still expect the basics, however. It supports scripted, procedural and keyframe animation with layers. However, SideFX has an edge, as it is well known for building highly complex gas volumes such as clouds. Not all software packages have this capability.

SideFX software is procedural and works with nodes, which makes for easy, precise modeling and sophisticated texturing and animation. Nodes allow you to build a graph to control the flow of data when applying special features and effects to your models, and it has the advantage of being visual. You can easily see how each node relates to the others and what the result is on your model. You can even construct geometric models this way.

These nodes also allow you to integrate and apply plugins that you have scripted or downloaded. This node-based interface makes the software highly extensible and customizable. If you want it to do something the software cannot do directly out of the box, it's easy to integrate your own plugins. This flexibility is one of the reasons SideFX is so popular with film studios that have their own proprietary software – it blends well with their pre-existing assets.

SideFX has decent support online. The company provides tutorials and help on its website, and you can contact SideFX via email in the event of a technical problem. The learning curve can be daunting, so these resources could come in handy.

SideFX's 3D animation software does a little bit of everything. It has industry-strength modeling, rendering and animating capabilities. Its interface makes it very good at integrating plugins, and this extensibility has helped it gain popularity.