For the last few decades, one of the major players in the graphics/3D modeling/rendering/animation arena has been Caligari Truespace. Their all-in-one 3D software suite sold for $600 and required nothing else to take you from start to finish on creating your own models, movies, animations and commercials. You can download it here for free, and you can see the full specification list to get an idea of just how powerful this tool set is.
While not completely free (you have to buy the magazine), you can get Realsoft 3D 5.1 on the disk that comes with this months 3D World Magazine. Another industrial grade software suite, this one normally sells for $750, and again covers every aspect of the 3D modeling and animation process from beginning to end.
Both of these are professional fully featured animation packages, actually used to create things you have seen online, on TV, and in the theaters. If I had to choose between them I would go with Truespace, but that is probably because I have used it for the last decade or so and was always impressed with the results it gave. I don’t have the same hands-on experience with Realsoft, so I have no basis of comparison so far. Thanks to Vesa (a name, not a credit card) in their Tech Support group, who helped solve my registration issues, I now have the chance to find out, and will report back here about it.
Caligari’s Truespace was bought about a year ago by Microsoft, who changed the price to free. The idea was to make this the core tool for creating content for their Virtual Earth project in their ongoing battle with Google. The economy train wreck means Microsoft has pulled back support for the product a few weeks ago, so you should download all the software, plugins, and training materials for your archives now, as at least some of them may be going away.
With Realsoft 3D, they have released version 6 for the full money amount, and are offering an upgrade deal (just under $400) for those who install 5.1 from the magazine. Basically a variation on Trialware without actually crippling the software before making it available; it is only missing the new bug fixes and features of the more recent version. The June issue of 3D World actually leaves the stands on June 24th, so you still have 2 weeks to go out and find a copy; after that it will be gone.