THIS IS GRAPHICS. Everything else is a complete fake and anyone that tells you else is l4m3 to the bone. With that out of the way, let's move on to some interesting stuff.
This section deals with modelling/texturing/animating techniques. I use MAX2, but most of this should be applicable to any other package. As to the level of these tutorials, I think of me being an advanced lama. :) So if you can do something better, than do it, but don't pester me with that. Instead, visit the tutorials at 3D Cafe or Paul Steed's (he's the lowpoly character animator at id) Thinking Outside the Box at Loonygames. First off, I'll roughly explain how to build and texture a nice looking fighter jet, based on my F.O.A.D. fighter from First Sight Entertainment's upcoming game, Futureal. Then we will move on to more difficult stuff like lowpoly character modelling and animating (using MAX's Character Studio). So let's get started.
Kinetix 3D Studio MAX - very good package, everything included to get you started in 3D. Used mostly in game development, you might also try NewTek's LightWave 3D, which is basically the same, but does have a nicer renderer, therefore it's commonly used for TV stuff. And if you have a hell of a computer with WindowsNT or even a Silicon Graphics workstation, I'd recommend SoftImage 3D, which is used often for special effects in movies and such. Last but not least there's Alias|Wavefront Maya, which rocks when it comes to character modelling/animation.
Adobe Photoshop - the premier 2D painting program. Needed for painting textures for your 3D models, matte paintings, spicing up rendered stills, etc. A must have. The Fractal Design Painter from Metacreations is supposed to be used as well, although I didn't check it out yet. There's also a program called Painter 3D from Metacreations that makes it possible to draw directly onto 3D models via a plugin for MAX. It's used at id, so I guess it's good.
Bryce 3D - to make it short, this app from Metacreations can do landscapes for ya. You cannot export the meshes, but the landscapes can be rendered and then rotoscoped into real 3D programs.
Universe - this is a nice little utility that doesn't really fit between the above mentioned big-name apps. It's only function is to create neato 2D space imagery, which can be further used as textures in 3D programs, etc. Definitely worth a try.
Kinetix Character Studio for 3D Studio MAX - consists of Biped and Physique, the former helps creating a dummy character to help you animate your character with Physique. Helpful features like footsteps, mocap support, etc. make Character Studio a very cool tool. And it even rhymes. <grin>
Alien Skin Eye Candy - plugins for Adobe Photoshop that make an artist's life easier. Includes Drop Shadow, Glow, Fire and many other filters. Although you can create effects like these by hand as well, it's mostly painfully slow and unflexible. So why invent the wheel twice?
Blur Pak 1 (pretty
Blur Pak 2 (fire effect, modified combustion)
Bomb 2 (explodes object into chunks of faces)
Yost Group's Free Form Modifier (similar to working with clay)
Yost Group's Holiday Pack (camera mapping and lots more)
Yost Group's Torus Knots (geometry plugin)
Multi Deflect (enhanced particle deflector)
Particle Combustion (works with particles)
Yost Group's Star Generator (ported from R4)
Unwrap (unwraps texture coordinates into a bitmap - a must have)
Blur Pak for MAX2+
(ported from MAX1.2)
Bomb 2 (ported from MAX1.2)
Particle Combustion 2 (ported from MAX1.2, includes Vertex and Object Combustion as well)
Deflect 2 (ported from MAX1.2)
Unwrap (ported from MAX1.2)
A buttload of useful plugins (object utils, rayfx, etc.) for max3 can be found at the
Blur Studios website.
Peter Watje has cooked up some fine plugins as well (softspot and the simple but incredibly useful uvw unwrap util).
AAPlay for Windows
(essential utility from Autodesk for viewing FLICs in Windows, very handy)
View3DS (simple exe for previewing 3DS files in Windows)