3D Modeling is the process of developing 3d life like models inside a computer. Inside a computer, these models are actually mathematical representation that needs to be rendered out as stills or video(moving pictures), a process that often requires good computers and take long. These models are actually made by polygons, lines and points(vertices). 3d models appear often in movies in many forms, animations, digital products photography, etc.
But, modeling is just the easy part; the next part is texturing the models, i usually call this mapping, because it often requires mapping a 2d texture made in a program such as Photoshop onto a 3d model. When dealing with complex organic models such as animals, the process can get very involving. But of course once one gets the hang of it, the process is a work over and fun.
We are not done yet,… there is also this thing called rigging; a process where the 3d model is given bones/joints like structures so as to allow it’s posing and animation. If one plans to reach here though, the modeling has to be done right; with few but enough polygons. This very important because the bones usually affect vertices/points hence one has to control vertex number, which bones affect which vertices and how they affect them, a process usually called weighting.
Finally, animation; here, the bones are animated(moved around and their position, rotation and state in 3d space recorded throughout time) and the 3d model(sometime called skin) follows. Here, i would also like to talk about simulations. Unlike animations which are keyframe based, the later which would make simulations like water, wind and destruction close to impossible if not impossible, simulations usually rely on life like parameters like gravity, wind, hardness, paths, etc that simulate particular environments. Hence once one start the simulation, the physics do the job.
While there are probably a lot of programs that can do all that is discussed above, the following are the ones i’ve found to be the best (consecutively); 3ds Studio Max, Maya and Cinema 4D. But there are also others that perform specific tasks; ZBrush for sculpting, Motion Builder for advanced animations, RealFlow for advanced fluid simulations, Vue xStream for advanced landscape design, PlantFactory for advanced plant design, etc.