While I'm still playing around with Blender I will definitely get one of the pay-for packages. I was already set on getting into Maya when I read about changes in the cgi landscape. These are the things I read. Feel free to comment and put in your point of view and say where you think something's not right. While the talent pool for Maya is very large, so I read, but Houdini seems to be getting into first spot. I also read that thing take much longer in Maya than in other 3D software packages, because it's an "older" software. Many people say Maya's interface is unintuitive and horrible, but others say that it's actually excellent. I don't have any interest in cartoons. I'm much more interested in photorealistic animation. Houdini, a very hard to learn software, is said to be not top nodge in modeling, but in special effects and also compositing. If you use Maya or Houdini I'd love to hear from you.