Animation: Master is an inexpensive, easy to use 3D modeling, rendering, and animation studio. Also known as Hash by its fans, it gives you everything you need to get started in 3D animation for only around $300. This may not seem cheap, but it's a pittance compared to what some of the higher end software costs. Its low price and relative simplicity makes it popular with many trying to learn or teach animation for the first time. It comes with a flexible spline and patch based modeling system. This may not give you the precise control of a vertex and polygon based system, but it makes it amazingly easy and intuitive to make complex organic models. Its animation system is pretty specifically tailored for character animation, with a very nice inverse kinematics skeletal animation system. It may not be powerful enough for professional work, its more than enough for a beginner to get their feet wet with. And it's pretty much the only affordable option for a casual animator who's too ethical to resort to the warez copies of higher end software out there.