|Depends on the type of animation. My main tool of the trade is 3dsMax, but it's not a simple program, also needs several expensive plugins. This being said:
2D and animation
1 Image editing:
- Photoshop, it's a must. Alternatively Gimp.
- SketchBook or ArtRage, I would also recommend a pressure sensitive tablet or screen such as Wacom 22HD but it's expensive ($1500+). There's a huge advantage in using pressure sensitive screen because, once you get used to it, you can create lines of variable thicknesses in one go which saves a ton of time, also, you are using a pen which is great. Software such as SketchBook also have low layers where i/e you can position a 3D dummy in any position, pose and at any angle so you never mess proportions.
- CellAction, ToonBoom, however they are expensive. Alternatively OpenToonz. They are great for frame by frame animation.
3D animation and modeling
- This is a hard one. Professional studios either develop their own tools or use Maya, however, I never liked Maya (even scripting is it's strongest side), I'm a 3DsMAx guy, and whichever way you go, learning curve is hard, however, end results are most impressive and possibilities endless. Blender is a different kind of an animal, and probably the best to start with, it went so far since early days that in some segments it's even better than previous 2 mentioned. However, whichever is chosen, a rendering engine will be needed, and there are only two which i could recommend: v-Ray for any and RadeonRender if you have AMD based hardware. Even i'm biased towards 3DsMax, if I was starting today, with what I know, I'd probably go for Blender for start. As an addition, Daz3D and/or Poser can be used for life modeling and animation, meaning, humans, animals etc, then exported to one of previously mentioned programs.
Warning: if you opt for 3dsMax, latest versions are NOT always the best. Choose your version wisely.
A note: you'll need Photoshop or Gimp for textures.
Video editing and SFX
- This is a no brainer, Premiere Pro and After Effects.
- Well, every video needs audio too. For composing, mixing and mastering: Reaper. Everything else is just fancy buttons for more money. SoundForge is good for cutting audio clips, making loops and adding basic effects, but audio envelopes can be done in Premiere too, also Reaper which is LOADED with effects, so it's not a must even is useful.
In addition, I would recommend an older version of ACD See, i/e v7 (NOT pro) to replace Windows image browser/viewer. It's a lot faster, damn useful and has a few basic effects that are priceless due to the speed. Also I would recommend Total Commander or an alternative for data management. Stock explorer is just... crap. Don't go for IrfanView.
In addition, FumeFX and PhoenixFD are awesome simulators. Afterburn is amazing too. For prticles, Thinking Particles is a must. While at 3D, a good unwrapping plugin is a recommendation too, stock ones are a bit lame and slow, but they do their job.
Last but not least, look for HDR maps and what HDRi is, it's a must for good light in any 3D software.
"Don't worry about hardware, that's taken care of."
If possible, Id' like to know more simply cause that may NOT be the case.
'Been 3Ding since 1994, so there's what I can tell you, for start. I hope I helped.