In addition to After Effects there are other great tools I found myself using frequently on this latest project:
This great little After Effects plug-in makes it easy to add environments to 3D scenes and saves a ton of time. I use it almost as much as Particular. www.Trapcode.com
Probably the best tool for creating realistic blur for individual layers or by using a depth matte. http://www.frischluft.com/lenscare/lenscare.php
This program is hard to describe but I use it to create spherical environment from digital still images to create 3d Environments and backgrounds. http://www.hdrshop.com/ Learn as much as you can on this subject it is great.
This tool makes shooting still images for panoramic easy and consistent. Be sure to check it out all the helpful resources within.