Your Guide to 3D Animation
Over the past 20 years, animations have become increasingly more realistic. 3D animation technology has come a long way, transforming the use of a green screen into a believable reality. But, aside from high-quality animation, what is 3D animation and how is it created? You may be surprised to discover just how wide-reaching its uses are.
What Is 3D Animation?
Three-dimensional (3D) animation is a popular form of animation that produces moving images in a digital environment. It is more commonly known as computer-generated imagery (CGI) and is understood as a subcategory of visual effects (VFX). Using this method, animated characters and objects are created within specially designed software, attributing the illusion of motion and movement bringing these creations to life.
Nowadays the limits of 3D animation are endless; if you can imagine it, you can create a 3D animation of it. And, while it was initially used within the film industry, it now spans a range of sectors and uses, including practical, architectural purposes.
2D Vs 3D: How Do Animators Decide?
For an animator, there are a number of factors that can influence their decision to choose 3D animation over 2D. The obvious choice will depend on the visual style of their intended project and often comes down to creative preference. But, there are technical aspects which can sway a decision.
In addition, the production of the two animation techniques also comes with differences in cost, timeframe and complexity. Also, the intended audience should also play a part. The main consideration between 2D and 3D animation is whether the finished product would benefit from 2D’s creative possibilities, as each character and object is hand-drawn or created using digital software, or would 3D’s realistic capabilities work best? Once a preferred style has been agreed upon an animator can get started.
How Does 3D Animation Work?
3D animations can be created within a three-step process involving modelling the characters and objects, placing and moving these within a scene, and then generating the finished images. While this may sound simple, 3D animation does have its complexities.
The first step is to create a computer model of the character or object. There are two different approaches you can take with modelling. The first is by downloading a 3D modelling software, creating and designing a three-dimensional object within a computer. The second, however, is to scan real-life objects into a computer to enhance and modify them.
On the software, a model is made up of polygons, defined by vertices or points. These polygons are combined to create the base of your creation. The minimum number of vertices a polygon requires is three, making a triangle, but there is no upper limit. When the number of vertices a polygon will have is unknown, the letter ‘n’ is substituted creating an ‘n-gon.’ This abbreviation will be used to determine the overall integrity of the polygon.
When the surface of a polygon is considered, this is called the face, with the surrounding lines referred to as edges. While a computer will view your creations as geometric shapes, the process of designing the objects and characters is very much like sculpting virtual clay. There is a selection of tools available, allowing for different degrees of detail to be added.
Once the rough shape has been created with polygons, materials and textures can then be added. Materials are a crucial step in the process, they give vital information on how the surface should react in different lighting to the render engine. The texture is then considered, adding colour to your chosen materials using an albedo map, with features added using a bump map.
Whether you scan in an object or create one with polygons, adding material and texture is a vital step in making your finished animation look more realistic, with its own personality.
2. Placement And Motion
The next step is to consider the layout and animation your objects and characters will have, and also consider your camera placement. During the modelling step, many controls are built into the polygon, allowing animation to be added. When creating a human or animal model, an animator would first install a skeletal animation. In applying this first, the process of adding animation variables (Avars) is further supported.
Each Avar that is added provides a controller which allows an animator to move the character similar to a marionette puppet, only more complex. The technical term for this programming is called keyframing.
Another method of adding motion is by using motion capture. This incredible technology allows for a live actor’s movements to be recorded using markers and video. A sequence of movements can then be transformed onto the model.
3. Generating The Final Images
This final step is also known as rendering, and it is possible to choose between two different methods to complete the process. An animator may opt for photorealistic results that simulate light scattering and transport. Whereas, another may create non-photorealistic rendering, inputting an art style to the imagery.
The rendering process is carried out using specialised software that is not suitable for home computers. The process requires a lot of power and can only be successfully carried out on professional devices. Each stage of creating 3D animation requires plenty of planning and time to produce the most realistic end product.
The Uses Of 3D Animation
As we have briefly mentioned, the uses of 3D animation have branched out and now include a wide range of industries and possibilities. As the popularity of CGI and realistic animation continues to grow, animators are discovering more and more ways to incorporate its characteristics.
Outside of the film, TV and gaming industries, 3D animation can be used in a commercial settings to produce:
- Educational Videos and Content
- Marketing Campaigns
- Advertisement and Commercials
- Business Communications
- Workplace Presentation and Training
- Prototypes and Informative Product Demonstrations
3D animation also has some more obscure uses including visual demonstrations of architectural plans and processes, tours around houses that are for sale or up for rent, visual aids in scientific research and an added effect within live shows. With the advanced technological advancements, 3D animations are no longer restricted to the entertainment world.
Becoming An Animator
If post-production is mentioned or a green screen is involved in the filming of a film, TV programme or TV commercial, you know an animator has played a crucial role. Animators often work across a range of different animation styles, keeping their skillset wide and adaptable for a range of animation projects. However, for 3D animation, there is a lot of research involved in the process. While this might come as a surprise, as 3D animation aims to be as realistic as possible, these animations must be thoroughly planned out.
Despite needing an eye for detail and a passion for creativity, the best thing you can do if you want to enter the world of animation is to gather experience. Similar to any job, if you invest time and effort in building a portfolio and have a willingness to learn, there is no reason why you shouldn’t be able to explore animation.
With your own computer, explore free animation software and get creative. Each platform has hundreds of video help guides and step-by-step tutorials, allowing you to learn as you go along. Once you have created a range of animations you are proud of, create a demo reel of your work. A portfolio is necessary to get a job as an animator. All that’s left to do is apply and reach out to local animation companies.
Looking For An Animator? Contact Ark Media Today
At Ark Media, we have a talented team of animators who are experienced with 3D creations. If you are looking for someone to take care of the complexities of your 3D animation, our award-winning video production company is happy to help. Whatever your 3D animation needs, we have the skills and technology to make it happen. For more information contact us today on 0121 362 1641, alternatively, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.