What is 3D Animation?

Home / motion graphics / What is 3D Animation?

What is 3D Animation?

The debut—and massive success—of Pixar’s Toy Story in 1995 changed the landscape of visual storytelling, bringing full-length 3D animation into the collective mainstream consciousness.

Little did the audience of two decades ago realise that 3D animation would go beyond filmmaking, and eventually come into play with various industries of today.

3D animation, to put simply, is the process of animating and moving three-dimensional objects, whether these objects are physical or digital. Nowadays, most 3D animation is done via computer-generated imagery (CGI).

It is a highly-complicated process and takes a huge amount of time to complete, but is used widely for short cartoons, full-length films, and even for business promotions.

The Birth of 3D Animation

Although Pixar pioneered CGI animation, 3D animation traces its roots back in the ‘60s with stop-motion or claymation. It involves posing clay models, taking its photo, moving/changing the pose of the model, and then taking another photo. Repeat until the story is complete.

Aardman Animations created some of the famous stop-motion animations like Shaun the Sheep and Gumby.

Stop motion is still used until today, but a lot of companies prefer to create 3D animations using CGI. Programs that can help create short or feature-length videos with 3D images abound like Blender or Renderman (a program developed by Pixar).

CGI has been used since the 1980’s. But it was Pixar’s Toy Story that paved the way for CGI films to be produced in large quantities. Plenty of animation companies followed suit for either film or TV, such as DreamWorks (Shrek and Kung-Fu Panda series) and Nickelodeon (e.g. Jimmy Neutron).

The process of 3D animation is complex, but follows three main categories:

  • Modeling – generating object within a given scene
  • Layout and animation – positioning and animating the objects
  • Rendering – the final product wherein computer graphics are completed

The 3D animation trend continues up to today, with CGI films coming out left and right, TV shows made completely in 3D (albeit done with shortcuts for lower costs), as well as in advertising.

Common Applications of 3D Animation

The use of 3D animation branched out to many fields. More and more people are finding its use in their industry valuable, both for education and communication purposes. These include:

1. Architecture

3D architectural animation can provide clients with a realistic visual of the construction site. Instead of filling in the blanks with mental images, this kind of video would help provide a clearer prototype of how the building will look.

2. Interior Design

Similar to architecture, interior design in 3D can help both the designer and the clientele to easily and accurately visualise the room and how else to improve it.

3. Medicine

In the medicinal field, 3D animation helps with education, training, and simulation—offering an alternative learning process. For instance, a group of novice surgeons would be able to better learn about a particular organ’s functions if it can be demonstrated via video.

4. Prototypes for Engineering and Technology

Engineers and those in the technology field benefit greatly from 3D animation, as they can build numerous prototypes before actually creating a working model. Efficiency is increased as creating and testing machinery becomes a lot faster.

5. Military and Police Use

Some military and police training can be completed with 3D animation videos, taking away the risk of physical injury and harm. Videos can teach soldiers how to strategize in a given field or present to personnel how to operate and maintain equipment.

6. Filmmaking

Of course, 3D animation is even more ubiquitous in filmmaking, giving audiences a different and immersive experience with visual storytelling.

7. Education

In the classroom, 3D animation can help explain an otherwise confusing concept, increasing the students’ interest and motivation to learn.

8. Business

In business, 3D animation can prove to be an eye-catching and engaging way to introduce your product or service to new audiences. When done right, it would help improve engagement, brand recall, and revenue.

The Benefits of 3D Animation To Your Video Marketing Strategy

3D animation also proves to be effective as a communication tool for advertising and marketing. It can help boost awareness of an otherwise unknown brand and, eventually, improve your sales.

Thanks to the development of technology, businesses these days do not need a big studio to create and market their animated videos. You can work with a professional team that specialises in 3D animation and motion graphics.

A well-executed 3D animation video can give you the following benefits:

1. Boost online presence and conversion rates

A recent study found that marketers who use videos see 49% growth in their revenue. On top of this, websites with videos have 35% higher conversion rates and 41% more traffic from organic search.

These numbers are important to keep in mind, especially if you want to increase your online presence with 3D animated videos.

2. Production flexibility

If you want a location shoot (e.g. on a mountaintop), you would have to hire a huge production team, transportation, and expensive film gear. With 3D animation, you have your imagination to work with—practically limitless. You can render a scenic background for a fraction of the cost of a location shoot.

3. Engage audience better

Billions of videos are watched every day on YouTube and Facebook. As such, a video has become one of the best ways to engage a business’ target audience.

In fact, consumers would much rather watch a video about a product than read about it. One in four would lose interest if a company’s website does not have video, and four out of five believe that video is important to demonstrate a product.

3D animated videos can engage your audience in a few ways:

  • Grab attention. 3D animation provides a “real feel” to the audience, giving you a fun and easy way to present your product or service.
  • Great visual effects. Thanks to advanced technology, 3D animation can render even a low-quality theme into a highly impactful portrait of your business.
  • Save time. Instead of typing out long ebooks or white papers solely, videos can present more information about you in less amount of time.

A study also found that people, on average, would spend 2.6 times longer on pages that have video, giving you more time to engage and lead them to sales.

4. Builds trust for your brand

High-quality animation would go a long way in improving your company’s image.

It shows that you are artistic and can keep up with modern technology. It also gives your brand personality, helping you connect with your audience better.

Lastly, instructional 3D animated videos can improve your credibility. By showing that you care enough for your customers to provide an easy-to-digest 3D instructional video, they would feel that you are a company that goes the extra mile for its clientele.

5. Save time creating presentations

Animated videos are not just for one-time use. Once it’s created, you can use it to improve presentations, pitches, and meetings. It’s a great conversation starter and would stick in the minds of potential clients.

Glossary Of Commonly Used 3D Animation Terms

If this is your first foray into the industry, 3D animation can be quite confusing. Here are a few terms that you can expect encounter:

  • Blocking – the placement of the character/s on a given scene.
  • Breakdown – how a character would get from one pose to another; a type of in-between (see: Inbetweens).
  • Breaking joints – rotating the character’s joints in the opposite direction, a feat that is impossible in the real world but gives a cartoon effect to the animation.
  • Frame rate – refers to the amount of frame per second, making sure that your final animation is timed right. 24 frames per second is one of the most common default settings, giving you 24 different images over the course of 1 second.
  • Gimbal lock – refers to a rotation hiccup on a character’s joints when the animation is played. This is caused by a rotation mark that passed 180 degrees, which a computer does not understand.
  • Inbetweens – inbetweens fill in what happens from one pose to another. Not to be confused with a breakdown, inbetweens are usually done by the computer whereas a breakdown is done by the artist.
  • Keyframe – a keyframe tells your computer how you want a node (object, material, light) to look and behave (position, colour, intensity). 3D animation needs a keyframe to lock down a movement.
  • Line of Action – an invisible line that can be drawn while your character is posing. It can be “C” shape, backwards “C” shape, or an “S” shape. These lines are important to keep a character’s pose dynamic instead of unappealing.
  • Moving Holds – a moving hold is when a character freezes or slightly moves in a pose within a set time. It helps break a movement or add emotion to the character, however, too much of it would give a stop-and-go feel.
  • Polish Pass – the last step in production, wherein the animator would provide the final touches to the video.
  • Poses – refers to how your character is positioned
  • Timeline – shows you where all the frames are, giving you the liberty to adjust to any frame length you like.
  • Twinning – when half of a character’s body mirrors its other half; a practice to avoid since twinning gives an unnatural symmetry to the character.

If you want to delve more into this, click here, here, and here for extensive glossaries.

3D animation gives your business a competitive edge by providing a high-quality and modern way of presenting your brand. If this is new territory for you, make sure that you work with a 3D animation team that you can trust, as this video should be effective in representing your company and delivering your message to your clients.