3D animation is something all of us have seen before and even grown up with. It is featured in animated movies like Toy Story. You may have also caught it in the rotating shoes in Nike commercials. It has a distinguishable look characterized by images that provide depth and dimension.

We can trace 3D animation or computer animation back to the 1960s and the first television series made with computer-animated images was called ReBoot.

A precursor to 3D animation was claymation which made its first appearance in the early 1900s. It involved shaping clay into real-life objects and creating a stop motion film by taking pictures of the clay models in various positions. The pictures were then shown quickly, one after another, to create the illusion of movement.

The earliest example of a claymation movie was Edison Manufacturing’s trick film The Sculptor’s Welsh Rabbit Dream which came out in 1908. Wallace and Gromit and Shaun the Sheep are other claymation favorites that came later on.

While 3D animation was a terrific form of entertainment, the process to create it was very time-consuming. Fortunately, technology soon caught up and Computer Generated Imagery (CGI) was introduced, speeding things up considerably. Toy Story, Cars, and Frozen are examples of modern films that integrate CGI and 3D animation.

Where is 3D Animation Used?

As time went on, 3D animation began appearing in other mediums beyond movie entertainment. Here are some examples.

  • Education & Training: 3D animation provides visuals that are excellent for learning. Viewers can clearly see how to use products and systems in a practical sense.
  • Marketing: 3D animation is a terrific marketing tool. It can be added to emails and web pages and used in presentations to show consumers and clients how a product works and the value it can bring to their lives.
  • In science (Visualization): Scientific graphic visualizations can be rendered with 3D animation to gain insight into data and complex challenges as well as solutions.
  • Creative Arts: Artists can integrate 3D animation into the work they produce to create pictures and movies that come to life.
  • Gaming: When 3D animation is integrated into gaming, it provides gamers with the experience of being inside the game.

How is 3D Animation Created?

3D animation can be made in one of two ways. It can be created with a 3D modeling tool, or it can involve actual images being scanned into the computer.

When done on a computer, various types of programs may be integrated including Maya, 3ds, Max, Blender, Cinema 4D, and more. They create models that are made up of polygons with points or vertices that provide the illusion of dimension.

3D Animation Illusion of Dimension

Setting the scene

The layout phase follows. It requires making the set and placing the object in it. Pretty much like for regular movies.

The main characters need to be modeled while the backing and surrounding scenes are often created from scratch. In games and animated movies, entire worlds are sometimes modeled down to the smallest detail.

3D Animation Scene

Materials like metal, plastic, and wood are added to provide objects with textures and a realistic look. Color also comes into play in making the elements come to life and setting the mood for the scenes.

Lighting is another important consideration. It plays a major role in the overall look of the video.

3D artists must consider whether they are aiming for natural light or an artificial look. They must think about how many light sources they need, what angles they are coming from, and how powerful they should be.

3D Animation Artificial Look

Next comes the animation phase which involves assigning animated variables to the model that allows it to move within the scenes. In some instances, using motion capture techniques, a real actor’s movements may be used to bring it to life.

The final step is rendering which can create photorealistic results by simulating light transport and scattering, or non-photorealistic results by assigning a specific art style.

Rendering is performed by specialized program and involves converting what’s inside the 3D project to a single frame or image. It requires a lot of computing power and can be quite time-consuming depending on how much you have available.

You should now hopefully have a better understanding of 3D animation and the process behind it. Having a company like PinkSquare create the 3D animation for you is a little simpler though and you generally do not get involved in every step of the production process. If you decide to integrate 3D animation as part of your marketing strategy, sales process, or education and training, you only get involved in 4 manageable steps. You can read more about them in our article about Our Production Process.