What is 3D animation? What is the difference to 2D animation?

What is this additional third dimension? Take a piece of paper and draw a simple figure on it (a cat, a dog or something that comes to your head). Let’s say it’s a cat and it faces you from this sheet of paper. So you have the front view of the cat in front of you. Assuming you feel that you want to see the cat from one side, will it help you if you turn the paper around? No. Why? It’s simply because the third dimension is missing in the sketch you’re drawing.

Every real object you see around has a third dimension and that’s why you can take it and rotate it to look at it from different angles. The sketch you drew had a length and a width because the paper you drew with also had a length and a width. But there is one thickness missing (3rd dimension) and therefore your sketch did not have that extra dimension.

Suppose you decided not to sketch your imagination on the sheet of paper, but to form it on a handful of clay. Since the medium (clay) you used had volume, you had to define the cat shape from all angles during the modeling. So you unwittingly added this third dimension and that’s why you have the freedom to rotate it the way you want.

How traditional 2D animations work:

Before computers played their indispensable role in the animation industry, everything was done manually by animators who were essentially artists. They would create a series of slides with images on them, each slide image being the continuation of the previous one in the sequence. For example, if an animator wanted to simulate a falling ball, he would create a sequence of slides with the first slide representing the ball at the top. The next slide shows the ball, which can be 1 cm lower than the first slide. In the next, again deeper and so on, until the last slide shows the ball that touches the ground. When the whole sequence of slides is shown in front of the viewer at high speed, the feeling of the ball falling is created.

The whole process was laborious and time-consuming. When computers came into play, the works for redrawing the frame had been minimized because copying and pasting duplicate elements between successive images was very easy with the help of the computer. The artist only has to make the necessary changes that should be made between the successive images. As the technology evolved, software programs developed that further minimized the effort of a 2D animator, automating several things. Using motion tweening and other techniques, an animator can determine the initial position or shape of an object, then its final position and shape, and the computer would automatically generate the intermediate images. The artist even has the freedom to make corrections.

What was missing in the 2D animation?

The 2D animation always lacked the essential because all real landscapes and objects are 3D and when they are transformed into 2D, they lose their reality. Later cartoons began to simulate the 3D effect through gradients and different highlights, but it required an enormous amount of extra effort on the part of the artist.

How 3D graphics work:

The stages of 3D animation are more numerous than those of 2D animation. The first part of the 3D animation begins with the character sketch and 3D modeling. In the next step the characters are prepared for the animation. In the next phase they are animated. This is indeed too compact a form of what happens in the background. Let’s see each of them in a little detail.

– Character sketch: This is the phase in which an artist sketches how the character should look from different angles. Usually the sketch is made on paper or canvas. So many variations in poses are created that it would help the 3D modeler to make a 3D model out of it.

– Character Modeling: A 3D artist who has a 3D modeling and animation tool will examine the sketches and begin modeling the character with his imagination and skill. I used the word sculpture because the process is very similar to the real sculpture that we make with raw materials like clay. The software tool that the artist uses offers different approaches to the modeling process. Normally, organic modeling techniques like polygon modeling (a polygon is divided to get the desired shape), NURBS mode, etc. are used.

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