Making 3D Animation Videos: Essential Steps & Tips
Videos are the star performers in the marketing world. There are probably no businesses worldwide that aren’t using them or planning to use them for various purposes – from promoting products or services and employee training to hiring, sales support, and more. One video format always in demand is animation video, thanks to its appeal to all ages and demographics.
However, creating a 3D animation video is no cakewalk. It takes a lot of expertise, unlike other video formats. In this article, we look at the essential steps involved in creating a 3D animation video. We also add some incredible tips at the end to keep in mind. Let’s dive right in.
3D Animation Video Production
3D animation production can be complicated. Unlike 2D animation videos,3D animation involves powerful computer software and is time-consuming and expensive. Animators with tons of experience are required to make a good 3D animation video. There is so much technicality in it that there are entire technical teams to make the animation while the art themes focus on the narrative side.
Creating a 3D animation video requires a slew of heavy software to create and edit the work. Autodesk 3DS Max, Cinema 4D, Autodesk Maya, and Blender are some popular 3D animation software. There are a lot of plugins involved to give the video a realistic look.
Let us look at the major steps involved in a 3D animation video to understand the process.
3D modeling is the process of making illustrations for animation. It is done in 3D space with polygons. It is much like clay modelling or sculpting. These polygons are the building blocks of the illustration. The more polygons there is, the more detail.
A polygon, a four-sided, four-cornered figure, is used to create the smallest units in 3D animation. A skilled modeller knows how to create the polygons with the right amount of details to flesh out a 3D shape using polygons. Sometimes certain models that are supposed to be stationary will have triangular faces. In all other cases, quads are used.
As the name suggests, this is the process where the 3D shape gets its look and feel. Without this, it looks bland and unaesthetic. With textures, the 3D model gets its physical properties. The color, glossiness, reflectivity, refractivity, metalness, roughness, etc, are ways a surface is textured. These apply to smooth surfaces. Rough, uneven surfaces can have ‘bumpiness’ created by textures such as fabric threads, wrinkles, scales of a creature, skin pores, etc.
This process is done first by flattening the 3D models, called UV Unwrapping. This way, you can paint on it using specialized software like Substance Painter or Photoshop. These are some of the preferred software for texturing artists as it gives control and has many capabilities like adding scratches, rust, dirt, etc.
If 3D modeling is fleshing out the shape, rigging is where you add the skeletons. If you create a character with movement, you can add joints and bones to the model using controllers. This is what rigging is all about.
Rigging involves aligning the skeleton with the character’s anatomy. If the character is a cat, one has to list out all the joints, each of which is named to avoid confusion in the future. Once this is done, the skeleton is connected to the 3D model. This process is called skinning. This is a very delicate process that requires a lot of precision. Returning to reverse things can prove too cumbersome at this point.
This is where the rigged and modelled 3D character is brought to life. Animators add movement and expressions to the 3D model. They control the character to make it perform for the video. However, it is easier said than done. It is a complicated process that can be a challenge for the animator.
Dynamics & Simulations
Dynamics and simulation are where the animations regarding hair, cloth, fire, water, air, etc are done. All of these are not manual keyframe animations. Computers do the calculations regarding the physical properties of an object like its mass, weight, bounce, rigidity, structure, material, etc. They follow real-world physical laws. They are very realistic too.
Lighting & Rendering
Lighting is as essential in 3D animated videos as in any other video. The lighting sets up the tone and mood of the video. A specialized light artist decides how bright or soft a particular light is, its direction, intensity, etc. The correct lighting and rendering give the realistic look of the entire video. A rendering artist ensures a computer achieves all the render settings like the right amount of noise, anti-aliasing, flickering, and getting the right colors in each frame.
Tips to keep in Mind while Making a 3D Animation Video
Creating a 3D animation video may be more challenging than you think. You can use all the help that you get. While the above-mentioned are essential steps, here are some of the lessons we picked up on the way.
Scripting Before Animation
As much as you would like to get started with the animation and the software, it is best not to do that as soon as you think you need to make a 3D animation video. Before you get to the animation part, sit down and write a thorough script of the video, scene and shots you need. Doing this will take care of the story you are trying to create and put it safely on paper.
This is because 3D animation is extremely complex and takes time. Without a proper script, you can get lost in technicality and lose sight of your story. Always have a script before you animate.
Outline the key poses of your character
Before you sit down to create your characters, you should first think about the different poses this character would need. This will inform you how many main poses it has. When you do this in 3D, it can take a lot of time. So, before you begin with your software, take a sketch pad and draw the key poses most easily, even if using stick men and a smiley face. This will outline a plan for you to work on.
No, we still haven’t reached the using software part. Before you get there, make sure you take some time to research. Find references in other films to see how a particular movement is done. You can also film yourself doing it and use the footage to guide you. These references can help you with the animation.
Mark the key poses in your references and block them in 3D space
We have already identified the key poses required from the script. Now identify them from the reference video. Look for the poses without which the story cannot be told on screen. Block these key poses and then flesh out the animation in 3D space. This also helps later while splining and also with troubleshooting issues.
3D animation videos are a great format for business purposes. It gets the message across more easily than other formats. However, it is not the easiest to make. It takes years of experience to become a skilled animator. As laid out in the steps above, many different processes and software are involved in animation.
If you want to create a 3D animation video, you can consider hiring experts instead of trying to do it on your own. Cinimage is a professional 3D animation video creator with rich experience working with different animation types. We have collaborated with businesses to bring out 3D animation videos for many years. If you think you could use some help, reach out to us!