In a world that is demanding more video content, animated videos are one of the best types of videos that stand out. Animation videos are gaining more popularity and are on demand. It is enjoyed by people of all ages and gets attention quickly.
Many kinds of animation can be seen nowadays, including 2D animation, 3D animation, character animation, motion graphics, and whiteboard animation. Video animation for business is very common nowadays and is still under-rated. It is one way to hook the audience regardless of their age group, as it has an entertaining element in it.
In this blog, I will share my knowledge of how to make 3D animation video, and I hope this helps you in producing an amazing video.
3D animation video production
Compared to the process of producing a 2D animation video, 3D animation production is much more complex. It is time-consuming and requires more powerful computer hardware due to its highly technical pipeline and various steps requiring specialists to work on it. When the pre-production is done, the 3D production takes a wholly different route to produce a video.
In 3D animation, an artist not just needs to be artistic but also needs to be very technical.
The most common 3D softwares used in the industry are Autodesk 3DS Max, Autodesk Maya, Cinema 4D, and Blender. These softwares are individually capable of handling a 3D project, but results may not be enough to meet the expectations of the present industry standards.
3D artists prefer to use Zbrush, Substance painter & external rendering plugins such as Vray and Arnold to achieve better and more realistic results.
Making a 3D animation video
There are various steps in making a 3D animation video. I have listed it step-by-step below so that you can make a 3D animation video or simply understand the process.
This process is similar to creating illustrations and characters in 2D animation but in 3D space. Creating 2D illustrations is more like painting or sketching, whereas 3D modeling is like sculpting or clay modeling.
3D models are made up of polygons. Just like adding more pixels, it allows you to add more details in your 2D illustration. Adding more polygons helps you to add more detail to your model.
In 3D modeling, instead of pixels, the polygons are understood as the smallest unit of creating 3D graphics. A polygon comprises 4 vertices and 4 edges, making a rectangular shape. These are aligned in a way to make a 3d model.
The modeler needs to keep all the polygons in quads; if not, it may cause trouble at later stages, such as rigging and animation. Some models that are supposed to be stationary can have triangular faces, but it is always a good practice to keep the polygon mesh-flow clean in quads to make things less complicated for further processes.
The process of texturing a model is providing or shaping a 3d model with its desired look and feel. A 3D model without this process is just like a clay model. No matter how detailed your model is, it's always incomplete without this process.
Texturing involves assigning a 3D model the physical properties of its surface, such as its color, reflectivity, glossiness, refractivity, roughness, metalness, etc. Texturing also involves adding minute details such as skin pores, fabric threads, creature scales, wrinkles, etc., to 3D models, which is called 'Bumpiness' in 3D technical language.
For a detailed texturing process, 3D models are first flattened. This process is known as UV Unwrapping. All the sides of a 3D model are flattened in 2D, allowing you to paint on it.
The flattened UVs are moved to specialized softwares for painting such as Photoshop or Substance Painter, which most texturing artists prefer to work with these days as it offers much more control and capabilities. Here details on the surface are painted, such as scratches, dirt, rust, etc.
The 2d painted textures are brought back to the 3D software and applied to the 3D model. Material attributes such as reflectivity, glossiness, refractivity, roughness, metalness, and bump are also adjusted at this stage.
The process of rigging is preparing a 3D model for animation. It can be understood as adding strings to a puppet.
A rigger adds joints & bones to the model that are controlled using controllers. This is the most technical part of preparing a model. Rigging is done only for the models that are supposed to be in motion.
Rigging a character starts with creating a skeleton that aligns with the character's anatomy. It has all kinds of joints which can be bent or moved. Every joint has to be appropriately named to avoid confusion at later stages.
Once the skeleton is created, it is connected to the 3d model. This process is known as skinning. It is time-consuming and has to be done very carefully. Reversing anything from this point sometimes would burden you to start all over again.
As an animator, you add life to the rigged model. You can add movement expressions and make the 3d model look alive.
It is like controlling the strings of a puppet and making it perform the final show. Animation principles are the same as 2D animation, but controlling and animating a character in 3D space is a different challenge.
Dynamics & Simulations
Animations involving things such as cloth, hair, fur, water, air, fire, and particle simulations are done in this process of dynamics and simulations.
These are not manually keyframe animations; instead, computers do the most calculations based on the object's physical properties such as its weight, mass, rigidity, bounciness, material, structure, etc.
These animations are mostly very realistic and resemble real-world physics. Most of the FX, such as a collapsing building, a submerging city, a rope swinging on air, or a car collision, are not manual animation but simulations and dynamics.
Lighting & Rendering
Lighting a 3D scene sets up the overall mood and tone of the scene. It involves creative decisions such as controlling the color, temperature, intensity, direction, and the type of lights. Lighting and rendering give the final realistic look to the scene with all the highlights, mid-tones, and shadows.
A lighting artist decides how dark or light, soft or sharp the casted shadows should be, whether the light source is a direct source of light or bounced or indirect light source.
Ray Trace Rendering Engines such as Vray and Arnorld helps lighting artists simulate the realistic light bounces, which in technical terms are known as Indirect Illumination or Global Illumination.
Once light settings are done, a scene is rendered into a video format, which can take a lot of time depending on the scene's quality, complexity, polycount, and many other factors.
The computer/system does all the job once the lighting artist achieves the desired render settings. A rendering artist's role is to control the amount of noise, anti-aliasing, any flickering and achieve the right colors in each frame.
A rendering artist renders the scene in different passes for the compositor, thereby helping to control individual elements of the scene such as colors, shadows, lights, and many other aspects in post-production.
As an animator and graphic designer, I have a lot of fun creating animations. After reading this blog, I hope you have understood the various steps involved in producing a 3D animation video.