Who can forget when Andy opened his last birthday gift, a Buzz Lightyear action figure launching us from infinity to beyond. Children were delighted to watch toys come to life and look real. Adults wondered how did they do that?
At the time we didn’t realize that we were watching 3D animation, an art form that was first introduced in the 1940’s by John Whitney, who is often referred to as the father of computer animation. The computer-generated Andy and Buzz looked like they were moving through three-dimensional space. Their images were moved and rotated following the same principles as in real life so…they looked real.
Today 3D animation is used in everything from the movies to medicine to e-commerce to prototyping. The advantages of using 3D animation include:
1. Allows the animator to illustrate movement that is beyond physical capabilities. 3D animation can do pretty much anything that is beyond our actual human abilities.
2. Brings the product to life. Shows it in action, no matter the size or features.
3. Ability to see the product physically in motion rather that a static image. Movement is much more attractive to a viewer than still imagery. This also gives the viewer the opportunity to move around the product and see it in its entirety.
4. Animation of actual colors and materials of the products in various ways. In some industries this could mean showing a product cycle through its different material finishes, for example, colors, or other offerings/variants that are available.
5. Can be used to animate the camera and lighting in any way and is not limited by current physical/equipment abilities. For example, in 3D animation, we can take a camera and all the lighting together have it fly from the top of a building down to the ground and focus on a product. Doing this in real life would mean renting a very large and expensive crane that holds more than a camera, plus operators, city permits and the list goes on.
6. Application and animation possibilities are endless for products or subjects. 3D animation can deconstruct objects such as cars, machinery, buildings, etc. displaying intricate inside features that would be impossible to do in real life.
7. The ease and accessibility of editing, saving time and costs, even to a slight change in movement of product or camera without having to re setup the studio/environment multiple times. This includes any aspect of the product, environment, or lighting.
In the end the most important aspect of 3D animation is the ability to tell your company’s story in a way that allows for a much higher level of customer engagement and satisfaction.
Jason Ellwanger, senior 3D designer, lives his work life in the virtual world. He works on 3D models every day, which includes inspecting client-provided CAD files for estimates, optimizing meshes, creating/applying materials for client models, minor animating, and rendering. He lives in a farmhouse outside of Pittsburgh, with plans to raise livestock (chickens, pigs, cattle) and become fully self-sustaining.