Author: Bob Dec 23, 2022 11 min read
Computer animation is used everywhere today: from advertising banners to realistic video games, and the main role in the animation industry is in 3D and 2D technologies. In this article, we will find out what is the difference between 2D and 3D animation. Also, we will discover whether any of them is more preferable for business in 2023 and why 3D still fails to displace 2D.
2D animation is widely used in the creation of animated films, cartoons, commercials, educational videos, games, etc. With content in video format continuing to dominate the online space, companies are increasingly considering using animated videos for promotion. For example, a landing page enriched with a breathtaking video can increase conversions by more than 80%.
Let’s take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of 2D to find out why this animation format is still indispensable in 2023.
The early stages of video creation include gathering source material, writing a script, sketching and storyboarding. The finished script includes not only the storyline and dialogues but also all the visual actions. It serves as the basis for a more detailed storyboard, which allows the animators to see how the key shots should look in the end, what their angle should be, etc. The designs of characters, objects and environments are also developed even before storyboarding. Sometimes during pre-production, the main part of the voiceover is also recorded.
After that, the main part of the work begins: coloring backgrounds, creating all the key and intermediate frames, forming so-called rough animation, cleaning it up with tracing, and increasing smoothness by adding frames. Later on, all the disparate visual components of the animation (backgrounds, layers, music, dialogs) are combined based on the exposure sheet. Finally, there comes the final stage — post-production — editing and processing of frames, and if necessary, adding special sound effects.
2D animation will still be relevant because actual games from the old times will always be in demand. As a part of the 2D animation industry, there will be isometric games, because they allow designers to create a visualization of the volume. Also, 2D will always be relevant in the creation of commercial animations, as well as usual cartoons.
We can freely say that 2D is no worse than 3D — it’s just a different style that is equally meaningful and useful. For example, 2D is usually used in training videos, tutorials and social media content. So, with certainty, we can say that the end of the 2D animation won’t be for a while.
3D animation is the result of placing and manipulating personages and objects in three-dimensional space and creating the illusion of movement. Objects are created from 3D models appropriated in a digital environment using modeling tools. An interesting fact is that the first cartoon in the familiar 3D technology – was “The Adventures of Andre and Wally the Bee” in 1984. It was created by the animation department of Lucasfilm studio (future Pixar).
Now, let us take a look at the advantages and disadvantages of this format.
Advantages of the 3D animation industry:
Disadvantages of the 3D animation industry:
The core processes in the 3D video animation industry are generally similar to 2D. First, there is work on the concept and script, then the creation of sketches and storyboards, the design of characters, the environment and objects. Design diagrams and model sheets are also necessary. These sheets or charts contain detailed images of all the possible expressions and poses of the characters.
The main work on three-dimensional animation usually begins with the creation of layouts. The most important stage is modeling, during which controlled 3D characters, realistic equipment and “live” nature appear. This is followed by rigging (linking the skeleton of models to controls), facial expression sculpting and texturing.
Science and entertainment industries are the main consumers of 3D animation and visualization. The first includes highly specialized projects that show scientific processes. For example, 3D animation is used in physics, medicine and forensics.
In the film and game industry, 3D animation is applied to create characters, model scenes, futuristic or historical worlds and special effects. It’s a whole separate industry, employing thousands of 3D professionals. Every year, new methods of drawing and creating characters in a 3D environment appear.
While considering 2D animation vs 3D animation for a project, it’s essential to figure out which is easier and more cost-effective. If you plan to use a lot of text in your video, it’s better to opt for a 2D type, as text is better readable from a flat picture. On the other hand, if the main aim is to show a complex object, it will look better in 3D mode, as the accumulation of graphics here is perceived as a clear geometric figure. For example, complex chemical compounds or techniques with many small details look better in three-dimensional space.
We do not recommend using complex geometric structures in 2D, as they will be difficult to read. However, 3D projects have many limitations and requirements for the construction of the scene. It may seem that this type of graphic requires more professionalism, but it is not true, as outstanding 2D animation implies no less talent and skill from a specialist.
2D graphics are easier to make and can show more types of scenes. There are already millions of pre-designed special effects, sprites and graphic schemes. This greatly simplifies and speeds up the process, providing businesses with compelling results in shorter terms, so they can use videos right away.
In addition to the two main types of graphics, there is also parallax — the so-called 2.5D. To add volume to the image, characters, trees and other large objects in the foreground stand closer to the camera, while the sky, mountains and other things in the background are placed further away. Artists play with perspective and layering effects and end up with something in between 2D and 3D graphics.
In animation, sometimes the two types of graphics are combined. For example, designers model the environment in 3D, and the characters in 2D: this helps avoid drawing a huge number of angles for each location, moving the surrounding camera instead. Also, it’s possible to create some characters in 2D using photo montage or stop-motion, while others are in 3D. Graphic designers can import 3D objects into 2D animation — this helps draw cars and complex machinery in perspective.
There are many myths about 2D animation industry that make users think that this format is already dead, so it’s better to completely switch to the 3D variant. Nevertheless, not all of them are true, and some are just plainly misleading. Now we will break down a few myths to show you that 2D is still relevant and doesn’t lose to 3D graphics.
The 2D drawing is traditional animation. If you look at the history of drawn videos, everything used to be created by hand. An interesting fact is that the last 2D drawn-by-hand animation without the help of computer graphics was “Winnie-the-Pooh and his friends” in 2011.
In today’s world, this is true, but it is not absolute. If you look at the process of creating both 2D and 3D animation, you’ll notice that 3D is just as complex as 2D. The difference is that 3D character drawing requires more detail, which is unnecessary for 2D. So we can’t say that 2D animation is cheaper than 3D. But again, everything will depend on your wishes and requirements.
The future of 2D animation is pretty positive, as it is still with us and still developing. As of now, the vintage style of videotape is still relevant. Since you can draw only the necessary and important parts of the video, extraneous characters do not distract the viewer.
2D doesn’t have an age — it is not just Disney cartoons, as this format is always around us almost everywhere, even if you don’t notice it. We see it every day while watching commercials on TV or learning something new with educational videos — even the animation in some applications is also in 2D.
Although, it may seem that 2D animation is harder than 3D because you have to draw the whole story almost frame by frame. On the other hand, modern technologies now speed up the process of drawing characters several times as well as simplify the work of artists. But now there are still cartoons that are drawn by hand, as it was in the early days of 2D cartoons.
Many people love 2D animation for its charm and soulfulness — even the slight irregularity of lines looks natural and attractive. That said, major studios, believing that 2D doesn’t pay off, have abandoned it in favor of 3D. But despite this, 2D animation is not going to die.
However, showing volume in the 2D animation industry is problematic. You have to depict a 2D character or object in such a way that it doesn’t look flat. 3D models, for example, are default volumetric, so this problem does not arise (the difficulty there is another – to create a high-quality model). Light and shadow can indicate the volume, but working them, too, is difficult.
Therefore, a 2D animator should know the anatomy and shadows excellently. This is where 3D technology comes to the rescue again. In fact, 2D is fully equal in quality to 3D animation. Neither of these is inferior to the other, they are good in their own way. It all depends on simply your choice and the style of the video.
After reading our article, you understood why 2D graphics will remain relevant for a long time to come. In addition, we gave you a great alternative to replace the standard styles in animation, which is called 2.5D. Also, along with figuring out the main differences between 2D and 3D animation types, we went over their advantages and disadvantages so that you can choose the ideal style for your video.
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