Revolutionizing Storytelling: The Impact of AI in 2D/3D Animation

Author: Bob Mar 05, 2024 8 min read

For the last two years, people have been discussing the application of intelligent algorithms more often and with greater enthusiasm than ever before, and for good reason. Artificial Intelligence tools have penetrated most spheres of life and business, leaving some people fascinated and others trying to figure out whether or not their professional future is at stake. 

AI in the animation industry helps 2D/3D animation makers restructure and simplify their boring, repetitive work, thus improving their performance and opening doors to new, more inventive possibilities. 

ai in animation

Sometimes, it feels like AI is everywhere in the animation industry. Let’s determine whether this is true and whether AI in animation is bad or good.

AI in Between Animation: From Roots to Fruits

The notion of AI in animation started during the first half of the twentieth century and came to life right after computer graphics (CGI) were introduced to the wider audience. Animation technology is forever attributed to William Fetter and Ivan Sutherland, who built the foundations of what we now call computer-aided visual effects (VFX). They conceptualized and developed the doctrine of computer & motion graphics, thus laying the groundwork for animation algorithms

Before AI, animation studios predominantly used manual techniques to create scenes and characters that would look remotely realistic. This resulted not just in a lack of realism but also in poor storytelling that lacked complexity.

When AI entered the picture in the late twentieth century, 2D and 3D model animation witnessed a huge technological jump. Deep learning in animation, image recognition, AI-enhanced rendering, neural networks in animation, and machine learning removed all limitations, giving animated movie/movie makers access to a new realm of possibilities. 

Then, the first 3D animation movie came along in 1995. Toy Story was a true success, acclaimed commercially ($363.000.000) and critically. Moreover, it became absolutely clear that 3D animation services and 3D animation software were here to stay.

ai in animation industry

AI for 3D Animation Maker: Role in Animation & Film Production

We’ve already mentioned efficiency improvement and optimization of processes as key benefits of character animation with AI and Machine Learning in animation. But there are a lot more.

Boost your brand's presence in the competitive market with engaging 3D animations.

Animation and filmmakers are now discussing creative automation and automated editing in animation (post) production. Typically, (post) production assignments like stabilization of video, color correction, or synchronization of audio previously required much manual work. But with AI animation tools, it’s easier to examine the visual and auditory materials, make fast verdicts, and automate most manual processes. 

AI has a significant effect on the following 2D vs 3D animation aspects:

  • Creativity and work efficiency
  • Animation pipeline
  • Realism
  • 3D character animation
  • Dynamics
  • Facial animation

Creativity and work efficiency are now enhanced

AI empowers 3D animation service companies with access to neural networks & deep learning. Thus, any maker can now produce realistic characters, impressive pictures, and awe-inspiring terrains.  With 24/7 access to information from available 3D animation for free, AI helps design authentic content without taking much time and resources. This allows an animation maker more time to concentrate on releasing their creative genius.

The animation pipeline is now rationalized

Whether it comes to 2D animation or 3D animation, manual work (rendering, texturing, etc.) stands behind 70% of the work and is typically a true pain. AI algorithms help to automate some of these tasks, thus streamlining the automation pipeline and leaving space and time to refine details.

Realism is now on a new level

In modern animation production, it’s a must to analyze and reproduce complex physical & visual matter with the help of artificial algorithms and special ML & AI animation techniques, thus boosting how detailed natural elements are depicted in virtual settings. AI is capable of generating the most complex visuals, allowing animators to deliver very realistic shapes, shadows, textures, and lights. 

Learn more about hyperrealism in 3D animation.

3D character animation is now strengthened

To help 3D animators create more expressive characters, ML and AI algorithms work together to analyze datasets of human expressions and movements and thus generate true-to-life characters. The algorithms capture the smallest details of body language (e.g., facial expressions) and help animators transfer them to fictional characters.

Animations have become more dynamic and interactive

With pre-set algorithms, paid or free 3D animation software with AI tools is able to study and examine user inputs and then generate 3D animations that stand up to pre-defined behavior or action. With this, both design and storytelling become more interactive and dynamic. Together with this, it’s possible to use the same algorithms for analyzing images and drawings and receiving suggestions on how to enhance the whole composition.

Facial animation is now human-like

The core of AI technology includes special ML algorithms that can be used to analyze trained sets of data to learn patterns to help animators generate facial animations close to real ones. By feeding more information on movements, expressions, and emotions to these data sets, animators can produce animations that are almost identical to humanlike conduct.

Facial animation

How AI Is Driving 3D Animation Movies Production 

Today, all stages in the film production pipeline can be enhanced by using Artificial Intelligence. They include:

    • Scriptwriting. It all starts here, and the success of the movie depends on storytelling more than on the choice of cast and special effects. How can AI assist in this case? Special AI-powered software helps in processing books, scripts, past movies, dialogues, descriptions, locations, and more to help writers come up with unique plots and turns. A real industry case is the Benjamin AI, which created a script for the Sunspring movie in 2016. The software studied content delivered in the 80s to create a script and delivered the plot based on that time.
    • Pre-production. This period is all about creating schedules and spreading finances. AI not only helps to save personnel. It also examines all the input data and delivers valuable suggestions. For instance, the 20th Century Fox studio is using AI and ML tools for audience prediction based on movie trailers.
    • Production. As was mentioned before, Artificial intelligence instruments are effective in making the interactive animation and film production process efficient. AI tools create more realistic VFX, improve lighting, and suggest camera angles. There are AI instruments designed specifically for motion control camera systems to analyze the scenes and characters, leverage the movements of a camera, and more. Axibo has recently developed a special motion system that, via AI and ML, detects and recognizes voice, listens, and adapts to a scene, thus supporting the shooting process.
    • Post-production. 3D animation techniques alone wouldn’t be enough to create a character like Thanos. So, for the Infinity War movies, their visual effects supervisor made use of AI and ML algorithms. The same approach was used in The Irishman to de-age the main characters. AI rotoscoping was applied in the making of The Mandalorian. Tenet, The Lion King, and Avatar are other movies that actively used AI tools.

Limitations of AI for 2D and 3D Animation

Despite all of the possibilities granted by the best 3D animation software powered by AI, the algorithms do have some technical limitations and pose ethical concerns: Is it possible to compromise originality and quality? How do we find a balance between AI technology and human creativity?

These are the three core technical limitations that are not yet fixed:

  • Lack of Creativity: AI doesn’t produce anything exceptional, 100% original, and creative because it uses pre-fed sets of data and cannot generate anything unexpectedly new.
  • Emotions simulation: AI can copy and reflect the emotions and gestures after analyzing sets of data, but it cannot simulate emotions with movements and expressions.
  • No decision-making competence: There’s a scenario, script, and lots of unexpected situations, and AI isn’t able to make a change or decide based on them.

We started with a dispute, figuring out whether or not 3D animation jobs still have a future or are at stake. Now, with complete confidence, we can say that AI-driven creativity is undoubtedly a breakthrough and a chance to decrease manual work, giving way to refining details that will make 3D animation move forward to new heights. So, is AI here to stay in 2D/3D animation? Yes, and it’s definitely for the better.


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