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What’s the Difference between 2D and 3D Animation?

Both 2D and 3D animation are immensely popular nowadays. But what’s the difference between them? How are images and animation pieces produced in each approach? Read on to learn all nuts and bolts of 2D and 3D animation processes.

What Is 2D Animation?

Though there are few ways of creating 2D animation, the most common method being the 2D vector animation. The frames of 2D vector animation are made on a relatively flat surface. Such animation style has in some way adopted a range of methods from the traditional, hand-drawn animation. Thus, it can be considered conventional animation, except for the fact that the frames undergo the principal processes of drawing and painting by hand. Nowadays, 2D animators use computer graphics programs for creating an action sequence – they only have to draw the first one.
During the 2D vector animation process, the animators put thin see-through sheets of celluloid on paper, on which the particular objects are drawn. They then transfer these objects by redrawing them on this membrane. Eventually, frames featuring different objects and characters are layered on each other. Since the membrane provides excellent transparency, it allows the animators to create a whole composition of various elements and characters.

How Does the Creation of 2D Animation Work?

In vector graphics programs, objects and images that are kept as geometric descriptions exist independently of each other. This lets the animators change the layers and position any other aspects of the object at any time, thus creating an arbitrary composition. Modern vector graphics editors also offer tools for working with bitmap images. 2D animation uses the traditional method of the frame-by-frame animation. In some cases, tweening is used, which is an automatic generation of intermediate frames. The animators also apply morphing (a visual effect that gives the impression of a smooth transformation of one object into another), deformation of images, numerous optical effects, and cyclic change of light.

The most popular 2D animation programs are:
●       CorelDRAW
●       Macromedia FreeHand
●       Adobe Illustrator
●       Photo Graphics
●       Animation Shop
●       Macromedia Director
●       Animation Works Interactive.

What Is a 3D Animation?

3D animation is entirely different from other types of animation involving computer graphics. Although they use the same principles of composition, movement, and technical methods intended to solve various tasks, these types differ significantly. To create a piece of 3D animation, the animator does not necessarily require outstanding drawing skills.

3D images are also called computer generated images, or CGI. Such images appear when computer animation programs create a stream of images assembled to form an animation. The fusion of dynamic and static images is performed with the help of computer graphics. Objects made by using 3D animation are digitally displayed on the screen; later the animators combine them with the wireframe, enabling the animation of each model in various ways.


3D animation is formed via creation of models in separate keyframes, after which the computer graphics editor replicates them, interpreting the animation by adding intermediate frames between the key ones. Work with curves representing different parts of the object at different time periods requires a lot of time as well.

How Is 3D Animation Created?

3D animation resembles the process of making mannequins or dolls. Thus, you have to:
●     Create the frame of an object
●     Identify the materials to ‘put on’ it
●     Combine everything into one scene
●     Set the lighting and the camera
●     Specify the number of frames and the movement of objects.
The movement of objects in 3D animation is defined by trajectories, keyframes, and applying formulas linking the motion of parts of complex structures. After setting the desired action, lighting and materials, the visualization process starts. Within a certain timespan, the computer counts all the necessary frames (i.e., produces rendering) and releases the finished product (animated film). The main disadvantage of such method is the extreme smoothness of shapes and surfaces, plus a certain mechanicalness of the objects’ movement.
To create realistic 3D images, the animators involve diverse techniques. The artists apply inverse kinematics and other animation techniques. Besides, more and more new methods of combining video recording and animation effects appear. In general, it makes animation scenes and movements more lifelike.
These are the most well-known 3D animation editors:
●     3D Studio MAX
●     LightWave3D
●     ElectricImage
●     SoftImage3D
●     SoftF/X Pro.

What Is the Difference Between 2D and 3D Animation?

As you might see from the descriptions above, 2D and 3D animation types are quite different, and they require a different type of skills. Here are some basic distinctions:
1.    One of the apparent differences between 2D and 3D animation is that a 2-dimensional object represents its height and width features, while a 3-dimensional model also has a depth index. In other words, a 2D animated character will look less realistic than a 3D one.
2.     The main technical difference between 2D and 3D animation techniques is that in traditional and 2D animation, the animator works with individual frames, while in 3D animation there is always a continuous stream of those. Even when the object or a character stays in place, there is always an ongoing stream of frames that creates the illusion of reality.
3.     When it comes to the design concept, it is preferable to use 3D animation, since it suggests an extensive view of the object. If creating a 2D model you won’t have an opportunity to see specific parameters of the object produced and hence won’t be able to adjust them.
4.    If any errors occur, it is easier to fix them in 2D animation. This way, animator only have to redraw the particular image or action. Still, a 3D animation provides more software possibilities for modeling and fixing the objects and characters.

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