3D Modeling and 3D Animation: the Special Connection

From the first Toy Story movie to the Avatar sequel, our senses have fully enjoyed the wonders that 3D modeling and animation can provide us. And that’s just the entertainment field! Architecture, medicine, design, engineering, and many more industries thrive thanks to 3D forms.

As the global 3D animation market experienced a 10.8% growth last year, it’s the perfect time to take a closer look at what 3D animation and modeling imply and why some consider them an inseparable duo.

What is 3D modeling?

3D modeling is the process of creating a mathematical representation of a three-dimensional object or shape. In other words, it’s the action of creating a 3D model or the so-called “mesh.” An artist does this by using specialized software for creating and manipulating points in virtual space.  3D modeling is popular with a wide range of applications, such as film and video game animation, product design, and architectural visualization.

There are two ways to create your 3D model: automatically and manually. In the latter, a 3D artist manipulates the mesh (a collection of points in space) to their own liking. The process is similar to real-life sculpting figures out of clay or similar materials. It’s just that the 3D artist uses software as the modeling tool instead of pressing or shaping the material with their hands. Obviously, AI plays a big role in 3D modeling.

Another way of creating a 3D model is by using photographs. The name of the process is photogrammetry, and it’s been gaining in popularity over the last few years. In this case, the artist uses point-scanning equipment to scan a photograph and create realistic terrains based on its readings.

Sometimes, you don’t even need to create a 3D model from scratch. Instead, you can turn to websites such as TurboSquid or CGTrader. There you’ll find individual 3D models and packages on offer. There’s also something called 3D scanning, which can be helpful in creating a 3D model, but precision is not one of its advantages.

Either way, once you’re done with 3D modeling, you can bring the model to life with 3D animation! However, you can’t do that without one key element which brings these two together — the so-called rigging!

What is rigging?

Rigging is necessary for a 3D model to become “alive” via 3D animation.

Naturally, 3D animation requires movement. But, for a 3D model to be able to move on command, it has to have proper joints. Rigging is the process of defining those joints, i.e., creating a kind of puppet skeleton for the model. That’s why it’s crucial for the process. Pretty much like in real life, a model needs proper support to be able to move in the set environment.

It’s interesting to notice that the challenge is greater when you’re dealing with familiar objects or living creatures than when you’re dealing with an object or living being that doesn’t exist in real life. We’re more prone to spotting a mistake when we know what motion we can expect. In other words, it’s harder to spot a mistake with a flying unicorn than with a man who’s simply crossing the street.

Eventually, once the rigging process is complete, the 3D animation may begin!

What happens with 3D animation?

When the rig is accurate, the 3D animator can finally make the character move according to the script. They can make a dog run, a person walk, a flag fly in the sky, or grassy fields sway in the breeze. Basically, an animator has a 3D model to play with, i.e., adjust its movements to the script’s requirements.

They can manipulate the skeleton or the “bones” that the 3D modeling artist created. Animators adjust the joints’ positions and rotate or scale the joints to imitate the required poses and movements. When the animator is satisfied with the position, they save it on the timeline. Basically, what animators do is keyframe the “bones.”

As you can imagine, this is a lengthy process. 3D animation involves tons of repetition and almost as many reviews to ensure the models move in sync with their nature and the environment.

Can 3D animators work without 3D modelers?

Sometimes, they can. If they have a good understanding of the rig and know how to make certain changes to the 3D model, then they don’t need to contact the 3D modeler after they have done their part.

Possessing some knowledge of  3D modeling definitely helps animators, even when there’s a 3D modeler on hand, because it makes it much easier to ask for specific changes. In the same fashion, a 3D modeler has an advantage if they understand some basic principles of animation because they can foresee the requirements and challenges in advance.

In a perfect world, both a 3D modeler and a 3D animator share similar knowledge and can cooperate easily. The overall success reflects clearly in their teamwork, as they’re much more efficient and provide outstanding results with shared knowledge and appreciation.

3D modeling and 3D animation outlook for the future

Let’s wrap up by checking out the market’s values and predictions. The 3D market figures are pretty impressive, mostly due to the fact that 3D animation and modeling are transforming so many industries.

The 3D modeling market should hit the remarkable $6.33 billion mark in 2028, and the predicted market growth of 15.47% for the period between 2022 and 2028 is nothing to sneer at. The North American market has been most successful so far, and we can expect the “tradition” to continue.

The global 3D animation market follows a similar suit, with a projected CAGR of 12.1% from 2022 to 2030. The market’s value in 2021 was $18.39 billion, but it should reach an incredible $51.03 billion’s worth by 2030.

Overall, the global impact of both 3D modeling and 3D animation is enormous and spreads across various industries. While they can exist separately, it’s best for a company to have its modelers and animators working close together for optimal results.

Atif Mallo

Atif Mallo is a freelance blogger with huge interest in technology, science, life hacks and health. He loves coffee, cheesecake and chess. Drop a line in comments to leave feedback for him.

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