Interview Derald Hunt (Hybrid Animation-Integrating 2D and 3D Assets)

CG Animation supervisor

It has become commonplace in our industry to mix 2D and 3D disciplines. There are many benefits that come from having access to a diverse set of animation tools and the skill to make them work together. This is a fantastic case of “If the only tool you have is a hammer, all of your projects start to look like a nail." If all you know is 2D, you are missing out on the efficiencies that can be won by incorporating 3D into your pipeline. If all you know is 3D, you miss out on great traditional animation style and the speed that can come from 2D animation. It is important to choose that right tool for the job, and combine them whenever it makes sense.

I worked with a team of people on a series of Lara Croft animations where we used 3D environments that were shaded to exactly match Flash characters. The advantage to using 3D for the environments was obvious. Once a scene was built in 3D, it was very easy to move the camera to capture the scene from a variety of angles. Carefully planned camera moves added a lot of production value for very little effort. In many cases, we substituted 2D characters with 3D versions to make the scene more dynamic. In one episode, we had to animate hundreds of crawling insects. In this case, it was far more efficient to use 3D versions of the bugs to populate the scenes.

Another way to enhance 2D animation is to leverage the power of 3D with difficult-to-draw changes in perspective. Our team was challenged to animate vehicles that were swerving, flipping, and spinning through several scenes. Using 3D to solve the difficulties of perspective allowed the animators to concentrate on motion and timing. Once the vehicles were shaded to match the Flash, integration was simple.

Occasionally we work with characters that are expected to look like they were produced in Flash but move in a more 3D fashion. When tasked with developing a new web personality, it was decided that we would build the new character in Flash and then match the 2D look in a fully rigged 3D version as well. In many cases, the animations that we were asked to produce were easy to achieve in Flash. However, some animations required the character to spin in circles and perform acrobatics that would be time consuming to draw. If the integrity of the character was maintained and the look was identical, the client didn’t care which approach we used. We simply chose the most efficient tool for the job and saved our client a lot of money with our process.

We worked on a project where we were asked to repackage an entire network for a summer stunt. We were given fantastic character designs and asked to combine them with realistic-looking 3D environments. At first we tried fully modeling the characters in 3D but soon discovered that these designs didn’t interpret well into dimensional characters. After several attempts, we decided to build and animate flat, 2.5D versions of the characters in a 3D animation package. This approach allowed us to match the character designs exactly while making it far easier to integrate them into the scene. Simple 3D rigs were built to give us animation control over the flat characters. It was an effective solution that yielded big results.

Using a mixed discipline approach can be an enormous time-saver while adding production value to a project.

Next post:

Previous post: