How to create 3D animation?

10-step worflow creating 3D animations. Too long? Try Mootion now!

The intricate 3D animation process comprises multiple phases akin to the initial and concluding phases of filmmaking. Let’s delve deeper into these stages to provide an overview of the entire procedure.

1. Ideation
The concept embodies the initial idea or narrative essence of the creation. For instance, entities like Pixar invest nearly two years in refining the script before initiating any sketches. This meticulous approach has been pivotal in their achievements, prioritizing the narrative perfection ahead of production commencement. Unlike live-action filmmaking, alterations to the storyline mid-animation could disrupt budgets and plunge the project into disarray.

2. Storyboarding
Following the script’s finalization, it undergoes pre-visualization using a storyboard. A storyboard artist sketches each scene, portraying character movements, chosen shots, action sequences, and cinematic guidance. This serves as a crucial blueprint directing the entirety of the production process.

3. 3D Modeling & Texturing
Modeling involves constructing objects and characters through mathematical representations of their components. Initial shapes, such as cubes, spheres, or planes, are crafted using vertices (virtual space points) to form a mesh. Software programs like Autodesk Maya, Z-Brush, and Blender aid in this creation. These points are organized on a 3D grid and transformed into three-dimensional objects. Once the 3D object is established, the subsequent step involves texturing, refining the object’s external layer. This encompasses attributes like skin, attire, or hair for characters; metallic finishes for vehicles or machinery; brickwork for structures; fur for animals, and more. Within a studio setup, teams of texture artists concentrate on this phase of the procedure.

4. Rigging & skinning
Rigging involves establishing the foundational muscular-skeletal structure for your animation. Character rigs enable the articulation of joints and mobile components, facilitating believable movements. Riggers are responsible for crafting these operational skeletons within 3D animation projects. Following rigging, the subsequent phase is skinning, a process that involves refining these joints. It’s akin to providing a surface layer that conceals the mechanical framework beneath the object.

5. Animation
This phase involves animating the entire storyboard to bring the script to life. Having constructed your 3D character or object from the ground up, you can animate them using a sequence of motions or within a scene, usually employing software like Maya. You might wonder, is drawing a prerequisite for a 3D animator? Given that 3D animation is more technically oriented than 2D animation, artists don’t necessarily require advanced drawing skills, although they can be advantageous. Before refining actions, an animated scene is typically roughly outlined. Once this preliminary outline, known as blocking, is approved, a 3D animator often navigates through several approval stages before reaching a “final” version.

6. Rendering
Rendering, also known as image synthesis, involves the creation of the 3D animation using a graphics processing unit (GPU). It involves entering the render equation into the software, resulting in a fully realized animated sequence. Throughout this process, various elements like shading, texture mapping, shadows, reflections, translucency, depth of field, motion blur, among others, can be incorporated into the sequence.

7. Compositing & VFX
Combining multiple render passes to create the final animation involves a process known as compositing. This refining process encompasses elements like lighting, shading, and colors, achieved by layering various components onto a single image or sequence of images. Utilizing software like Nuke, VFX compositors meticulously gather live-action plates, 2D elements, and any computer-generated (CG) content, such as animation and visual effects. Compositing serves as the ultimate phase in the visual effects pipeline. It mirrors the addition of visual effects, wherein illusions and enhancements enhancing scenes and characters are introduced as separate renders. These enhancements are layered onto the existing animation using a compositing program to enrich the overall visual narrative.
8. Music & foley
All audio components for the animation are produced within a dedicated sound studio. This encompasses recording the score, gathering all necessary musical elements, and incorporating embellishments essential for the animation. The music is meticulously timed to synchronize and harmonize with the visuals. Foley, on the other hand, involves creating all the requisite sound effects for the project. Upon finalizing these audio elements, they undergo a thorough sound edit and mix, aligning them precisely with the on-screen actions.
9. Editing
Despite being meticulously storyboarded, animation still requires an editing phase to ensure precise timing of sequences, scene transitions, and the ultimate sound editing.
10 Final Output
Upon completing the animation, rendering, and refining stages, the final render phase commences. As the production reaches its conclusion with all the finishing touches in place, the “render” button is activated, marking the point of no return! The animation is now officially completed.