Key Differences Between Traditional 2D And 3D Animation

Traditional 2D Vs 3D Animation

When you watch an animated film, it’s very easy to notice the difference between 2D and 3D animation. Anyone can point out that this is 2D, and that is 3D. But what is the core difference between the two, other than the visual result? What does it mean to make a 2D animation, as opposed to making a 3D one?

Core Differences Between 2D And 3D Animations

Well, actually, process of creation is very different. For starters, to make a 2D animation, you need to be able to draw. Everything you see in a traditional 2D animation had to be drawn, usually, frame by frame. For a 3D animator, while being able to draw is definitely an advantage, it is not mandatory.

2D Animation Example

An 2D Animation Example

When you’re animating in a 3D environment, you move the character like a puppet right there on your computer. So what does it really mean? In 2D animation you draw the first key pose,  and then the rest of the key poses. You need to draw all the frames between them. If something is not shown in 2D animation, you don’t have to draw it. If a character closes his eyes, the eyeballs do not exist anymore until then are drawn again.

This concept is one of the big differences between the two types of animation. When you’re working in a 3D environment, all the parts of your character are always there, and you have to be aware of them, while in 2D you just draw whatever is seen and the rest is gone.

3D Character Animation Rig

3d rigged and animated character

Frame Rate Differences Between 2D And 3D Animations

We all know that animating in 2D means drawing a lot but another distinction is the FPS and movement. What does that mean that? Well, in 3d animation we usually work in 24 fps. In 2D animation that means that there are illustrations for every of the 24 frames in one second. That sounds like a lot of drawing but it’s actually not that many.

When there is no fast movement, you can keep one drawing for two frames. So, that’s actually 12 drawings per second. This is called working on two’s, because you’re making a change or a new illustration every two frames. When the movement is very still, you might even work on three’s and four’s, making a new drawing every three or four frames. You see that a lot in Japanese animation (Anime) and stop motion.

Sometime, the same drawing is held for many frames. In 3D though, it doesn’t really work that way. When a 3D character doesn’t move at all, even for one frame, it seems wrong, it seems dead. While in 2D and stop motion you can settle for a new drawing every three to five frames, or even not have a new drawing at all for a few seconds, in 3D we always have to keep the subject moving, even a little bit. And that’s not easy!

There’s, of course, a lot more difference between the two kinds of animation. But I hope this short overview gave you a basic understanding of what it means to animate in 3D as opposed to animate in 2D.

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