Behind the Magic: Blending 2D and 3D Animation

For most purposes, creating an animation video first depends on your choice of medium: 2D or 3D, and if you’re looking to understand the difference between 2D and 3D animation, keep reading!

2D and 3D animation

2D animation is considered the ‘traditional’ option, still billed as the cost- and time-effective approach, but lacking in realistic detail. On the other hand, 3D animation – with its engrossing environments, detailed characters, and immersive camera motion – excels in all but the quantity of time and resources required to bring it to life. Consequently, the process of blending 2D and 3D animation, or ‘mixed media,’ has grown in popularity for video-makers in the recent past. It presents a unique approach to extracting the most engaging aspects of each technique, but within a more balanced, economical framework. 

This style-blending means that you can infuse your presentation with the singular character of a 2D caricature, but imbue it with vivid, life-like detail through the creation of 3D environments and realistic physical effects. For ‘Little Hibboux,’ we were tasked with creating just that: a 2D-rendered owl mascot who takes us from a live-action scene to a fully-realized 3D environment. 

From scratch, we start with designing storyboards and animatics for our client, who wanted a video to promote their brand. Although many of the designs in these presentations may seem rudimentary to begin with, these animatics help us get a sense of the timings of the video. Based on this, we also construct a 3D animatic, allowing us to determine the overall camera movement of the piece, as well as to get an early sense of how the 3D elements will behave.


Moreover, this process permits us to isolate 2-3 ‘style frames’: these are fully-styled single images that serve as proof-of-concept references for the final designs of the video. For the owl mascot, these style frames were crucial in identifying the nature of the main character, and what kind of tone its style would convey throughout the narrative. Crucially, extracting style frames allowed us to figure out if the blend between these 2D/3D elements was feasible in the long-run – for us and for our client. 

After we finished work with the animatics, their 3D assets were exported with markers to assign the areas where the 2D features should come in. Meanwhile, the 2D animators worked on their part (the owl characters) and place them inside the 3D environments according to these markers. Finally, in the post-production stage, we stylize the 2D characters to accurately match them to their 3D environments, thereby completing the integration of both media successfully.

If you’re looking for a blend of 2D and 3D animation for your video ads, contact us today and let’s see if we can sprinkle your project with a bit of magic!



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