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Getting Started in 3D Animation: A Guide for Beginners

Animation plays an integral role in a wide variety of fields and careers. That means opportunities abound, and demand is quite high for skilled animators, modelers, and more. But the real demand for animators has yet to be fully realized, as the development of things like metaverses could take things to the next level. 

Projects like these would most likely be too extensive for a single company to manage and maintain. That means that they’d depend on the community to supply animations, skins, cosmetics, and an infinite amount of digital items. That might just take the demand for 3D animation to a whole new level. Check out our blog on metaverses to learn more.

So what all goes into 3D animation and how can you get started?

Roles Within 3D Animation

Modeler

Modelers are the ones who make a concept artist’s vision a reality. They are responsible for building the character(s) from scratch. This is done via software like Maya, Blender and Zbrush by using points in virtual space and manipulating them to form objects, and ultimately, characters.

Rigger

A rigger creates the skeletal structure of characters for a 3D model. This is extremely important as the rig, or ‘skeletal structure’, is what makes movement possible in animation, and sets the pace for how realistic movement can appear. Without a skeletal rig, animators would not be able to animate 3D character models. 

Animator

The animator is the individual who breathes life in characters. In TV, animators follow a storyboard, often created by a storyboard artist, and the animator maps out the movement of the character and its environment. There’s a wide variety of techniques that can be used to accomplish this, including keyframing and motion capture. In games, animators create short animation clips/cycles for specific parts of a character, such as a walk, run, jump, crouch, etc.

See this video for how to easily create a crouch animation in 5 minutes!

Key Tools in 3D Animation

Finding the right tool that fits you could expedite the time it takes for you to animate, helping you increase productivity and profit.

Animation software

PixCap

If you are looking for something simple and fast to animate characters, PixCap might be the best software for the job. PixCap is significantly easier to use than the industry standard and is seen as “the new kid in class”. It is focused on character body animations and does it well; but that also means it does not have facial animation (yet), modeling, texturing, and other parts of the 3D pipeline.

One of its most powerful features is AI motion capture, which allows users to generate character animations from any video. Users can capture from videos and edit the animations all in one platform, and if the AI works well, animations can be completed 2-3 times faster than in Maya or Blender. PixCap is also entirely browser-based and runs on most laptops.

Blender

Blender is one of the most popular free 3D animation software currently available. It provides the tools you need for every part of the animation pipeline, which can provide tons of utility from a single program. Unfortunately, this also means it’s quite intricate and has a pretty significant learning curve.

Maya

Maya is the leading industry standard for animation software and is one of the most robust tools on the market today. The software offers a wide variety of tools and services, allowing animators to do pretty much anything. This includes everything from character movement to realistic effects like explosions and snowstorms. The downside is that it can be quite expensive, and there can be quite a learning curve when first starting out.

 

Animation marketplaces and premade assets

Animation is an incredibly time-consuming process, so prebuilt solutions can be an excellent way to save time while getting your project off the ground. Selling your own animations, models, and rigs can also be a great way to monetize your hard work as well. Here are a few platforms that can help you do just that!

Mixamo

Mixamo provides hundreds of pre-made motion capture animations out of the box. This can be a significant time-saver as it allows you to skip several steps of the animation process and start from a good animation base. 

Sketchfab

Sketchfab is another popular platform that is widely used to publish, buy, and sell a variety of 3D assets and models. Some models have animations in them as well. 

CG Trader

CG Trader is a marketplace that primarily focuses on 3D models. Users can buy and sell 3D models for CG, VR, and AR projects. There is also an excellent community of designers both professional and hobbyists.

Tutorials

You’ve got the tools you need, you’ve got an idea of the different aspects within animation, so where do you go from here? Animation can have quite a bit of a learning curve when you first jump in, so finding some tutorials and guides is a good place to start.

Youtubers

Youtube has thousands of tutorials for Blender, Maya, and other 3D tools. Good examples of YouTubers include CG Geek, who focuses on providing helpful short tutorials (around 20 minutes long), mainly on Blender. Another popular Youtuber, Blender Guru, provides more in-depth Blender tutorials, spanning anywhere from 20 minutes to several parts each an hour long. 

Learning Platforms

Popular platforms like Udemy and Coursera offer free and paid courses on everything from “Create 3D characters: no modeling or rigging required” to “Running a 3D Modeling/Animation Business”. 

For more industry-specific platforms, check out CG Spectrum which offers introductory animation courses taught by professional and top-tier film and game animators. While learning animation can seem overwhelming, it doesn’t have to be, and more information can be found to help you learn about it every step of the way.

 

What It Takes to Be a Good Animator

When working in 3D animation, the devil is in the details. There are a few things that can help make your animations stand out from the rest. 

Spend time People-Watching

Since 3D animations focus on replicating real-life movements and people, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with natural movement. This can be done by people-watching and observing the micro-movements people make before bigger movements. Animation relies heavily on physics, in terms of where gravity pulls an object or body, so it’s important to take note of that in order to create realistic animations.

Demo Reel

If you’re looking to make a career out of 3D animation, it can be invaluable to create a demo reel. Having one will help prospective employers understand your style, strengths, and weaknesses, and can be your opportunity to shine. Demo reels typically don’t have to be incredibly long and it’s a great way to showcase your skill. Make sure to include any techniques you’re particularly skilled at, and you may want to leave out any areas you feel like you’re lacking in.

The Future of 3D Animation 

Virtual platforms have seen a massive uptick in usage over the last two years, while it was primarily due to the pandemic, many of the trends are sticking. Virtual workspaces, video games, and metaverses will undoubtedly continue to grow in popularity. Since 3D animation can be used in such a multitude of ways, it’s of value and interest to many businesses and industries. 

Video marketing and creating visuals are now more important than ever, and the 3D animation industry is projected to grow to $40 billion by 2028. With all this being said, animation is a burgeoning field full of opportunities for those willing to put the time in and learn. While the animating process can be complex and intimidating, tools like PixCap can help beginners get a good grasp on the field. So if you’ve been considering 3D animation, now is a great time to jump in and see where it takes you.

Get started with PixCap today.

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