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A step-by-step exploration of 3D animation processes

Are you curious about how we made our 3D PRO BRO promotional video? Let’s take a deep dive into our 3D production process and see how the idea becomes a video!

Everything starts with pre-production process. First step – director’s statement. It’s an essential element that provides a clear vision and direction for the project. The director outlines the creative approach, stylistic choices, and overall objectives for the commercial. The director's statement is critical to ensure that everyone is on the same page about the creative vision for the commercial.

Next step – storyboard&concept art. The storyboard serves as a blueprint for the entire process. Storyboards help the director, production team, and client visualize the commercial and plan the shots and camera angles. Concept art examples are also drawn in this stage of the production. The examples help to establish the visual style and tone of the video. While searching for the perfect style, the team explores different ideas and options before committing to a final design.

The first step of production is deciding the layout. The team figures out blocking, camera setup, lighting, and environment in this step. The blocking establishes the basic compositions of the scenes. Then the camera angles are set up, and the movement is determined. Lastly, lighting is set to create the mood and atmosphere of the video. Finally, the virtual environment gets a final touch-up with props and background elements.

After all the nuances are decided, we move on to modelling. In this part of the production, the production team also gathers references for materials. 3D models are also refined, detailed and optimized to be more efficient for animation and rendering.

Next stop of the production train – shading. At first, UV mapping must be applied to all 3D models. During this process, the 3D model is flattened into a 2D surface, and that's how the UV map is created. Next, this map is used to apply textures and materials to the 3D model. This allows textures and materials to be applied to specific model parts. Then the texturing starts. The textures and materials are applied to 3D objects to create a more realistic and detailed look. Texturing aims to create a visually appealing and realistic final product.

Before the animation, rigging must be applied. Rigging is an essential part of the 3D production process that involves creating a digital skeleton, or rig, for a 3D model. The rigging allows the model to be animated and moved naturally.

Once the 3D models are rigged, the animation and VFX processes start. The animation process begins with keyframe animation. This involves setting keyframes for the movement of the 3D model at specific points in time. These keyframes are then used to create a smooth and natural animation by filling in the frames between the keyframes. Then, the team reviews the animation and adjusts timing and spacing to make the movements smoother. VFX artists also apply particles, fluids, smoke or other effects. Using their knowledge of physics, they make the effects seem realistic and believable. After this, we proceed to the final step – rendering. The animation is rendered into a video file format that can be played back and shared.

One last stop before compositing is lighting. The team places the lights and materials in the scenes. This can be done using various light sources, such as spotlights, point, area, and directional lights. Once the lights are in place, the properties of each light can be adjusted to create the desired effect. This can include adjusting each light's colour, intensity, falloff, and shadows. The lighting process can also add special effects to the scene, such as lens flares, glows, and bloom effects. These effects can help to create a specific mood or atmosphere in the scene.

The final step to apply – is compositing. Compositing in the process that brings together all the various 3D elements, environments, and special effects, into a cohesive and polished final product. And Voila! Freshly baked video it is!

4 Types of Animation for Your Business Communication

Animation is a powerful and engaging tool to market and communicate your brand. Animated video, as a format, is particularly compatible with storytelling and engagement. So with the advent of the digital revolution, more and more businesses and brands are discovering this format and exploiting it to attract their audience in fun and unique ways.

There are many aspects that you should consider while picking the animation style for your business video. For example, what are the main differences between the most popular styles of animation? Learn more about these differences and decide which type is right for your business.

2D vector animation

Nowadays, 2D vector animation is considered to be one of the most common styles of animation. It is called 2D because visuals are created in a two-dimensional environment, with programs like Adobe Illustrator or After Effects.

2D animation uses could be very different - from easy-going social media content to complicated data presentations. This type allows information to be conveyed engagingly and understandably, so it’s widely used for marketing and communication purposes due to its flexibility and versatile usage. 2D graphics is also easily adaptable. For example, animated character design could be used as a branding material or adapted to other media, like prints or outdoor advertisements.  

While 2D sometimes could look dull and less engaging than 3D animation, it should not be written off as ineffective. After all, 2D is a time-saving, budget-friendly style. And considered with the right creative direction, it can surprise and help elevate your brand communication to whole new levels.

3D animation

3D is one of the most known animation styles, produced with programs like Cinema 4D, Houdini, or Maya. Its additional dimension adds depth and allows to convey more realistic, detailed, dynamic visuals. The objects and compositions also could be dramatized and intensified through light and texture solutions.

3D animation production is a bit more complicated but rewarding as well. Because of vast amounts of data, 3D requires powerful computers and more production time than 2D animation. Modeling and animating 3D objects is a time-consuming process, involving a lot of technical knowledge, including physics and biology, to make the audience believe that what they’re seeing is real. But if all goes well, the end result could be very effective.

Some animators like to experiment between 2D and 3D styles. This mix tends to be surprisingly fun and attractive.

Stop motion animation

Stop motion is one of the oldest animation styles. This technique has been used for decades. It basically involves moving objects on a special set and then shooting them frame by frame. And when you watch it all combined, it gives you the feeling of movement. It’s similar to traditional animation in the way that it’s also a frame-by-frame process.

Stop motion requires intense and responsible pre-production. It’s crucial to compile a detailed script, take care of the set art, props, and solid lighting, because the quality of the final result will mostly depend on it.

Stop motion has a unique feeling that cannot be conveyed by other styles of animation. It showcases craftsmanship. Everyday objects could become alive and portray certain moods and emotions. So this animation is a definite go-to if you want to impress your audience with exceptional production. 

Cel animation

Cel or frame-by-frame animation is a modern-day interpretation of traditional animation. It is produced by using digital technologies, letting animators combine frames in real-time.  

It’s a very complicated and time-consuming process because sketches and frames must be created for every movement and then blended together to make smooth scenes. 

This method is the most expensive due to its human and time resources. So nowadays, fewer studies are developing such style, especially for business clients. However, it’s excellent for creating exceptional content. So if you have all the necessary resources, cel animation can you help implement even the most daring ideas.

To sum up

There are no strict rules while choosing the right animation style for your brand. If you’re an agile, trendy tech company, 3D animation might fit you best if you need to explain complex products to potential clients. Whereas if you’re an education initiative and want to reach younger audiences in a short yet effective video clip, maybe an original stop motion animation might work best.

So think of your target audience, distribution channels, and recourses. Consult with animation professionals, and you’ll definitely find the best solution that works for you! 

3 Tips to Leverage Your Explainer Animation With Voice-Over

When it comes to animated explainer videos, many elements allow creating a quality result. Along with the script, design, and motion, there’s usually an invisible but essential element - voice over.

Likely, your production partner will usually abbreviate it as VO and take it for granted that all the processes involving this element will be self-evident for you. So we defined the three essential tips to leverage your explainer animation with a little help of voice-over.

Make sure you’re using voice-over creatively

First of all, make sure that voice-over adds value and complements your animated explainer. The voice-over should not repeat visible images or typography notes. Use it creatively! Improvise by including the subtle joke or let the voice interact with the animation. So take advantage of that voice and use it to take your animation storyline to the next level.

Choose the right voice tone for your target audience

Your chosen voice is like your business card. So keep in mind your target audience and try to reach it. Think of what your viewers like, what they do every day, what slang, specific words, accent, or expressions they use. Avoid too much casualty or too formal voice-over style, and try to be understandable and appealing.

Work with professional voice-over artists

Professional voice-over artists could provide you excellent quality demos and final results. As professionals, they can quickly adapt to your needs, choose the right pace, and use the meaningful pauses, which will highlight the benefits of your explainer animation. Also, professional artists will provide you with a quality recording that won’t have any extraneous sounds.

To summarize

So when creating an explainer animation, don’t push the voice over to the last place. Make creative use of its possibilities, choose the right voice tone, and work only with voice-over artists who provide quality services!

If you have any questions or need more advice on explainer animation production - feel free to contact us!

Graphic Design in Animation: Will It Make or Break Your Project?

Considering animation as a powerful marketing or communication tool, we shall look at it from some different perspective — not lingering too much on vibrant cartoons’ influences, but rather questioning its informative side.

On this story, we talk with our senior designer Otilija. Here she shares a few key thoughts in favour of graphic design and how it can help to enhance your animation projects: starting with a clearer message and moving towards an overall aesthetic and professional result. Let’s go!

#1 Know the difference — choose accordingly

Nowadays, illustration and graphic design tend to intertwine. Illustration is defined as a form of art, which portrays a written text. Meanwhile, graphic design communicates ideas and meaning through colour, typography, forms, hierarchy, and composition. Illustrators focus on personal aesthetic and artistic skills, while graphic designers spread an idea through classic design elements. 

Graphic illustration though is the marriage between the two mediums. It has the best of both worlds — the artistic skills of an illustrator and visual communication skills of a graphic designer. Working in the motion design industry with clients, it is essential (even in the most illustrative projects) to have an eye for graphic design so that the right message would be clearly communicated to the target audience.

#2 Concept first, styling — later

So, you made a beautiful couple of frames, and you’re super excited to show it to the client. However, the feedback you receive is negative. Usually, this happens when the design doesn’t set the desired mood, doesn’t fit the client’s brief or the product/service the client wants to promote. To avoid this, firstly, you should always think about what every element in your design means or what connotations does it carry. Start thinking as a graphic designer, and only then make sure it looks good. And finally — let your inner illustrator free.

Graphic designer drawing animation storyboard on a tablet

#3 Design vs Animation — plan your time wisely

No animation in the world could save a poorly done design. Even the best animation techniques wouldn’t help if the colours don’t match, typography is unreadable, the character looks weird and awkward, and the composition is off. Meanwhile, a beautifully done design could still be successful with moderate animation. Of course, a combination of both high-quality design and animation is the best solution, but if you have to divide your time between the two — it is always better to spend more time on design.

#4 Never stop the creativity

Don’t think that designing for animation is just following client wishes and brand books. It’s much more than that! The designer is free to interpret ideas and convey them in unexpected and visually pleasing ways.

Graphic designers' workstation for animation projects

To summarise

The famous term ‘motion graphics’ is actually nothing else but design in motion. So, even the basic knowledge of graphic design can significantly improve your animation projects — master the abstract symbols and shapes, create the right emotion and impact selected audiences.

BONUS

Go ahead to check these inspiring motion designers and studios, recommended by Otilija:

  1. Romain Loubersanes
  2. Johan Eriksson
  3. BUCK
  4. Gunner
  5. Allen Laseter
  6. Josh Edwards
  7. Sarah Beth Morgan
  8. Joe Brooks
  9. Oddfellows

This story is a part of Stepdraw production blog post series Production Life, which are dedicated to stories about production people lifestyle, work and creative inspirations.

3 Things to Remember When Outsourcing Animation Services

Sometimes handling animation services outsourcing processes could be a demanding task. Even if it’s not the first time for your company, the challenges may vary with each new project.   

For this reason, we have distinguished 3 production tips for businesses, which should make it easier to manage animation outsourcing issues and ensure a smoother production workflow. 

#1 Provide effective feedback

In the first place, it’s crucial to assign who’s going to be responsible for overall creative project evaluation. Avoid asking opinions of the whole department. Ideally, no more than 3 representatives of the company should carry out such work. Often, people who don’t quite know the project background only bring unnecessary confusion and pull out of focus.

Of course, the evaluation of any creative processes is a very subjective thing. But keep in mind that animation production is usually carried out by professionals, who have design, marketing and business communication background, so if you chose your partners responsibly, there should be no problems.

Also, always provide feedback on time. If you don’t like something - say it right away, don’t wait for the final scenes to be animated. And ask questions, even the basic ones, because this is the only way to make sure that you are really on the same page with the production team.

#2 Make sure the script looks neat

The script should be the cornerstone of all animation production. Like a masterplan. It should stimulate the imagination and help to see final animation in your mind before any production even started. 

Note whether the script communicates the benefits of your product over the features. Also, critically evaluate how the VO text fits the storyboard and scene sequence. Does it have any logic, follows the storytelling rules, generally feels good

Remember that the script can be easily rewritten by the screenwriter. Still, if you provide the same comments in later stages, e.g. animation, the same changes will take the time of (at least of) a designer, animator, art director and sound designer, because they will all need to make their own changes.

#3 Are you truly satisfied with illustration design?

The first illustration design may expose the truth - that all along the production and client teams had quite different visions.

So, you should be very critical about the provided style frames. Sometimes, the visuals just don’t stick, for no exact reason. In this case, it’s necessary to specify your feedback - maybe the red background is too red? Perhaps the character has too small eyes, or the subtitles are too big? Then designers could easily present other design options that would be closer to your expectations.

Also, keep in mind that the beauty of images is often very subjective. So rather than judging through a like-dislike prism, evaluate whether it has the hook and always ask production partners to clarify design decisions.

To summarize:

After all, the most important thing for everyone in both - client and production sides is to be on the same page and create an amazing animated video clip, right?

So the key is to communicate the feedback effectively, make sure you have a killer script and carefully review illustration design before they are animated.

If you have any questions or need more advice on animation services outsourcing - feel free to write us!

Creative Lunch Break Mini-Series Project Summary

Pursuing your personal creative style while working at the production studio may not always be easy. Yet, with the right decisions made, diversity of skills can really blossom. So one day, during the rainy autumn of 2019, Stepdraw animation team (still with the hearts full of summerish memories) came up with the idea to bring those colors back and set themselves a creative challenge. 

While brainstorming on the first topic for such project - well, we couldn’t agree on anything more appealing yet versatile than … food. Quickly, all the participants chose their topics, techniques - and got to work.
Thus, Creative Lunch Break was born.

We shared 9 different episodes of this mini-series every other Thursday on Stepdraw's Instagram profile. While showcasing our teams’ favorite dishes and highlighting individual creative skills, we discovered a lot, learned a lot, and, most importantly, had a really great time!  

Finally, we would like to share a menu of this project and tell you more about each episode! 

#1 Poké Bowl by Ignas

The first animation for this project is a 3D Poké Bowl shot made by our animator Ignas Kairelis. Inspired by this tasty and beautiful Hawaiian dish, he decided to present it in a festive glass instead of a regular bowl.

Therefore, this little twist allowed to take on various 3D textures, and perhaps, will inspire you to experiment with your own bowl servings presentation!

#2 Spicy Ramen by Gintaras

Mini-series continues with cartoonish Spicy Ramen shot by our animator Gintaras Jacunskas. This time, the creative path was chosen because of his love for some good ramen noodles.

Gintaras also decided to add a fragrant touch of Asia. How? With some edgy details, like super hot sauce and a pot of fire. Ultimately spicy result!

#3 Salad Man by Artūras

Here comes the Salad Man! An outstanding simulated 3D animation with real textures of vegetables and super-heroic narrative created by our videographer and VFX artist Artūras Sėlenis.

Obviously, he was inspired to take this creative approach by Lithuanian festive cuisine traditions. Specifically - by Balta mišrainė (eng. Olivier salad). It’s a common dish during Christmas or Easter periods, so Artūras decided to take this inspiration from here and elevate it to the next level - create a brand new superhero!

#4 Fresh Lemon Spritz by Otilija

Sweet & sour — that’s the rich taste of Lemon Spritz, created by our designer and animator Otilija Morozaitė.

It was inspired by her adventures in Southern Italy, where everything is all about lemons. For this reason, she shows how this refreshing drink is made using a simplistic 2D approach with noise textures for depth and lighting. Definitely fresh!

#5 Farfalle Pasta by Otilija

The one that got away! The mini-adventures of Farfalle Pasta, also created by Otilija, using a variety of techniques: 3D, 2D vector graphics, and frame-by-frame animation.

Notably, every pot of simmering farfalle pasta always spills out. Otilija was intrigued by that - why does it happen? Maybe the pasta just wants to break free?!

#6 Mexican Taco by Vaida

The 6th animation for the Creative Lunch Break series is all about Mexican flavors. Created by our illustrator Vaida Stasiukaitytė with the help of animators Ignas Kairelis and Valdas Gintautas.

For one thing we are sure, Vaida loves spontaneous road trips! And they usually start or end up in Warsaw. This city is also home to Vaida’s favorite Mexican restaurant, Gringo bar, to which she keeps coming back for the amazing tacos. So they were the main inspiration for this 2D vector shot, filled with patterns, gradients, color tones, and line art to create depth and 3D-feeling.

#7 Sweet Kaleidoscope by Alikas 

Super Sweet Kaleidoscope shot created by our illustrator Aliaga Mirguseinov and animated by Ignas.

Alikas loves illustrating cute things with contrasting color palettes and patterns freehandedly. So after a bit of experimentation and creative search, he decided to combine candies and kaleidoscope elements, and here it is! This sweet illusion has it all!

#8 Pineapple Pizza by Gintaras

Mixing up the ingredients for this fantastic pizza - the second shot created by our animator Gintaras.

The idea of this animation was born all of a sudden while eating lunch pizzas with fellow Stepdraw co-workers. Then, while searching for a more engaging creative approach, Gintaras decided to use After Effects stop motion implementation with a real felt texture!

#9 Fancy Ice Cream by Ignas

The final piece for Creative Lunch Break mini-series - the second 3D shot made by animator Ignas.

Ice cream is one of Ignas' favorite desserts, so he decided to make a fancy approach to this sweet indulgence. Soft, luxurious and golden! Would you like a bite?

Special thanks:

Project coordinators: Jorigė Kuzmaitė, Dovilė Macijauskaitė
Project identity designer: Otilija Morozaitė
Sound designers: Karolis Grabys, Juozapas Liaugaudas

Let's keep in touch!

Check out this project (and follow for the new ones!) on
Stepdraw Instagram page

See more everyday creative experiments of Stepdraw animation team on
our Dribbble profile

Explainer Animation vs Live-Action Video: Which One is Better for Your Product Pitch?

You have finally launched a new product that generates revenue beyond your expectations. Moreover, it even attracts extreme interest from your intended audiences. Sounds like a dream, right? Well, in reality to achieve this, you need to thoughtfully plan every step and tool for the successful product launch. And one of the most helpful marketing instrument is a catchy product pitch video.

Read more

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Awesome things happen one step at a time: 

Awesome things happen one step at a time:

Awesome things happen one step at a time: 

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