If you’ve been paying attention, you may have noticed that 3D animation seems to be getting steadily more common. Websites, television commercials, and movies are all using 3D animation today for a variety of reasons: to augment existing scenes, to animate things that wouldn’t otherwise be possible, and sometimes to create completely imaginative scenes from scratch, backgrounds and all. But the cinema industry isn’t the only one that’s relying heavily on 3D animation. There are many other incredible uses for 3D animation being seen in video production today.
1. Educational Medical Videos
The medical profession used to have to rely primarily on hands-on experience for much of their training. 2D drawings and illustrations have a hard time conveying information about a 3D body. Though physical 3D models have been used in the past, they are not animated and thus cannot react the way that real organs or real tissue would. This limits the amount of actual training that can be done — and makes training overall much more expensive for nurses, doctors, paramedics, and other medical specialists.
But 3D technology offers an alternative to these conventional training methods. Digital 3D technology can produce a very realistic simulation of both human and animal bodies, for doctors and veterinarians to practice on. In fact, many anatomy classes in high school and college are now using realistic 3D representations rather than dissecting actual animals. 3D technology also has the benefit of being able to run specific types of simulation, which can include complications that could arise during a surgery or unique physiology that a surgeon may unexpectedly run into. Educational, 3D videos can also be used for seminars regarding particularly rare operations, and to showcase new techniques prior to official training. Altogether, this allows knowledge to be spread in a much faster rate.
2. Military and Police Use
As 3D technology has become easier and faster to use, it has also become useful for military, police, and even self-defense courses. Through the use of 3D animation, military and police training can be completed successfully without the potential for injury. 3D animation can be used for everything from teaching soldiers special tactics to strategizing on the field, and is also used throughout military engineering services.
When paired with virtual reality and augmented reality, 3D animation can be used for missions, drills, and other standardized military and police force training. On the engineering side, the military has been looking towards 3D printing robots, drones, and other engineered products on site. This allows for better machining and engineering overseas, rather than having to rely upon products to be shipped as needed. 3D animation makes it possible to engineer, test, and modify equipment on-the-fly.
3. Prototyping for Engineering and Technology
3D prototyping has become common for two reasons: it allows the prototype to be viewed before materials are wasted and 3D printing has made it possible to create rapid physical prototypes from a 3D file. In the areas of engineering and technology, 3D animation is being used to create and test machinery that can then be constructed, allowing for faster and more efficient innovation. Previously, engineers and techs would have needed to work in a physical medium and would need to machine out their prototypes in order to see them animated and working.
The ability to take prototypes directly from 3D files to physical 3D prints is changing the engineering industry in many ways. 3D printing makes it easier to customize and modify prototypes on-the-fly, and also makes it easier to get technology into areas such as third world nations. In recent years, 3D prototyping has become especially popular for replacement limbs. 3D prototyping can be used to print a replacement limb that is custom tailored to an individual and many times less expensive than a conventional medical device. But 3D prototyping is also being used on complex machines such as cars, as a way to change designs quickly and to test out new concepts and ideas.
4. Architecture and Design Proposals
What’s better than a building design proposal that you can walk through? Rather than drafting in pen-and-paper or in a 2D drafting program, many architects are instead choosing to utilize 3D animation. 3D modeling and animation gives an architect the ability to experience their buildings and structures as though they have already been built — and new augmented reality and virtual reality systems are going to enhance this experience even further. Being able to see designs in three dimensions without having to build a physical model can be very valuable for pointing out design flaws.
But animation adds an entirely different spectrum to architecture and design. Not only can a proposed design “come alive,” with trees, grass, plants, and water features moving, but architects are also able to experience their building at all hours, to see how the light reflects on it and how it looks during both night and day. They can even replicate how people might walk through the building, to identify points of congestion or areas in which people are most likely to loiter.
5. Character Animation for Commercials, TV, and Movies
Finally, the spectrum of animation that people are most familiar with: character animation. 3D animation can be used to animate characters for commercials, television, and movies, creating unique actors that can be used to do just about anything. And, like a 2D cartoon, these animated characters can supersede their actors, potentially lasting for generations to come.
CGI used to be extremely expensive, but advances in animation technology, motion capture, and digital rendering have made it far more feasible for characters to be created and animated even on lower budgets. This has opened the door for smaller businesses and smaller productions to create and utilize animated characters of their own. Animated characters can be memorable and dynamic, and can be set in scenes that would simply not be feasible in real life.
3D animation is only becoming a more open industry with time. Because of the rapid advances in technology, we are looking at more and more ways to utilize 3D animation not only in video production but also in every day life. Moving forward, 3D animations are likely to be seen more in VR and augmented reality, and will likely pervade many additional industries.
Article by Joe Forte, co-owner and producer at D-Mak Productions, a provider of professional video production services and 3D animation in Phoenix, Arizona.