The Difference Between 2D and 3D Animation

By Michael Jones

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Remember the afternoons we used to rush home and watch characters like Daffy Duck, Mickey Mouse, Bugs Bunny, or Tom and Jerry? These shows brought us the content and satisfaction that goes along with watching your favorite cartoons. They turned out to be your best friends, and in some cases, and the friends of your best friends.

The kids of today might not recognize these characters. But they were superstars in the world of 2D animation. The advent of 3D animation, however, has made them look like aged veterans. It has turned how images and scenes are portrayed on screen upside down. This shift in technology has been the impetus for many to choose it as a career. And that is the impetus for a vast number of 3D animation training available online. So, what is the difference between 2D and 3D animation? Read this guide for information as to why they are different.

A 2D and 3D Comparison

  • In traditional 2D animation, everything was hand-drawn, frame by frame. In 3D animation, you animate your characters and objects in a 3D environment using 3D animation software to manipulate these characters and objects. While drawing is an added benefit, it is not a necessity in 3D animation.
  • In 2D animation, animators use characters, Visual FX (VFX), and backgrounds to create an illusion of movement within a two-dimensional space by sequencing individual drawings together over a set period.
  • Also, in 2D animation, characters and objects on screen only consist of a height and a width. In contrast, 3D animation comprises the manipulation of characters and objects with three dimensions: height, width, and depth. As a result, 3D makes more realistic characters and objects than 2D animation.
  • A two-dimensional object is a plane shape and its two dimensions can be plotted on an x-axis and y-axis. Whereas, 3D shapes, or three-dimensional shapes, also require a z-axis to plot the additional dimension—width, or depth—alongside the length and height.
  • In recent years, both 2D and 3D animation have been increasingly used by brands as their primary form of video animation. You can owe this rise in popularity much to social media and the trend in social marketing for businesses to create leads, establish online identities, and engage their target audience in a manner that appeals to them.
  • This growth was predicted to hit $270 billion in 2020, with 76% of marketers saying that they generate more traffic because of animated video.

The Basic Definitions of 2D and 3D animation

In animation, characters are drawn two shots at a time. Each drawing or image is shown for two frames, which translates to 12 frames per second. This is called drawing sequencing. For smooth animation and high quality, you should ideally have 24 frames per second.

  • 2D is a style of art based on creating a movement of objects and characters in a two-dimensional space. They are catering only to length and width.
  • The movement is depicted using drawings and is put in a sequence to create an illusion of complete movement.
  • 2D animation is the art of creating movement in a two-dimensional space. The 2D animation style is used in cartoons, advertisements, product videos, and brand videos, such as educational videos or infotainment videos.
  • However, 3D animation is done using computer software and deals with creating 3D models and their movement inside a digital environment. 3D animation is far more complicated when compared to 2D animation, involving modeling, animation, and rendering.
  • 3D animation is widely used in the video games space, movies, and cartoons, and is generally used for high-end animation,

Differences Between the 2D and 3D Animation Process

In traditional animation, the more complicated of the two is considered 2D animation rather than 3D animation. It requires animators to draw 24 frames a second and have an in-depth understanding of animation principles, the anatomy of movements, and the physics behind those movements. Animators must manipulate each frame in 2D animation, which makes it more time-consuming and a bit more complicated than 3D.

2D animation is generally cheaper than 3D animation, although that can be different from project to project. Generally, the cost of a 60-second long traditional 2D video is between $1,000 – $5,000, while the cost of a 60-second long 3D video is between $7,000-$9,000. This is because 3D animation requires complex software and platforms, whereas 2D animation is mostly done manually and can be compiled using free 2D software.

The most significant difference between 2D and 3D animation is within their video animation process. If we divide the process into three stages—pre-production, production, and postproduction—you can see how 3D animation is much more complex and time-consuming.

Use Cases

One complex category of 2D is 2D game animation. Unlike 3D video animation where the characters interact with each other, characters have to respond to a user’s input and perform corresponding actions in 2D game animation, which means that characters have to look perfect from many different angles.

2D animation is used in cartoons, but in the 21st century, it’s used in the vast majority of social media video content such as infotainment, videos, product demos, explainer videos, and animated whiteboard videos.

3D animation is a high-end art and is utilized for movies, cartoons, and, more prominently, in video games that create realistic visual effects.

2D and 3D Animation Training

We hope you now understand the difference between 2D and 3D animation. Are you interested in creating 2D or 3D animation graphics? Or, maybe you’ve been interested in a career in motion graphics. You could take the route of a four-year university which, obviously takes a lot of time. But in online training, you study specifically the principles and advanced motion graphic animation to learn without all the fluff.

MoGraph Mentor is a different type of online learning and offers learning paths for both forms of animated graphics. If you’re looking to position yourself as a master in motion animation, then MoGraph Mentor animated training is for you. MoGraph Mentor offers a strong core in the essential disciplines in the industry.

Our mentorship classes are designed to be an alternative to traditional art school, along with advanced portfolio development. We’ve taken the best aspects of a traditional art school curriculum and condensed them into a 9-week motion design mentor experience. From students to creative pros, create original portfolio pieces, expand your artistic mindset, and make new connections in the industry.

So, contact MoGraph Mentor today!

The Difference Between 2D and 3D Animation


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