What Is 3D Graphic Arts?

3-D graphic arts (also called computer graphic animation) uses computer graphics to create lifelike 3-dimensional images for computer and video games, the web, movie animation, and even forensic analysis. 3-D computer animation techniques are more advanced than 2-D animation techniques, because they produce more realistic figures and smoother motion. To learn about the process of developing 3-D graphic art, read on. Schools offering Graphic Design degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Industry Overview

Today's cutting-edge animated films and games are produced using 3-D graphic arts. 3-D graphic artists create animated images by modeling the figures in 2-D, laying out the spatial relationships that will characterize their movements, and rendering those 2-D images into realistic 3-D images.

Mean Salary (May 2018) $72,520 (for multimedia artists & animators)
Job Outlook (2016-2026) 8% (for multimedia artists & animators)
Work Environment Office setting
Similar Occupations Graphic designer, animator, art director, web developer

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Modeling Three Dimensions

3-D graphic arts begin with a stick figure that represents the animated character. Each body part is assigned an animation variable, or avar, and the stick figure moves as the values of these variables change. In 3-D computer graphic animation, characters are often composed of hundreds of avars.

Layout and Animation

The next step in the 3-D graphic arts process is determining which values the animation variables should take so that the character's movements fulfill the animator's vision. This can be accomplished by filming a real person and using that information to determine the values (motion capture).

More commonly, 3-D graphic artists manipulate key frames (computerized versions of the paper sketches used in 2-D animation) to achieve the desired motion. This involves a process called keyframing, where animators set key motion points and allow a computer software program to fill in the interim key frames (tweening). For full control over the characters' movements, 3-D graphic animators can set each frame individually.

Rendering and Projection

The last stage in developing 3-D graphic arts is converting the 3-D model into a 2-D image. This is called rendering, and it resembles filming a real-life 3-D image. To maintain the model's original 3-D qualities, specially designed 3-D computer graphics software uses the principles of light to show dimension.

In addition to getting the lighting right, 3-D graphic artists must adjust the perspective in their 3-D models so it appears natural in two dimensions. This is called projection, and it ensures that distant objects are smaller than objects that are intended to appear closer to the viewer.

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