3D animation, as the name indicates, is the process of designing computer graphics in 3-dimensional format. The designs are made by molding polygon meshes into specific scenes, characters or objects. 3D animation manipulates geometric data stored for rendering 2D images and performing calculations to create images that can either be viewed in real time or stored for later use.
Although 3D animation allows people to view 3-dimensional objects, the data making the objects is actually stored as mathematical representation until the images are ready for display. The 3D models can either be used in non-graphical simulations or displayed as 2-dimensional images using a process known as 3D rendering.
There are 3 primary phases in creating 3D animation – 3D modeling, animation and 3D rendering.
The modeling phase is where shapes of given objects are formed. The shapes can either be created by engineers and artists or scanned from images of actual objects. Physical simulation may also be used to produce models.
In the animation phase, the models created are enabled to move. Different methods are used to create motion, including motion capture, inverse kinematics and keyframing. Physical simulation can also be used here to specify desired motion.
3D rendering is the process used to convert the models into images. 3D rendering software is used to achieve desired results in realistic rendering. The steps involved are transport and scattering. Transport determines the quantity of light that should travel from one location to another while scattering is concerned with how various surfaces interact with the light transported.
3D animation also requires texturing and layout for the best outcome.