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Guide to 3D modelling

Before you can animate in 3D, you need 3D models of everything you want to include in your video. This guide to 3D modelling explains what’s involved.

Before you can make things move in a 3D video, you need 3D models of each of those objects (we call them assets). You can often find excellent stock 3D models online. However, if you want to showcase your own products or something bespoke to your video, you’ll need to do some 3D modelling.

Creating 3D models that can be used in animated videos requires specialist software and a lot of skill. Luckily, it’s something James, our Technical Director, has in abundance. Here’s his quick guide to 3D modelling.

How 3D modelling and animation work

3D modelling is the process of creating computer-generated objects that you want to show in 3D in your video. These models can be incredibly detailed – and are created in specialist software such as Cinema4D (here’s a list of free 3D apps).

Once you’ve sourced your 3D models, you can then use 3D animation to bring them to life and move them around the screen. Textures and lighting are then perfectly tweaked to make scenes appear super-realistic. 

Each 3D scene is then rendered and composited in software such as After Effects. This is where we add all the final touches – things like depth of field, motion blur, overlaid graphics and colour correction. Once everything’s looking top-notch, the video can be rendered and released into the world.

How to source your 3D models

First, search for stock 3D models on websites like TurboSquid and cgtrader. You can use these sites to find everything from helicopters to crisp packets. Once you purchase a stock model, it can be easily imported and textured to look exactly how you want. Using stock models can save you a tonne of time.

However, if you want to showcase unique or bespoke products, objects or environments, you’ll need to create the 3D models from scratch. And there are two main ways to do that.

Using CAD files for 3D modelling

Computer-aided design (CAD) software is used by engineers, architects and others to create technical drawings and blueprints of objects. They can be incredibly detailed and include thousands of individual components.

These CAD files can be imported into 3D software to hugely speed up the 3D modelling process. Textures and lighting will still need to be added, but they provide an instant platform that you can build off.

Using images and photos for 3D modelling

Alternatively, you can use images and videos of the object as a reference and build them from scratch. As it’s all done by eye, it takes longer to get all the individual components to display right in 3D.

Models can still be built really quickly this way, but you’re effectively starting from scratch. However, once built they still do exactly the same job as those created from CAD files (when it comes to animation at least).

Creating 3D models of characters

3D characters look incredible and it’s becoming more and more affordable to use them in videos – especially if you purchase stock 3D characters. It’s worth pointing out that it does take significantly longer to animate 3D characters than in other styles.

Want to create 3D models of your own products? 

If you want to find out how long something would take to create in 3D, make sure you get in touch with James (one of his special skills is the ability to quickly create incredibly realistic 3D models from just a photograph).

Alternatively, if you’re interested in creating 3D animated videos to explain your products or plans, use our details below to find out more.

Want to find out more about 3D modelling?

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