2d to 3d pain

monkeyTraditionally drawn characters have their own unique charm, which is lost when a drawing unbounded by rules becomes dimensionalized in 3d space. Just consider characters such as Homer Simpsonor Fry from Futurama. There were a number of attempts to convert them into 3d.While some succeeded more than others, the 3d doubles still lacked the harmony and the character of the original 2d illustration. What is it that gets lost during a 2d to 3d conversion process? Well, here is my theory, which is based on my personal experience. In the middle of 2014, I was assigned to develop a brand new animation series for teens. Since the script hadn’t been started,I’d written a short essay that described a new world and characters within a simple story. When I got the mood and the feeling of the story, I gave the essay to my colleagues so they could imagine the series of mise en scenes that I constructed in my essay. As characters existed in written form, everyone could imagine their own version of the protagonist and the world they lived in. When all of us were on the same page we started to sketch. The text I wrote started to take 2dimensional shapes,which looked somewhat viable. Soon we had rough sketches that everyone, including producers, seemed to like. We started prototyping the characters in 3d. After the 3d models were made, everything that we believed might have worked miserably failed.When the characters took a real 3dimensional shape they lost their magic. Everyone on the team started to disagree about what they expected from the final result. So why did it happen? Apparently the drawing, be it the drawing of Homer Simpson or the Lion King, leaves a little bit of a room for individual interpretation of the drawn matter. Since there are no bounding rules of reality,a person’s mind may build up the missing information of the drawing to its own liking. When we look at Homer Simpson everyone would see him differently, as when we read a book our imagined version of the appearance of matter is different from another person’s imagination. In our case, when the characters materialized in the physically accurate space, there was no more room for fantasy and interpretation. It was a complete WYSIWYG!You have probably heard many acclaimed writers and directors assert that you have to keep a story open for alternative interpretations. While you can go mad trying to understand what happens in David Lynch movies, you can’t deny that there is some magic happening when you watch his movies.

Since I can’t show the project I was writing about, I’ll use the example a milk commercial that had a similar problem to demonstrate what I mean. Here are 2d characters that were never meant to be done in 3d, until the client had the idea to make a commercial where all of the 2d characters would take a 3 dimensional shape.

Here are the images that the client provided us.

original_charWhile the illustrations are nice, their proportions would never look as good in 3d as they look in 2d.In fact,if the 3d artist who models the characters would strictly follow the illustration provided, he would probably end up with a deformed and distorted model. Obviously the client wanted the CGI characters to be very similar to the illustrations provided.

I tried my best to find the correct volume of the characters. We took the illustration and drew on top of the illustrations.

animal_drawingsDuring the animation, animators oriented the characters relative to a camera, so the 3d characters’ silhouettes would approximate the illustration.




While we tried to make the 3d characters as similar as possible to the illustrations, there are another dozen 3d interpretations that could work as well. Here is the final result.

The various cases confirmed my belief that there are endless interpretations that each individual envisions while looking at drawings. I understood that the hardest part of my job is to achieve universal interpretations that will bring everyone to a consensus.




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