BY Creative

Making your creative visions, digitally wonderful

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Bell 6, Floor 2, St Matthews Church, Brixton Hill,
London, United Kingdom SW2 1JF
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+44 (0) 20 8012 8623

We practice Ethical Design.

Understanding 3D – What does it actually mean?

Understanding 3D – What does it actually mean?

It’s a term you will have regularly heard in the media, gaming or film industry but what does 3D actually mean? This week we focus on explaining and debunking common myths about 3D (3 Dimensional) computer graphics in relation to animation, visual effects and the production of mobile/computer games. 

What does 3D do and how did it start?

In a nutshell, 3D is a technology (and digital experience) that has evolved incredibly over the past 30 years. Actually, we can go much further back than that, in history to understand the origin of this visual, technological and at times interactive experience.

Way back when

Let’s add another 100 odd years to that 30 and go all the way back to the mid 19th Century, 1838 to be exact. This was the dawn of photographic exploration, with a new invention known as The Stereoscope by Sir Charles Wheatstone. His discovery had the capabilities of taking 3D photographic images.

It was a prototype that developed very quickly and in 1851 at the Great Exhibition, with a picture of Queen Victoria being taken by Louis Jules Duboscq using the improved technology. By this time, it had quickly become very well known. The popularity of stereoscopic cameras would grow steadily for the next 100 years.

An antique Stereoscope.
Something from the 80’s: A retro and iconic take of the Stereoscope, popular amongst 1970’s/80’s youth culture.

The Science behind 3D

In a wider definition, the term 3D is the representation of an object that appears on a ‘3 axis coordinate’ system. The X axis is horizontal and the Y axis being vertical leaving the Z axis to create the perception of depth.

Still with us? A lot to take in, we know and so this visual below diagram will hopefully provide further clarity.

Diagram: The X, Y and Z axis.

Understanding 3D computer graphics

When it comes to computer software, 3D is an image/graphic that provides the perception of depth. When 3D graphics are designed to be interactive so that a user can influence or cause-effect, this experience is known as Virtual Reality.

You become part of that simulation, or 3D experience, You become part of those 3 special axes (X, Y, and Z). You have the power to literally turn that axis on its head, so to speak.

To enjoy the experience of 3D graphics on a computer e.g. software programs, computer games or web browsers such as Google Chrome, 90% of the time you will watch through video or animated portals designed in 3D environments and created on the X, Y and Z axis.

More recently with the evolution (and fast rollouts) of computer hardware, we can enjoy new experiences through web portals or with headsets such as Oculus or Samsung Gear. This hardware has been designed to deliver state of the art 3D graphics, that produce even better Virtual Reality experiences. Some of these experiences are so powerful that ‘VR makes some of us feel sick’, as described by Becca Caddy in a 2016 article from Wearable.

3D image creation can be seen as ‘3 stage process’ of Tessellation, Geometry, and Rendering.

  • Through the first stage models/structures are created of individual objects using linked points (or anchors) that are made from a large number of individual polygons (tiles).
  • Transitioning through to the second stage, these polygons are altered/manipulated in various ways, with the addition of lighting styles and effects being applied to create atmosphere.
  • In the third stage of 3D modeling, these edited images are then rendered into objects and environments with high detail.

Learning how to create 3D graphics

Popular products for creating 3D effects include Cinema 4D, Adobe After Effects, 3D Studio Max and LightWave 3D. Out of all the software mentioned, we really enjoy the capabilities of Adobe After Effects because you are able to explore the best of both worlds with the power and capability of 2D authoring tools for video. You can then create templates in real time and transform them into their own unique 3D environments using tools such as Camera Layers.

Another great benefit of After Effects is that it works so well with other digital programs such as Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator, which are all part of the Adobe Creative Cloud. This makes importing other files and graphics all the much easier when it comes to working on industry standard productions.

How do BY Creative use 3D computer graphics?

We enjoy using graphical technologies to help create memorable stories for our clients. 3D graphics are used as visual tools to educate and entertain wider audiences.

Before design begins, we focus on building a strong mood board and awareness of the target audience. This then allows us to fully understand what type of 3D graphic that we need to tell the story. We also get to understand what the best style of 3D graphic will work best for the final delivery.

At BY Creative, the build of 3D graphics starts at the conceptual stage.

Working with Lexus

We’ve been working on an R&D prototype campaign on the Lexus: Amazing in Motion Hoverboard experience. A campaign that has been exploratory, educational and a whole lot of fun for our team. In the early stages of this campaign, we have ‘tinkered’ with processes of 2D illustration. We do this in order to gain an understanding of where we want to start a concept. This then leads to the 3D graphics development of where we aim to take the production of the Lexus Hoverboard.

The final stage of delivery relates interactive engagement. This is what we are currently still working on…so you’ll have to stay tuned for that;).

Below are some of the initial stages and you can read further about the campaign here:

Stage 1 Process: 2 point perspective illustrations. Software: Adobe Illustrator, Adobe Photoshop

Stage 2 Process: Image/graphics mapping Software: 3D Studio Max

Stage 3 Process: 3D Blending Software: 3D Studio Max

Final render (fully textured 3D graphic) Process: Full render Software: 3D Studio Max

The real thing | Lexus campaign with shots taken from the Amazing in Motion campaign by Lexus.

Image source: Lexus

Let’s not stop here…

So there we have it. We hope that this has given you some useful insight into the processes of 3D graphics.  Furthermore, we hope this provides an example of how BY Creative use 3D graphics to bring creative visions to life.

What are your thoughts on 3D graphics and what techniques/processes do you think we will see in the future?