3D Animation and Environments

What is 3D?

3D (3 Dimensional) as opposed to 2D uses modelling and polygons

It’s a similar manner to comparing a circle to a sphere, a circle is flat (2D) while a Sphere is round (3D)


From Advertising to Movies to Games, 3D animation has been used for a lot of things since it’s creation.

There are three axis, which are used for making models, X, Y and Z.

Only X and Y are used for flat or 2D things while Z is added in to make 3D

A 3D Model with the Z Value set to zero will result in a flat character

As example by the “Mr Game and Watch” character from the Smash Bros series.

3D Modelling in Games

3D is used to model both the characters you play as and interact with as well as the environment you walk around in,

The first-ever game to use 3D polygon graphics was “I, Robot”, an arcade game designed by a man named Dave Theurer and published by the company Atari Inc. It was developed in 1983 and released in June 1984.


Technically any console (other than maybe the Atari 2600 era consoles), could display a certain number of polygons onscreen , through software rather than hardware 3D, it’s just that consoles like the NES would slow down to a crawl trying to display more than a few polygons onscreen, , console 3D graphics didn’t really take off until the (later) 32-bit systems.

Since their first usage, 3D Models have become more and more detailed and , as exampled by the Tomb Raiders games.

With the left of the bottom picture being the very first game of the series, “Tomb Raider” released in 25 October 1996 and the right most one being the latest – Also called “Tomb Raider” but referred to as “Tomb Raider 2013” to avoid confusion, this game being released 5th March 2013.


(Not shown is the most latest in the series, a simple app game called “Lara Croft Go” an app released for tablets and what not on 27 August 2015, it’s temple run with Lara Croft)

The main factor to these increasingly better models are the systems themselves, The consoles become more powerful meaning they can handle more polygons on screen which means everything can be have more details.

An example of this is that while the PS1 required Memory Cards to store game data, the PS4 has 5.5GB of memory built into the system itself,

PS1 has 1MB ‘usable’ and 1MB ‘reserved’ for things like frame buffer and sound, the PS4 on the other hand, contains a total of 8 GiB.


Some games have even evolved from 2D to 3D, An example of this evolution is the Legend of Zelda series that began as a 2D Top-Down Adventure game, “Top-Down” as a name is the name of the perspective of the game, also called a bird’s eye view, The series has evolved over the years, becoming a third person adventure, “Third person” is also a perspective name,being just behind, slightly above, and slightly facing down towards that character.

Zelda has not forgotten her roots though, as top-down perspective games still prop up every now and then.

Nintendo Entertainment System with controller


here we compare the NES of which the first Legend of Zelda was one to the Wii U which does have it’s own Zelda game yet

A NES only has 5.32 MHz (Megahertz) while a Wii U has 1.23 GHZ (Gigahertz)

A NES only has 32 KiB(Kilobytes) while a Wii U has 2GB (Gigabyte) by default.


3D in TV

Toy Story, released November 1995 was the first feature-length computer-animated film to gain critical acclaim, though the first use of CGI (Computer-generated imagery), was, as a tool for visual effects in the 1973 live-action film “Westworld,” it has since become the dominant tool in animation.


Animation in Movies has also come a long way, as computers have gotten stronger; a big example of this is babies.

As in, the babies made in animation.

Here we compare a horror from the first Toy story to baby Riley from Inside Out

How are 3D Models are made?

Here are two examples of how models are made

Method 1 is called Box Modelling is where you use the basic shapes (or rather “Primitives”) in a program and put them together and take bits off using the other to eventually make the model you want, it’s easy to learn and do but it’s difficult to add details with it,  you’re basically adding more faces to the model in order to smoothen it.

Method 2 is called Extrusion Modelling, Like Box modelling you start with a Primitive, only with this method you start with a flat shape such as a square,  you just pull out of your basic shape here, or “Extrude” them, Extrusion Modelling is good for making basic objects.

Here are visual aids, an example of Box Modelling and summaries of steps in modelling.

modelling1Modelling – Building the actual visible 3D Polygon model, probably the most important part in animating your 3D model.


Rigging – Creating a “skeleton” and “rigging” it tp the model so you can make it wave make it walk, and animate it in general.


Details – Still technically basic modelling but now with more detail, Now that the main stuff of your model has been done it’s time to give them personality

modelling4Animating – Timing the movements to a voice or just animating in general, moving the limbs and whatnot


Comparing different 3D engines


OpenGL –Originally developed by Silicon Graphics in the early ’90s, OpenGL® has become the most widely used open graphics standard in the world. It is notable for being very compatible with just about all systems, It is used more commonly for stuff like general hardware, web based games, mobile games.


Maya – Maya is a 3D modelling Software with Awesome modelling tools that Maya users can now work inside Maya from modelling to animation, the biggest issue with Maya at this time is its learning curve and its price, thought if you are a student you should be aware that there is a free version for your hands only.


MikuMikuDance – Miku miku Dance (MMD) is a popular and easily downloadable freeware 3D animation engine created for the production of videos featuring VOCALOID mascots. This program simplifies many aspects of 3D animation creation and its user friendliness, ease and simplicity attracted many creators, honestly it’s not so much a model maker itself as it is a model animator, it was mostly chosen to be talked about simply because the writer didn’t want to use all the most commonly known engines.


Blender – Blender is free program that to those unfamiliar with 3D programs is rather daunting with no help or tutorial available, the only thing comparable to it being the incredibly expensive AutoDesk Maya.

Blender is hard to get started and even harder to master.


Direct3D – Direct3D is an API(Application Program Interface), a lot of Triple-A companies tend to seem to use this particular program, though it competes with OpenGL it seems to be best to learn both

(Direct 3D does not seem to have it’s own logo, so there DirectX one will have to do)

Geometric Theory in 3D Modelling

When developing games animations use the geometric theory to model both characters and objects within a game, through a design process using an initial mesh to give a basic shape of an object to later be built with different textures.

Meshes are made through the process of combined polygons.

Polygon themselves are two-dimensional shapes, more specifically triangles, they have three components, the edge which is obviously the edges of each triangle, the vertex which it the point, two edges meeting and last the face, the inside of all the edges, the flat surface that the edges create.

A basic triangle polygon with a face; this is the simplest version of a polygon that can be made, to make bigger ones, more vertices must be made, make a fourth on to your triangle to make it a square, a fifth makes it a hex and it just keeps going.

Counting Vertices, edges and faces, the Geometric theory can be broken down into 10 things

  1. Vertex(Vertices) – where two points or more meet up
  2. Lines – When there are edges that have not made a face you call them lines
  3. Curves – Curves are lines that are bendy, used for more smoother models One type of curves is where you plot several points and the computer works out the lines for you, alternatively the bezier curve is where a line is drawn and you bend it yourself with
  4. Edges –the edges along a polygons face
  5. Faces – the flat bit between all the edges. This is always defined as a triangle .
  6. Polygon – a series of 2D shapes created by linking enough lines together
  7. Element – Several polygons on a 3D Model
  8. Primitives – Basic Shapes you use to make more complex shapes
  9. Mesh – Shows the properties of the model
  10. Wireframe – The outline of the 3D model

wireframe horse

Here is an example of a 3D horses’s wireframe model

Texturing – 

Texturing is giving your object texture, the object is made of plastic, you give it a reflective, glossy shader. If it’s glass, it’s got to be partially transparent and refract light like real-world glass, are added by either projecting a two dimensional image onto the model, or by painting directly on the surface of the model as if it were a canvas with the use of certain programs.

Transparency – Transparency Maps are one of the best ways to create the illusion of detail, and is a popular texturing technique used in video games

It’s good for Films where everything is pre-rendered, but for games it means more polygons to load, which would be highly unnecessary for a simple fence and such, so place a simple polygon plane in-between the fence posts and apply a transparency map. Now it gives an illusion that there are holes in the fence when it’s actually a block with see-through bits.

Tiling – There’ll a lot of large areas needing a texture applied to them, like a long stone wall or a floor of some sort. It would be a very long process to create a texture for the entire brick wall, Instead, tiling the texture makes it so only one small texture needs to be used for the entire area

Decals – Decals are another method used to break up areas on a texture that may be repeated in a game or to add an extra effect. Like Ivy or moss on rocks.  These are just simple 2D images that add detail without extra geometry.

Like in first-person shooters. you shoot a wall and a bullet hole appears, THAT is a decal placed on the texture of the wall.


To make 3D Objects really seem alive digital lights must be placed in the scene to illuminate models, just like how they use spotlights on stage shows, spotlights  are beams of light directed at a  singular space, used to direct attention to an object or person.


Depth Perception in 3D models, you can’t have light without shade, based on its angle to lights and its distance from lights to create a more realistic effect. Shading is performed during the rendering process by a program called a shader.


Dark Pit Floaty Walk