How 2D VFX helps make perfect 3D animations

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You have probably read our article about the 3D VFX component of the animation pipeline. The definition of 3D VFX is a little bit different in a 3D animation studio. It basically deals with creating complex motions or elements that are too difficult or even impossible to be created in 2D, animated manually, or motion-captured; elements such as hair, fur, rigid bodies, or soft bodies.

But apart from the 3D VFX component of the production phase, there is another stage in the 3D animation pipeline which deals with elements we might be more familiar with as “Visual Effects”! These are the effects that can be more easily achieved in 2D, rather than 3D.

Let’s take a quick look at the 2D VFX component of the 3D animation pipeline’s post-production phase. But first, To get to know how VFX is used in animation, check out what is 2D animation complete guide. 


2D VFX in animation

2D VFX is part of the post-production and is tightly tied to other stages of the same phase: compositing, color correction, and final rendering; so much that the compositor and 2D visual effects artists of a project can be the same person.

2D visual effects are in fact flat simulations of events that originally occur in a three-dimensional environment. But most of the time there is no need to recreate them in 3D because they only need to move in the plane of a surface (the screen).


Why do we use 2D VFX in 3D animations?

The reason behind simulating these effects in 2D lies mostly in the fact that it takes much less time and effort to create such effects at the end of the project in a 2D application instead of 3D software.

Moreover, 2D VFX can be of great help in fixing flawed shots. The production stage crew should do their job perfectly. But sometimes fixing things via 2D VFX in post-production is a lot more cost-effective than hours of re-working and re-rendering.

The job of a post-production team in an animation studio is to take an acceptable project from the production team and make a fantastic project in post-production by adding 2D visual effects and color correction.


What are some examples of the 2D VFX used in 3D animations?

2D VFX is used to create many different types of visual effects elements. The following are some examples of 2D effects that can be applied to 3D animations in post-production:

  • Sparks: The sparks effect is designed for sudden bursts of sparks, such as when a bullet hits a metal surface.
  • Pixie Dust: Pixie dust is the kind of magical dust associated with pixies; fairy dust or any undefined means of working magic, in a fantasy world.
  • Dust: Dust is among elements that can greatly boost the atmosphere of a scene. It is a must-have 2D VFX for any post-production artist!
  • Smoke: 2D smoke is cheap, quick, and easy to apply into a 3D rendered scene. Creating the same effect in 3D is usually much more time-consuming and costly.
  • Lens flare: A lens flare is an optical phenomenon happening inside the lens system of a camera. But a lens flare effect is an easy to create VFX element that can make 3D or even 2D animations much more interesting.
  • Rain/Snow: 2D rain/snow effect is realistic enough for a wide range of applications without much trouble.
  • Background replacements: Seamless compositing needs to be able to remove or add any backgrounds.
  • Camera shake: The camera shake effect can make steady footage look handheld. This can easily be done in post-production.
  • Rotoscoping: Rotoscoping is the act of tracing an object in film or video to be able to add or remove that object.
  • Fire/water: Fire and water are among VFX elements that are difficult to simulate in 3D. But the good news is most of the time they can be created in 2D without much difficulty.

The following video is an example of 2D VFX in a 3D animated video; showing 2D fire, sparks, smoke, background change, and rain effects in action:


Computer technology has gifted the animation world with the opportunity to work both in 2D and 3D when needed. 2D computer graphics have their own limitations but it proves to be very useful in creating different types of visual effects in animation studios; especially in the post-production stage of the 3D animation pipeline.

2D VFX is relatively more economical, simpler, and faster than its 3D counterpart. Moreover, certain functions like color correction, contrast adjustment, and compositing itself are 2D in nature. These effects can be more easily achieved in 2D.

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arash naghdi
Arash Naghdi

Arash is the equivalent of Buzz in Toy Story when he goes to infinity and beyond, but never comes back! responsible for our blog and content marketing efforts, he always delights the audience with his tenacity and passion in creating the extraordinary.

Payam Adib

Creating "something"​ out of "nothing"​ is the greatest joy for Payam. He believes content creation is the offspring of his innate characteristics including his never-ending thirst for painting, poetry, photography, music, and writing.

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4 years ago

Wow! Thanks for sharing your knowledge. This is really enlightening for beginners like me.

Payam Adib
Payam Adib
4 years ago
Reply to  Michael

Thank you Michael. Keep visiting us 🙂

4 years ago

Great article. Very informative and helpful details in creating and improving 3DAnimation. Thank you!

Payam Adib
Payam Adib
4 years ago
Reply to  Chris

I’m so glad you liked it Chris! 🙂

3 years ago

Amazing article Payam!

Bhawna Lalwani
Bhawna Lalwani
3 years ago

Thanks for the information. It really helped me in understanding the concepts.

e-Drishyam Infotech
3 years ago

One of the best guide for absolute beginners who are trying to find a career that compliments their passion for film, technology, design, coding, and digital art. very informative!

5 months ago

Hello! Very interesting article, although I am curious to know which software can be used to do a 2D VFX on 3D animation? Thank you!

5 months ago
Reply to  Liza

Thank you for your interest! There are many software options available for creating 2D VFX on 3D animation. We will write about this topic in the future.

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