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.

 

What is 2D VFX?

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 a 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 being able to remove or add any backgrounds.
  • Camera shake: Camera shake effect can make a steady footage look like 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:

 

Conclusion

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

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

Chris
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Chris

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