In the first part of this series, we introduced the concept of hybrid 2D and 3D animation. This involves either animating a sequence in two dimensions and superimposing 3D elements, or by creating 2D assets in a three-dimensional animated environment. Because 3D animation takes place in a 3D visual environment, it allows for much greater control and manipulation of the assets on screen. We can now look at how this has been achieved in relation to digital motion graphics.

2D – 3D hybrid animation

By learning about the differences between 2D and 3D animation, we are given the tools to explore a hybrid format for motion graphics. This is conventionally done by combining a 2D ‘look’ or style with 3D techniques and modern technologies.

A more explicit example of this is the indie game Fez (2012). Fez received a lot of early attention precisely because of its unique style: a ‘retro’ platformer about a 2D character who finds a fez that allows him to move in three dimensions (see gif below). This not only produced a unique game mechanic of dimensional rotation, but also a unique visual style. Despite looking two-dimensional, the entire game was animated digitally, and provides a good example of how we can produce unique graphics by playing with these conventions. This has paved the way for a popularisation of ‘playing’ with dimensions in video games, such as in Monument Valley, resulting in an aesthetic style that is not only unique and highly functional, but also visually beautiful and welcoming (by invoking a ‘retro’ feel).

Fez mixes 2D and 3D animation to create a unique visual style

However, Fez represents a rather extreme example of the hybrid style. It also has much wider applications for motion graphics, wherein 3D post-processing and effects can be added to a 2D animation in order to give it a subtle sense of greater depth. A good potential application of hybrid animation is in motion infographics. This infographic is a good example. Although it appears to be completely two-dimensional (like a conventional infographic), as it moves through the sequence we notice 3D postprocessing effects used such as motion blur, as well as subtle 3D shadows and gradients on the different elements. Because we perceive objects in three dimensions, depicting them as three-dimensional inevitably means that we process information (and more of it, at that) about them in a much faster way. Hybridising allows these elements to stand out with clarity.

This infographic  represents a good example of a professional application of hybrid motion graphics.

Not necessarily through a return to traditional methods of animation, but through an invocation of their feel or style, animators are able to produce innovative motion graphics that capture the best of both worlds. In our next post, we will explore more in depth how motion graphics can be used to create animated infographics for different products and informative content.

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