3D Animation Principles and Techniques: Coursework Overview

Coursework in 3-D animation teaches students the necessary techniques to create animated characters and sequences. Training programs may be found at the certificate and diploma levels, as well as through associate's, bachelor's and master's degree programs. Programs may focus specifically on 3-D animation or cover animation in general; 3-D animation programs may also emphasize an area like video game animation or TV and video.

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Essential Information

Common 3-D animation coursework covers 3-D modeling, illustration, script writing, special effects, software applications and character animation. Through studying computer geometry, students learn to create realistic 3-D animations of objects and characters. They then gain experience using popular 3-D animation software to make models and animations, as well as learn to use special effects in their projects. Students also learn to create traditional illustrations using various mediums, and they gain experience writing scripts for films and other productions.

3-D animation programs generally include hands-on training and project-based coursework. A portfolio review is found in many degree programs, with some additionally requiring a thesis or final collaborative project.

Some descriptions of common concepts found in 3D animation courses are are shown below:

  • Drawing & acting for animation
  • Stop motion animation
  • Animated storytelling
  • Ethics & copyright
  • Photoshop
  • Cartooning & storyboards

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List of Common Courses

3-D Modeling Course

This course should provide students with the skills necessary to create 3-D computer models. Students first learn the basic elements that make up computer models in order to gain an understanding of the fundamentals of computer geometry. Concepts in texture mapping, lighting and rendering are typically included. During an organic 3-D modeling course, students may learn how to create realistic animations of organic models such as animals and humans.

Illustration Course

Using several different freehand tools such as pencils, markers and water colors, students explore fundamental techniques in illustration. Layout, composition, perspective and rendering skills are common topics. Students also learn how to turn ideas and concepts that apply to both commercial and technical art into visual depictions that are expressive and meaningful.

Script Writing Course

Students are expected to learn how to craft and communicate original story ideas in this course. An examination of different genres, featured films, short films and writing for television productions are normally discussed. A great deal of emphasis is placed on character development. Students often have to complete a script as a final project.

Character Animation Course

Understanding the basic principles in designing characters specifically for animation is the focus of this class. Students learn how to create life-like characters by giving them personalities, expressions and articulations. They gain skills in key frame techniques and the modification of motion capture data. A major goal is to render characters that are able to walk, run and engage in a variety of other physical activities.

3-D Software Course

In this course, students advance in their skills with 3-D modeling and animation software. They complete projects that deal with surfacing, lighting, rendering, animating and 3-D modeling. ZBrush, MotionBuilder, Autodesk Maya, Boujou and Mudbox are among the possible software with which students may work.

Special Effects Course

Students explore methods for applying camera and lighting techniques to computer based animation. They study ways to control shadows and reflections and learn how to render glass, metal and a variety of other materials. To animate more dynamic objects such as sparks, fire and rain, they learn how to use particles. The software utilized to accomplish this often includes Boujou, Mental Ray and After Effects.

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