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The difference between 2d and 3d animation

The most obvious difference between the two genres of animation is of course the three dimensional characteristics or the appearance of depth. While 2D animation is a flat animation and all the actions happen in the x-y axes, 3D animation includes an extra dimension and that is the z axis.
The working method for creating 2d cartoon characters and 3d animated figures are entirely different. While in 2D animation the process of cartoon character creating involves sketching the character from different sides with the help of onion skin tools. Creating a 3d model requires digital modeling and is more similar to sculpting a character than drawing one. An animator working in 3d dimensional environment constantly has to be aware of how his/her changes to the model side view affect the front view or any other view for that matter. Creating a perfect looking model is a difficult task since all the different views have to be taken into the consideration. Creating a 3d model is often based on a pre-made two dimensional sketches of the character from different views. After the model is created a material has to be assigned to it and the model has to be textured properly.
Although the process of character creating for 3D animation is usually taking more time than 2D character creation, the process of creating the animation itself can be considered easier by many animators. In 2d animation the animation is created by drawing almost every frame of the animated movie. In 3D , the animation is created by changing the poses and the placement of already created 3d models. The created scene can be viewed from different angles and by that it is easier and faster to create an illusion of change in the environment.
Leading 3d animation software programs are Maya, 3DS-MAX, Cinema 4D, Light-wave and Blender. The last one is actually free.(read an article about free 3d animation software)
2D digital cartoons are usually created in flash. Leading free software in the field of 2D cartoon animation is pencil. (Read a review of pencil software and other free 2D animation software).

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