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Mixing 3-d into 2-d animation

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Mixing 3-d into 2-d animation

I like 2-d animation, especially when an animator pays cose attention to subtle body movements. However, when it comes to environments, and vehicles especially, they look horrible most times. Shows like Simpsons, Futurama and family guy have rotoscoping features that I KNOW were done in 3-D.
How did they do that?

In my current project, I have a small car chase lined up, and I want the vehicles to look good and consistent. I am using Toon Boom Solo, and editing with final cut. How do I incorporate 3-d into these programs?
(I plan to purchase car models from freelancers once I find a compatible program)
Think "cartoon" 3D, like Initial D, or the other shows I mentioned.

Any info would be appreciated.

The shows you mentioned use a lot of toon shader plug-ins for their 3D software. That's about all I know about it, though. I do know Toon Boom gives you great multiplaning capabilities, (and the nifty virtual animation disc.) If you don't have a basic 3D program, Google Skethup is a free download. It isn't an animation program. But you should be able to get a few different views you can rotoscope over in Solo.

Do a lot of boarding and planning. If you cross-cut enough, you should be able to get away with a few different drawings for each car without having to do a full turn-around on anything. Just focus on depth cues and foreground/background relationships between the cars. A cool shot of the hero's determined face with a car gaining on him seen through the back window beats the crap out of just spinning a camera around a car, IMO. But I guess it depends on the style of the piece.

About the Fleischer cartoons, they often used that technique of building a model and using it as a background. They would position the cels vertically between the camera and the model and actually film it like that (rather than using multiple exposures).

Another idea:
In the early 80's, for the films Rock and Rule and Heavy Metal (and probably many others), they rotoscoped a model of a vehicle.

Here's a clip (the vehicle is used at 2:30, 2:50)
Another clip (look at 0:38 and 1:07)

This might be sort of an outdated technique, but I think it looks a heck of a lot better because it fits in with the 2D animation, rather than the distracting smoothness you get with 3D. When the animation is all 3D it's not really noticeable, but in Futurama for example, whenever 3D is used-- while it does look good-- it's a bit jarring.

I have used two and a half D techniques in some of my flash animation lately with the help of Swift3D, which is a simple 3D modelling/animation tool that can export "toon-shaded" vector art for import into Flash. I found that I invariably had to go back a rework the colors, edit the line work (it goes nuts with the linework at times) and add some hand drawn graphic elements to make it mesh with the rest of the animation, but it worked OK. Maybe a little quicker than rotoscoping (if you discount the 3D model building...for my cartoon I bought off-the-shelf 3D models and modified them, saving a lot of time)

You can see an example in this trailer...a couple of the shots contain 3D models, others were all 2D:

I spent a lot of time fussing with the 3D stuff, but in fact I found I really didn't need as much of it as I thought I was going to. However, there were a couple places in the cartoon when it was the ONLY way to accomplish what I wanted.

Rotoscoping would have worked as well, though.

I think one useful byproduct of the 3D was being able to use it as a guide for the artwork. For instance, I never used the 3D rendered pilot in the cockpit, but I used a crude model of him for a placeholder, and it proved handy as a reference for drawing the 2D pilot.

i have been watching Prince of Egypt and Road to El Dorado over the last few days. I notice a lot of instances where 3d bg and some props were used. Usually it was to give them the freedom of the camera movement the way they wanted it, so not to have to animate it. Rotoscopy works as well but it really depends on the project i reckon.