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Another Dimension: Bringing Your Brand to Life in 3D

blog header for 3D animated commercial production post

There’s lots of ways to describe 3D design and animation. Beautiful. Eye-catching. Squishy. But for marketers and brands who have never entered the stylistic space before, it can also be described with another word—intimidating. 

Like most of my issues in life, I blame Shrek. 

Many of the defining and popular works of 3D artistry are long-form 3D animated feature films. You know…cowboy meets spaceman…blue people meet box office history. With these works as a common reference point, it’s easy for someone to think that a 3D project might require a blockbuster budget, a massive team and a lengthy timeline. 

As someone who has studied the craft of 3D production for over a decade, I don’t want it to seem intimidating, or even worse, inaccessible. 3D design and animation creates a unique opportunity for visual expression, and the advent of faster and more efficient computing power has enabled 3D animation to be viable for projects of all different sizes. Heck, even the hardware in our phones can render 3D filters these days—remember the popular Snapchat filter with the dancing hot dog? 

If you’re curious about bringing your visual branding into 3D, or integrating it into your video production needs, perhaps I can help you feel more comfortable in taking that leap. Let’s go!

Why 3D?

All forms of animation are beautiful and expressive. So you might be asking yourself, “why 3D anyway?” After all, flat stuff is great—flatbreads, flathead screwdrivers, flat-rate shipping. You get the picture. But here’s a few reasons why I think 3D provides a unique advantage to showcasing your product, platform or brand message through video.

3D allows you to show things with accurate scale and depth that are hard—or downright impossible—to film with live action. Imagine exploring a photorealistic 3D model of the doomed Titanic room-by-room. Or, a groundbreaking dental or medical procedure within the body. Realism is important when communicating concepts, and a fully-formed object within a space gives viewers a true reference point.

Using 3D animation allowed us to show angles of a dental procedure that would be too challenging (or messy) to capture through live action. 

Or, imagine that your company is creating a new device that is still in production. It’s important for potential customers to see how it looks—but producing a marketing video won’t line up with the release date. 3D design and animation is a perfect way to bring an item that doesn’t exist yet, a way that feels tangible, professional and credible. By rendering your device in 3D, you’ll be able to highlight all the features for future customers. Our project with Distributed Spectrum was a great example of this common situation. They have a robust software system for working with radio frequencies, and a companion physical production that was still being made. By modeling their device in 3D, we were able to craft a video that demonstrated its benefits in visually interesting ways, without needing a physical one present.

Without a physical version in hand, we used a 3D model of the client's product to give it depth and elegance. 

3D offers a way to show software with depth and clarity too. Sure, you could aim a camera at a computer screen or smartphone—but you’ll probably get some screen glare, not to mention lose details of your intricately crafted UI design. By translating your interface into 3D, you can zoom in, zoom out, and highlight elements so that your potential customers immediately capture your value-add. 

No screen glares here. Or awkward reflections of a cameraman. 3D animation is the perfect way to make a digital platform pop with crisp clarity. 

3D-Ready, Already!

It may feel like a big jump to bring your visual branding or product into the 3D space. But chances are you’re more prepared for a 3D production than you think. 

More often than not, our clients’ products already exist as CAD (computer-aided design) files, which are created as part of the manufacturing process. Creating a 3D model from scratch can be time-intensive, but most 3D animation software can import these CAD files with ease. Now something that would take a few days of work can be ready to render in seconds. CAD files also give our team some creative flexibility, and can truly make a project sing. As we kicked off a project with Logitech for their M650 mouse, we learned early on that we had CAD files at our disposal. We were able to craft a clean, minimal line art style that really elevated the product and let us show its versatility.

One simple CAD file opened the door for an imaginative explainer video journey. 

No CAD files? No problem. Your existing brand guidelines are a perfect starting point for a project. Things like vector logo files, color palettes and fonts can all be rendered easily in an extra dimension. 

Terrific Technology

Maybe your budget is closer to an Instagram Reel than a movie reel. That’s totally fine!

Over the decades, the software needed to design and animate 3D objects has become more and more powerful, and also more available to artists. This doesn’t mean it’s any easier, or requires less of a creative vision. There’s lots of knowledge and practice that 3D designers and animators need to have, and I can attest that it’s a lifelong journey. But the benefit of technology is that it gives us lots of creative ways to approach a project, and helpful tools and time-saving efficiencies to get a job done. 

For example, photorealistic particle effects allow 3D artists to simulate natural phenomena such as water, snow, smoke and fire—all within the software. You could imagine how helpful that would have been in the 1930s as the Disney animators were hand-crafting the dramatic splashes of Monstro the Whale in Pinocchio. Speaking of, 3D software also allows users to rig and puppeteer characters—or even model eye-catching set pieces and add visual textures. These are just a few examples of the tools 3D artists are working with, but a main takeaway is that technology has made 3D productions faster and more flexible than decades past. 

Another benefit of 3D is that after a lot of the hard work is done, it’s possible to re-use captivating 3D assets to then make production of future videos easier. Here’s an example about relieving production pain…for a pain reliever. For a recent project with KOURZEQ, they sent me a bottle of their canker sore paste which I modeled using Cinema 4D. We then used the model for hero videos, social media content and promotional stills.

3D doesn't have to be a sore subject. Especially when you have a cool product model that you can use now accross marketing assets. 

And of course, 3D does not have to exist in a silo all by itself. You can combine different animation techniques for the best of both worlds. 3D animation can be the conceptual sprinkle to help make a project pop and unite some of Demo Duck’s other core styles. Beumer Group asked for our help demonstrating a pouch system for distribution centers, knowing that it would be pretty hard to remove a warehouse roof to film the system in action. We’re animators, not demolition experts. By recreating it in 3D, we were able to quickly convey a complex system, and then married it with 3D interiors and characters for a little warmth and humor.

3D + 2D = Explainer video magic. 

Ready for the Next Dimension? 

3D animation has been a lifelong passion of mine. It’s taken me from modeling self-portraits of friends in high school (often disturbing) to a professional career working on movie titles and Super Bowl commercials. And even as a medium that is now over 50 years old, I feel it’s just getting started. I just returned from SCAD’s CoMotion event this spring, where I met a variety of students learning about 3D, motion design and animation. It’s inspiring to see them learning the discipline, but also adding their own unique artistic perspective to push it forward. 

It’s a very exciting time, and an opportunity for brands and organizations to present themselves in new and multi-dimensional ways. Many have already entered the 3D space already—and remember, it’s never fun to get left behind! If you’re ever interested in bringing your brand to life in a unique way, we can help make the process seamless, educational and fun.

Written by Jake Allen
Jake is an Associate Creative Director at Demo Duck and brings his experience with 3D animation, motion graphics, and tap dancing to a wide range of productions.