Today we’ll talk about the details that make a good 3D product animation. First, imagine this situation: while browsing some e-commerce websites, you found a very interesting product and, based on the pictures, it is beautiful. Using the 15% off discount, you ordered two pieces!
A few days later, upon receiving your order, you can’t believe what you see. The difference between the pictures and the real object is striking, and you feel scammed.
The same thing can happen when ordering 3D product animation projects if you are not careful.
There is a huge difference in quality between a Pixar movie, produced by big teams over the years, and a 3D animation produced by a student, who is still taking his first steps in the software. The point is, it’s not always easy to see, for the untrained eye, what makes one more attractive and professional than the other.
You, as the client, can order the project with an expectation and end up not liking the result, even though you don’t know why. Likewise, you can expect some lower-quality animations and be surprised by what you get.
When it comes to 3D product animation, some technical details determine how real the final visual will be. So let’s understand some characteristics that define a beautiful render.
Characteristics of a professional 3D render
Please, compare both images below. Which one looks more real and which one is more fake?
If you agree that the image on the left is more realistic, congratulations! It’s not a subjective question. Since we were born, we observe the physical properties of reality that, when properly considered within the 3D environment, translates to us this sense of realism. The technical names of some of these properties are:
You might already know that the first element for an amazing 3D product animation is a well-made 3D model. However, the model alone is not enough. It is necessary to use a good material over it so that we can see if it’s made of metal, wood, glass, plastic, or anything else.
The material can be reflective, like a metal, and still look fake, though. This is almost always due to the lack of texture, which really brings the object closer to our reality.
Check the images above. Although both are metallic and reflective, they have a different look, and this is what we call texture. Metals can be rough or smooth, scratched or polished. Since everything in our world is textured, its absence in the 3D product can be interpreted as a false image.
Talking about the texture characteristics we have the surface imperfections. Just look closely at any glass table, window, or screen of your phone. You’ll find various fingerprints, smudges, scratches, and other marks like that.
These are the imperfections that we don’t always want to be in there, but that, without a doubt, are part of any objects’ texture around us. So it is to keep them in our 3D renders if the objective is photorealism.
Let’s not forget the shadows! Yes, of course. We see shadows everywhere in the real world, and when we look at a computer-generated image that simulates that reality, we expect to see proper shadows on objects! It’s not uncommon to see 3D product renders without realistic shadows.
Imagine you want to take a look at what’s inside a closed wooden chest. For that, you open a small crack on its side. The chest will remain dark inside, right? The same happens inside an unlit cave or a wardrobe. Whenever light can’t penetrate a space, we have ambient occlusion—which we’ll call AO from now on.
When we’re talking about 3D product renderings, it’s important to consider that there are spaces where AO is essential for the desired realism. We have this kind of phenomenon when objects overlap, intersect, or when the product has sharp angles, such as 90º. See below how a little detail makes a difference.
A very simple and everyday phenomenon, but very neglected in 3D. Global illumination is the act of objects bouncing and reflecting light on nearby objects.
If you light a wall with a flashlight, that’s lighting. When this wall reflects light to the other side, illuminating another area of the environment, we call it global illumination.
Real 3D vs Perfect 3D
Sometimes the 3D product animation is not meant to be a perfect simulation of reality in terms of texture. You know, we can avoid the imperfections of a real product, which is great. For trailers and commercials, that’s okay. However, when we are looking for a photoreal representation of the object, the mentioned material elements must be respected, as the quality of the final result will be much better.
Do you need a 3D animation for your product?
If so, we got you covered. We’re a specialized 3D product animation studio, and we can help you from the concept to final delivery.
If you can spare 3 minutes, click here and share as much as you can about this project. If you would like to learn how the process works, we have listed the most common questions we receive here. Thank you for taking the time to read.