Introduction: Making a 3D Animation From a 2D Picture

About: Software geek, electronics enthusiast, musician, artist ... I enjoy making stuff, and discovering new things!

This video instructable is the "making of" for a 3D promo video I've been working on, for a Beatles book.

Starting point:

A detailed black and white photo-realistic drawing by the co-author, Jeff Aarons, professional illustrator, which was used for the front cover of the book.

A throwaway comment by Jeff about the internal silhouette/cartoon illustrations "pity we couldn't have these as an animation!"

A crazy idea involving Blender-3D.

Ending point:

Cool animated video, and some new bits of Blender investigated!

Step 1: Software

Expensive Software:

Original illustration, a hybrid of free-drawn organic elements in Adobe Photoshop, and synthesised parts in Adobe Illustrator.

Reasonable Software:

Audio multitrack/mixing: CoolEdit Pro 2.1 (now known as Adobe Audition, but the original is better)

Free Software:

Post-processing and editing/cleanup/decompositing: The GIMP

2.5D-3D modelling, animation, rendering, video editing: Blender-3D

Titles on "making of", desktop capture: FFMPEG


For when backed into a corner, to find all those excellent tutorials people leave lying all over the internet, answering questions that start with "Why won't Blender ..." "How can I make Blender ..." ... Google!

Step 2: Key Concepts

  • Decomposing a source image from a flat drawing to animate-able pieces on layers
  • Retouching and repairing
  • Importing to Blender as image planes
  • Positioning in 3D to closely mimic the "flat picture" starting point
  • Simplifying animation by using "empty" objects as a sort-of marionette puppet control for each character to rotate (in Y) and sway (in Z)
  • Using Blender "constraint" and "influence" parameters to change the amount/range of animation for realism
  • Timing animation to music
  • Animating a single camera and its "look-at" point.

Step 3: The Idea

My initial idea was to simply make a flat 2-D animated version of the cover picture, with The Beatles playing and wobbling their heads.

Once this "proof of concept" worked, this blended into the idea of the stage they were performing on being the inside of the book, in actual 3D.

Due to the flat nature of the original drawing, and thinking about papercraft/silhouettes and cutouts led me to the idea of a pop-up book, the opening of the book revealing The Beatles inside. I can't hide the 2-D nature of the drawing, so work with it, not against it.

I skipped past 2.5D (aka motion parallax enhanced photograph) ... but will be coming back to that in another project.

And finally, I remembered the old show "Pop Goes The Beatles" and kicked myself for not noticing the connection earlier!

Step 4: Post-processing

The moving-camera rendered animation was finally inter-cut with some of the static-camera shots from detail-check test renders (the ones that worked!), and then adding text overlays, watermarks, an animated audience overlay, and re-laying of the music track/screaming to the new edit.

This was also done in Blender, in the VSE (Video Sequence Editor).


Making Of Video

Final Promo Video