AI in 3D Animation: 4 Core Techniques Defining Tomorrow

Author
Izaan Ishaq
Izaan Ishaq
Published
October 29, 2023
Updated on
December 18, 2023

Introduction

Ever thought about how AI in 3D Animation is being used? AI is increasingly being used to enhance 3D animation. While AI’s journey in fully integrating with 3D animation is still ongoing, its current applications are already making significant impacts. This post touches on emerging AI technologies in 3D animation and digital animation advancements. You will gain an understanding of the evolving relationship between AI and 3D animation and how it impacts both technology and creativity.

Let’s get started.

an abstract representation of a neural network in a brain like shape with interconnect

How Artificial Intelligence in 3D Animation is being used?

AI’s impact on 3d animation and more broadly computer graphics is helping in big ways. With AI, creating 3D scenes and animations becomes faster, and they look more real. AI’s role in 3D design extends beyond traditional applications, impacting digital art and 3D graphics enhancement. Many industries, like film-making, designing buildings, car models, and even some hospital tasks, are using AI. They’re exploring new things they can do with 3D, thanks to this smart tech.

This article is regularly updated to reflect the latest developments in this dynamic field. The third-party tools included are selected based on my personal experience with them, ensuring an unbiased and practical perspective.

If you have alternative suggestions or would like to contribute, please don’t hesitate to reach out to us via email.

Exploring AI-Powered Tools in 3D Animation

We will talk about how AI helps artists and computers work together to automate things. Plus, we’ll look at the AI-powered 3D animation tools that make all this possible. Whether you’re new to this stuff or just curious, you will know about how AI is changing the animation game.

1. Deep Learning in 3D Animation

It’s one of the emerging AI technologies in animation. The core idea behind using deep learning for animation is to train neural networks using vast datasets of animation sequences. These networks learn to understand the nuanced movements and styles of these sequences and can then be used to predict and generate entirely new animations. This process can significantly reduce the time and effort required to create detailed and lifelike motions.

For instance, by inputting a basic outline of movements, animators can receive a fully fleshed-out animation sequence, which can be fine-tuned to their liking. There is specific software made for this, which we will talk about below.

Tech Talk for the Curious

Several tools have emerged that make it simpler for animators to harness the power of deep learning. TensorFlow and PyTorch are two of the most widely used open-source libraries for machine learning and deep learning tasks. These libraries provide the backbone for creating custom neural network models that can be trained on animation data.

  • TensorFlow is a Leader in Machine Learning for Animation, making it a staple for animators venturing into AI-based tools.
  • PyTorch, known for its dynamic computational graph and user-friendly interface, allows for easier experimentation with deep learning models, making it ideal for creative tasks like animation.

Tools Available for Deep Learning AI

DeepMotion

Generate 3D animations from video in seconds through any web browser. AI-powered motion capture and real-time body tracking that’s easy to use. It makes the work faster, but sometimes, the animations it makes are not perfect. So, animators often have to check and fix them. This tool is good for making animations look real but needs people to make sure everything is just right.

Deep Motion AI powered 3D Animation tool

They’ve also released MotionGPT which can create realistic animations from just a text prompt.

Cascadeur

Cascadeur is a software for animating characters, making it easy to create realistic movements using AI. It lets you quickly set up key poses and apply physics to animations, ensuring they look natural. According to them, it’s a standalone software for 3D keyframe animation of humanoid or other characters.

Cascadeur - the easiest way to animate AI-assisted keyframe animation software

Never before making animation from scratch or editing one has been so easy and fun. Thanks to its AI-assisted tools, you can make key poses really fast, instantly see physical results, and adjust secondary motion. All while retaining full control at any point.

Wonder Dynamics

Cascadeur is a software for animating characters, making it easy to create realistic movements using AI for 3d animation. It lets you quickly set up key poses and apply physics to animations, ensuring they look natural.

According to them, it’s a standalone software for 3D keyframe animation of humanoid or other characters. Never before making animation from scratch or editing one has been so easy and fun. Thanks to its AI-assisted tools, you can make key poses really fast, instantly see physical results, and adjust secondary motion. All while retaining full control at any point.

Ebsynth

Using this tool, you can paint into video, edit, colorize, apply digital makeup, and make any change that comes to your mind. EbSynth distributes your edit of a single frame into the whole video. This is still in beta for almost 3 years and version 1.0 is yet to come.

image of Ebsynth ai tool behind the scene
MetaHuman

MetaHuman Creator for Unreal Engine allows 3D artists to craft custom digital humans using either preset options or their own scans and models, which can be rigged for animation within minutes. The MetaHuman Animator feature enables artists to capture and apply facial animations with simple equipment like an iPhone, translating subtle performances onto their MetaHumans with high fidelity.

MetaHuman Animator capture facial performances using an iPhone

This seamless integration into Unreal Engine streamlines the character creation process, making it efficient to generate realistic characters that are ready for animation and compatible with various levels of detail for real-time performance.

Nvidia Audio2Face

NVIDIA Audio2Face enables 3D artists to create facial animations from audio alone, using AI to generate expressions that match voice tracks in real time. The tool supports any language and can animate multiple characters simultaneously, with options to adjust emotional intensity and retarget animations to different character models.

NVIDIA Omniverse Audio2Face Is a Software Tool for Syncing Audio to Video Animations

It’s compatible with Blender and Unreal Engine, offering a streamlined workflow for animating 3D characters for games, films, and virtual assistants.

2. Generative AI

Generative AI is revolutionizing creative design, particularly in automated concept art. It learns from existing art, and then, like a brainstorming partner, it offers new designs for characters or landscapes. In 3D animation, artists can sketch a rough idea, and the AI fills in the gaps with rich, detailed imagery AKA concept art, speeding up the creation of animated movies or video games. Aside from that you can also generate 3D models, talking avatars, turn images into animation, and much more.

Tools Available for Generative AI

MidJourney

Midjourney is an AI that acts like a brainstorming buddy for creatives. It’s not building 3D animations directly but gives artists and designers a starting point. Imagine telling it, “I want a cozy, rainy city street,” and it whips up an image that captures that mood.

image of how to use midjourney

Folks in 3D animation use these images as inspiration or blueprints to model their scenes and characters, saving time and sparking ideas that they might not have thought of on their own. It’s like having a muse on demand to help kickstart the creative process.

Adobe Firefly

Adobe Firefly is like having a magic helper inside Photoshop. Say you’re working on a picture and want to add something new, like a blue sky or a car. Instead of drawing them by hand, you just tell Firefly what you want, and it adds it in for you.

Visual desmonstration of Adobe Firefly AI
Visual desmonstration of Adobe Firefly AI post

It’s really handy for making quick changes or filling in extra space around your pictures, making it easier for anyone to get creative without needing to be a Photoshop pro.

Nvidia Canvas

Nvidia Canvas is a nifty tool that lets you sketch out a scene with simple shapes and brushstrokes, and then it uses AI to transform those into realistic-looking landscapes.

 Nvidia Canvas app

It’s super handy for artists and designers who need to whip up a background quickly or want to explore different concepts without spending hours on it. With Canvas, you can switch up materials – say from snow to grass – and the whole scene changes accordingly. It’s great for creating panoramic images too, which you can then pop into 3D animation apps, helping to set the mood with lighting and reflections. Plus, you can export your Canvas creations into Photoshop to tweak them further or blend them with other artwork.

Runway Gen-2

Runway Gen-2 is a groundbreaking tool from a New York-based startup that lets you create short video clips just by describing what you want in words. It’s a huge step forward in making AI-assisted filmmaking more real and detailed, with improvements in video quality and the ability to control camera movements like a real director.

Runway Gen-2 text to video tool demonstration

Creative pros are using it to craft hyper-realistic video segments and stitch them together for larger projects, like music videos or short films, playing more of a director’s role while the AI takes care of the visual crafting.

Convai

ConvaAI lets characters in games and virtual worlds talk and act on their own. It’s like giving them a brain to chat with players and help them out, making the game more fun and real. Plus, it works with many different game-making tools.

ConvAI - AI character speech
Alpha3D

Alpha3D is a tool that makes creating 3D models as easy as pie. You just tell it what you’re picturing or upload a flat picture, and it turns that into a 3D model you can use in games, online stores, or even for teaching.

Alpha3D - Text to 3D Models AI Tool

It’s simple enough for beginners but also has advanced options for the pros​​. Game makers use it to build better virtual worlds fast, shops show off their products in 3D, and teachers explain tough ideas with cool 3D visuals. KAEDIM is also a great alternative.

3. 3D Reconstruction with AI Techniques

AI-driven 3D reconstruction uses a computer to transform photos into lifelike virtual scenes. It’s powered by neural networks that analyze images and generate detailed 3D models, giving artists and creators a powerful tool. In the world of 3D art, it’s a game-changer, helping designers bring realism to virtual environments. These models are used in various ways, from immersive gaming landscapes to digital sets for movies, enhancing the viewer’s experience with depth and realism.

Tools Available for 3D Reconstruction

Luma AI

Luma is an AI-powered app that lets anyone capture detailed 3D scenes using just an iPhone.

Luma AI - Capture 3D model from a phone

It transforms everyday photos into interactive 3D models with accurate textures and lighting. Users can easily digitize products, objects, and environments to create cinematic videos, share lifelike AR, and export assets for games and 3D engines. Luma brings real-world visuals into the digital space for creators and consumers alike.

Polycam

Polycam is a 3D scanning app that uses AI and AR technology to convert real-world objects into detailed 3D models. Users simply take photos or videos of an object with their smartphone camera.

Polycam - Create virtual objects quickly

Polycam’s algorithms then process the images to generate a textured, 3D model that can be exported for use in 3D software and applications. The app makes professional-quality 3D scanning accessible to anyone with a mobile device.

Reality Capture

RealityCapture is photogrammetry software that creates detailed 3D models from photos and scans. Its advanced algorithms analyze camera positions and geometry to build precise 3D reconstructions with true-to-life textures.

Reality Capture - Tool for Contructing 3D model from images

Professionals in industries like architecture, engineering, construction, and heritage preservation use RealityCapture models for 3D visualization, digital twin creation, CAD conversion, quality inspection, and more. The high-fidelity models generated from drone, aerial, and street imagery provide valuable data for projects across these sectors.

4. Restoration and Upscaling

AI is revolutionizing the restoration and upscaling of images and videos. Advanced deep-learning models can fill in missing information and sharpen details in low-resolution visuals. They employ neural networks trained on millions of samples to intelligently reconstruct damaged areas and enhance overall quality. This AI-enabled restoration and upscaling yields high-definition content from incomplete, noisy, or degraded inputs. It enables previous unsalvageable media to be revived for analysis and entertainment. Overall, the technology recovers visual information thought lost while breathing new life into vintage and low-quality images and films.

Tools Available for Restoration and Upscaling

Topaz Labs

What’s Topaz Labs? It’s a set of tools that use AI to help improve the quality of photos and videos.

Key Tools:

  • Topaz Photo AI: Tackles issues in photos like blurriness and noise.
  • Gigapixel AI: Helps enlarge images while keeping them clear.
  • Topaz Video AI: Aids in enhancing video quality, focusing on tasks like deinterlacing and upscaling.
Topaz Labs AI Photo and Video Enhancer Tool

Usefulness: For those who work with images and video, Topaz Labs provides options to streamline the polishing process of their content. It’s about saving time on editing, giving creators more space to focus on the creative aspects of their projects.

VanceAI

VanceAI is a platform offering a suite of AI-driven tools for quick and automated image enhancement and editing. It’s designed to streamline the editing process, making it faster and more efficient, particularly useful for graphic design, photography, and e-commerce.

Key tools include:

  • VanceAI Image Upscaler: Instantly improves image resolution, analyzing and filling in pixel gaps to convert images from low to high resolution without quality loss.
  • BGremover: Removes backgrounds from images in seconds, saving the time and hassle of manual cropping.
  • VanceAI Image Enhancer: Enhances photo quality with one click, adjusting brightness, sharpness, and other attributes to transform low-quality images into high-definition ones.
  • VanceAI Image Sharpener: Automatically sharpens blurry images, correcting focus issues to bring out the details.

These tools, based on Deep Convolutional Neural Networks, offer a significant productivity boost by automating complex editing tasks. For someone who regularly works with images, VanceAI can be a time-saver, allowing them to focus more on the creative side of image crafting.

AI Techniques Enhancing Software Capabilities

In DaVinci Resolve, AI is a game-changer. The Neural Engine brings features like Face Refinement for touching up skin tones, Detect Scene Cuts for intuitive editing, and Magic Mask for isolating subjects. Autodesk Maya introduced Maya Assist, which allows scene manipulation via natural language commands, making 3D modeling more accessible. And Unreal Engine is a powerhouse for training AI, making it crucial for real-world simulations and virtual environments. These examples show AI is not just a buzzword; it’s actively reshaping how we interact with and benefit from 3D software in our daily creative tasks.

Unreal Engine

Unreal Engine uses AI within its software, one common example is the use of AI in automating character animation, like with the MetaHuman Creator. This tool uses AI to generate lifelike facial animations and nuanced human characters.

Ludus AI offers AI tools dedicated to Unreal Engine for map development, blueprint, and code development, with a plugin.

  • Natural Language Processing for Scene Creation: With intuitive text commands, developers can instruct the AI to perform tasks like adding trees around a lake, allowing for the effortless creation of environments within Unreal Engine scenes​.
  • AI-Driven Development Support: The plugin provides specialized support for C++ within Rider and Visual Studio, handling Unreal Macros, Build Graph, and Build Commands, automating solutions for engine-specific mechanics​.
  • Blueprint Editing: AI-driven blueprint editing plugins enable the creation and modification of blueprints via simple text instructions, enhancing productivity and precision in the development process​.

These tools indicate how Unreal Engine leverages AI to streamline the game development process, making it more efficient and accessible.

Houdini

Houdini, known for its procedural generation capabilities, is incorporating AI and machine learning to enhance its software’s functionality:

  • Machine Learning Operators (MLOps) in Houdini:
  1. Integrates AI directly with Houdini’s tools.
  2. Simplifies using AI for Houdini tasks without complex scripting.
  3. Use Case: Automate repetitive tasks like animating a flock of birds.
  • ML Deformer:
  1. Automates realistic movement and deformation in animations.
  2. Works with Houdini’s new features for easier machine learning integration.
  3. Use Case: Create lifelike character animations by learning from real movements.
  • ML Terrain Generation:
  1. Uses AI to create detailed terrains from simple sketches.
  2. Generates landscapes in the style of provided training data.
  3. Use Case: Transform a basic sketch into a 3D landscape like a desert scene.

These tools help automate and enhance visual effects and environment creation in Houdini through AI.

Reallusion iClone and Character Creator

Reallusion’s iClone and Character Creator are harnessing AI in several innovative ways to streamline and enhance the 3D animation and character creation processes, so here’s a well-structured details as there are many things to cover:

  • Facial Motion Capture with AI (AccuFACE): Imagine trying to make a digital puppet mimic your facial expressions accurately. Typically, this requires a special camera setup and a lot of technical know-how. AI comes in by simplifying this process. It uses the power of the computer’s graphics card to analyze video footage of your face and then maps those expressions onto a 3D character in real-time. This means you can make a character smile, frown, or wink just by doing it yourself in front of a webcam.
  • 3D Head Creation from Photos (Headshot 2): Creating a 3D model of a human head from scratch is like sculpting a very detailed statue and can take a lot of time and skill. The AI in Character Creator acts like a skilled sculptor who can take a 2D photo and use it to automatically shape a 3D model. This is especially handy for artists who want to bring real people into digital spaces quickly and with realistic results.
  • Automated Dialogue Animation (AI Voice Actors Plugin): Making a character talk in a believable way usually involves recording someone’s voice, and then spending hours making sure the character’s lips move just right in sync with the audio. The AI here is like a puppeteer who’s really good at lip-syncing. You type the dialogue, and the AI controls the character’s mouth to match those words as if it’s speaking them, saving a tremendous amount of time.
  • Lip-Syncing (AccuLips): If you’ve ever watched a badly dubbed movie, you know how distracting it can be when the lip movements don’t match the speech. The AI in AccuLips is designed to listen to the speech in an audio clip and then adjust the character’s mouth movements so they’re in perfect sync with the words. It’s like having an expert in lip-reading teaching your character how to speak clearly.
  • Realistic Facial Expressions (Wrinkle System): Expressing emotions through a digital character can be as complex as an actor getting into character for a role. The AI-powered wrinkle system adds subtle details to the character’s face, such as creases and folds, as they change expressions, just like what happens in real life. This system acts like a makeup artist adding those small touches that make a performance feel genuine and alive.
iClone AccuFace - Video based AI Facial animation

By utilizing AI, Reallusion is essentially giving creators and animators a suite of tools that automate and refine the process of digital character creation and animation, making it possible to achieve professional results even without extensive technical skills. AI in this context serves as an expert assistant, taking over the tedious and intricate parts of the job, so the creator can focus on the creative vision.

Adobe After Effects

Adobe After Effects has been integrating AI to enhance its capabilities and streamline the video editing process. Here’s how AI is being used in After Effects:

  • AI-Powered Roto Brush: Rotoscoping is a technique that allows editors to isolate objects from the footage, which traditionally took a lot of time as it required going frame by frame. Using AI, the Roto Brush tool can now quickly and accurately extract objects from video footage, reducing the need for manual corrections. This is particularly effective for difficult-to-mask elements like hair or transparent objects​. For example, if you have footage of an actor and you want to change the background, AI helps to ‘cut out’ the actor from the rest of the footage without having to manually trace around them in every frame​.
  • Automated Mask Tracking: After you’ve used the Roto Brush tool to define the area you want to isolate, AI helps to track that area across frames. This means that if the object moves, AI helps to adjust the mask automatically, saving a lot of manual keyframing work. When an object in your footage moves, instead of having to adjust your mask frame by frame, AI predicts and follows the movement for you, only requiring occasional adjustments.

Conclusion

While AI is bringing exciting changes to 3D animation, making it faster and more realistic, there’s also talk about whether it might replace some human jobs. But it’s important to remember that AI is a tool to help artists, not replace them. It opens up new ways for creativity and can make animation work easier. As we move forward, it’s exciting to see how AI will continue to shape the future of 3D animation, both for artists and viewers.