There is a vast difference between 2D and 3D animation software. A 2D animation program will give you the ability to draw or import images and adjust frames, but 3D animation requires many more tools and features. This is because you are working with a completely new axis, and the designs themselves are technically more complex. The best way to explain what 3D animation software is would be by describing the major features you can expect from this type of software.
The majority of 3D animation programs have a modeling feature. This is where artists create characters, objects and scenery. The whole process starts by creating a grid map for the architecture of the object, but none of the colors and textures. These are added later after the object is properly mapped.
There are some 3D animation programs that don’t have modeling features as they focus only on the animation portion and not modeling and creating objects.
One of the most important features of 3D animation software is bone mapping. This creates virtual bones within the character or object. This feature allows the artist to create joints, and it ensures that the character can properly move. For example, the artist can add an elbow to a character. This ensures that the arm moves properly when the motions are animated.
The virtual camera acts like a real camera in the digital space. This is a feature that allows the artist to record motion at different angles. Combining different angles, just like with a real camera, can create dramatic scenes. Many 3D artists use techniques similar to cameramen to create scenes.
There are several different ways that 3D animation software allows an artist to create motion paths, but it really boils down to two different methods. The artist can create all of the motions by hand. This process is arduous and takes a long time, but it is often cheaper (if one does not consider the amount of time it takes) and allows the artist to perform inhuman or difficult to perform contortions if they are needed for the animation.
The other method is through motion tracking. An actor will wear special equipment and he or she will then perform certain movements. A camera and the equipment will convert the movements into data, which can then be used in the animation. This method requires more money because an actor has to be hired, but it often saves a lot of time.
Just like its 2D counterpart, 3D animation software allows artists to create different frames. This is practically identical to creating frames with 2D animation, but some simple motions can be created with little effort. For example, the artist needs to make a 3D logo appear as if it is popping out at the audience. A 2D program would require the artist to draw the logo incrementally getting bigger to simulate this effect.
A 3D artist would start the first frame with the logo as a small size, and then the artist would just increase the size of the logo and place it on the last frame. The program would understand that the logo has to get bigger, and it would do the incremental work without further instruction.
3D animation software is very similar to 2D animation software in some respects, but it has many other features due to the technical nature of 3D animation. While these programs are more advanced, they typically aren’t that difficult to use with a bit of training. You can often figure out all of the tools yourself with a book or in a few months with a class.