OT: Animation Software for Engineering Videos?

frederick-wise wrote on 2/9/2015, 7:26 AM
Does anyone know of the type of software that is used to make beautiful 3D animations of techy things like streets, roads, sewer pipes with water flow, geologic cross-sections, etc. I use Vegas 13 to put together various videos for my environmental organization and they want me to look into animation software but all I seem to find is cartoon type of animation software. I see nice 3D "techy" type of videos all the time in commercials and on techy websites but don't have any idea what type of software makes them. I have an old Adobe Flash but it seems very limited to 2D animation.

Thanx for any replies!

Here is an example of the kind of video we want to make:


Steve Grisetti wrote on 2/9/2015, 7:41 AM
After Effects can do it. So can HitFilm, if you've got 3D models to load into it.

There are also dedicated programs for creating 3D fly-throughs of architectural designs.

But it's WAY beyond the capabilities of a video editor like Vegas. You need a 3D motion graphics and/or motion program.
frederick-wise wrote on 2/9/2015, 7:49 AM
Thanx Steve. Do you know the names of the soft-wares that can create 3D fly-throughs?

I think we have an older version of AfterFX (CS5?) somewhere but I have no idea how to create a 3D model.
set wrote on 2/9/2015, 8:26 AM
I don't think After Effects is the correct tool for this project...
So far I can remember, After Effects cannot make 3D model like the Youtube reference.

You will need to use 3D packaging software, like Blender3D, 3DsMAX, Cinema4D, or Google Sketchup, etc.


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john_dennis wrote on 2/9/2015, 8:36 AM
Many of those streets, roads and sewer pipes were drawn with products from Autodesk.

One of their animation programs is 3D Studio Max.

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Tech Diver wrote on 2/9/2015, 9:41 AM
After Effects by itself does not do 3D. You would need to purchase the Video Copilot Element 3D plugin: https://www.videocopilot.net/products/element2/ . There was a similar email a week or two ago on this very topic that has a lot of helpful information.

rmack350 wrote on 2/9/2015, 11:34 AM
+1 to John Dennis

Most likely the technical animations were done with autodesk products or something like them. It's a steep learning curve. The nearest free software I can think of would be Blender, which also has a steep learning curve but I think it can import CAD files of certain flavors.

There was another similar thread here just last week. I think another software application mentioned was Cinema4d.

If you want to just get a good overview of software titles you might try getting a one month subscription to Lynda.com and then browsing through the lessons. I find that's a great way to get a clear idea of what a software title does, and with the subscription you can look at every lesson they have available.

bdg wrote on 2/9/2015, 11:52 AM
A couple of comments on the fringe of your request:
1) The SCADA/HMI software Lookout does that sort of animation really well. But it is fairly expensive and not designed for producing demo's though I have done so with good results. The 50 I/O version is the cheapest and would be fine for simple animation such as your link. Steep learning curve though.
2) If your needs extend to beautifully created natural scenery then Vue is a good way to go. It does all types of programmable fly/walk/ motorbike/helecopter byes with ease. But expensive for the more powerfull versions. Also a steep learning curve.

If you are dealing with creating HMI's in industrial instrumentation then take a boo at Lookout. The 50 I/O development version costs C$1255.
Spectralis wrote on 2/9/2015, 12:07 PM
DAZ Studio is free and there are plenty of free models to use with it. There's also paid for architectural and environment content available that is pretty realistic. You can create a simple fly through using a city scape either in the form of a modelled scene or as an HDRI image in a skydome. The cameras in DS work as they do in After Effects or Hitfilm and the fly through can be animated. In terms of expertise I would say that a simple fly through over a cityscape isn't too difficult to create.
Alternatively you could mock up such a scene in Hitfilm using a few models and an image of a cityscape but the direction of the fly through would be restricted unlike in a properly modelled 3D environment that offers 360 degrees.
frederick-wise wrote on 2/11/2015, 12:39 PM
Thanx to all for the suggestions. I sent my question to HitFilm and they claim their software could reproduce the example video I sent them so I am trying to figure out how to do it with their demo version.
Tech Diver wrote on 2/11/2015, 2:45 PM
Back when I owned a copy of HitFilm 2, I created a camera path for a fly-through. Unfortunately, HitFilm was unable to smoothly interpret points along the path in the temporal domain such that their Smooth-Smooth interpolation resulted in the camera slowing down to a stop and then gradually speeding up again. This happened at every keypoint along the path. I then switched to linear interpolation with did not cause the camera to stop, but the fact that the path was a series of line segments resulted in detectable changes in camera trajectory. For me HitFilm's shortcoming was a real deal-breaker so I switched to After Effects CS6 which has excellent Bezier spline keypoint interpolation in both the temporal and spatial domains. Anyway, the bottom line is that you should check if HitFilm 3 has corrected this major shortfall of HitFilm 2.

Spectralis wrote on 2/12/2015, 9:25 AM
It's definitely worth following Peter's advice and trying the demo before buying Hitfilm. In any case, based on the video you linked to, you'd have to build many of the models used in that video yourself as I doubt they, or anything similar, is available off the shelf. I also doubt that the animation was created in a compositor such as Hitfilm.

I still think DAZ Studio rather than Hitfilm is the way to go if you want to make the kind of animations you linked to. Creating flowing water FX (if that's your intention) isn't going to be easy in low end software though. Fluid dynamics is much easier to replicate with more expensive software. If that's important to you then it might be cheaper and easier to hire a designer for these kind of projects instead of trying to create them yourself.
K-Decisive wrote on 2/12/2015, 3:41 PM
Some other things/ variations to try:

If you need to create models you can do that in blender, then export them out and load them into After Effects if you have element 3D. Then do the animation and rendering there. Could save a vast amount of rendering time and be fine for what you're doing. There's also some features in Element 3D for things like animated obj sequences. If you had an animated normal texture for the water you could fake water movement, or just use a noise texture in after effects.

If you want to get really crazy:
Look into Octane render also. Note that with GPU rendering there can be limits to texture memory and the number of textures (unless you use Redshift)

I currently use XSI and redshift render, but XSI is no longer available and Maya is probably overkill depending.
Spectralis wrote on 2/12/2015, 5:55 PM
Creating models is a complex skill in itself, as is animation and compositing all the different media into a professional looking video. The video linked to looks deceptively simple but, taking just one element, creating the turbulent water effect is very complex and will probably require expensive software to achieve that effect.

Yes, it's possible to create models in free or pay for software but even creating pretty simple objects such as those in the video and getting them to work correctly for the purposes of animation is quite a learning curve for those who've never used 3D software before. I'm not saying don't give it a go but don't be too disappointed if the final results don't match the video straight away.

While DAZ Studio has lots of cheap content that's easy to combine there hasn't yet been invented software that lets the user slot together objects that animate themselves even though the video might give that impression.
Spectralis wrote on 2/12/2015, 6:27 PM
Octane Render produces great renders but the standalone/plugin cost about $500 and then factor in the GPU cost. It's CUDA only so forget AMD cards and Vegas compatibility. Surprisingly OR is one of the cheapest GPU renderers available. The results are stunning and much quicker than CPU rendering (depending on the GPU/s.) I use it regularly for animation and can't imagine coping with animation render times without it. But I'd only recommend shelling out for it after spending time learning to use 3D software first.

iClone 6 also bundles a GPU renderer for $299 but unless paying for extra import/export software (3DXchange Pipeline at $299) it's limited to using Reallusion content as far as I'm aware. Apart from Blender which is completely free, many of the cheaper or free 3D software available require add-on purchases to gain extra (essential) features. There's even an Octane Render for Blender which costs nearly $500 (excluding GPU.) Very quickly the costs can mount up especially if buying content as well.
Lovelight wrote on 2/12/2015, 8:19 PM
Forget hitfilm and try eon vue.