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2D vs 3D Animation in Legal Presentation

What's the difference between 2D and 3D animation? When should (or must) you use one over the other? Why are these questions important to consider when investing in legal visual aids?

Understanding a few basic principles of computer animation will help ensure that your budget is focused on only the smartest, most cost-effective visual approach to winning your case.

Every attorney’s case is different, but visuals in litigation usually follow common sets of guidelines that our strategists will help you navigate.

You Need 3D Animation For Your Case When...

  • Your animation requires the ability to rotate the viewer's perspective around objects, realistically zoom in and out, and continuously maneuver the camera without having to cut to a dramatically different angle.
  • Your animation involves organs that move and fluctuate according to biological patterns, such as the heart and lungs, which require a higher tier of accuracy that only 3D software can achieve.
  • Your animation depicts cellular activity involving millions of particles that would be impossible to illustrate individually or accurately in 2D.
  • You need to emphasize an important point and anchor your audience’s understanding of that point with a powerful visual that leaves an unforgettable impact on their memory.

2D Animation Will Work For Your Case When...

  • Your animation doesn’t require the camera to move around much.
  • Your animation involves fixed subject-matter that doesn’t move or fluctuate often, such as the skeleton or intestinal anatomy.
  • You need to summarize many different injuries and surgeries in a short amount of time, in which case we will typically recommend a Digital Injury Summary equipped with 2D animations, illustrations, and other exhibits.
  • You're on a tight deadline or a tight budget.

The purpose of this guide is to help you understand these guidelines, and why you should consider 3D or 2D for certain scenarios.

3D Animated Camera Movement

3D animation is necessary when you want or need the ability to cinematically maneuver the camera throughout your animation with three-dimensional context. These two examples compare the difference between 3D and 2D animated cervical spine surgeries.

2D vs 3D Animation in Legal Presentation
3D Animated Cervical Spine Surgery
2D vs 3D Animation in Legal Presentation
2D Animated Cervical Spine Surgery

Notice how the camera in the first (3D) animation is able to maneuver through and around objects in smooth, continuous motion without having to make a dramatic jump cut between different perspectives.

In the 2D animation, whenever a perspective needs to change, it quickly cuts or fades to a new perspective with no camera movement. You can see this in the example below when the perspective quickly cuts from a side view of the spine to a top view of the vertebrae.

This is because the camera in the 3D animation is moving around an actual 3D object we created with three-dimensional context and texture you can see from every angle. If we were to try to make a similar camera movement in the 2D animation, the spine would look like a paper-thin, two-dimensional illustration (see below).

There are Pros and Cons for each approach. The 2D animation was created and rendered in a fifth of the time and cost of the 3D animation. The 3D animation helped return a $2.1M verdict for a routine case involving a herniated disc after a rear-end collision.

Choosing the right approach ultimately depends on what you need to show to make your point, and the level of quality you're willing to invest in achieving your target settlement value.

2D Animated Fixed Perspectives

2D animation may be a smarter option if your case involves subject-matter that does not move or fluctuate very much, and can be presented from one fixed perspective. This is especially true when animating surgeries on fixed areas, such as the skeleton or intestines below.

2D vs 3D Animation in Legal Presentation

Notice how everything can be seen from one perspective, with very minimal changes or fluctuation in what is happening. This is because much of what you're looking at are 2D illustrations, similar to the 2D animated spine surgery above. 

2D vs 3D Animation in Legal Presentation

The primary benefit of 2D animation is that it's usually faster to produce and less expensive - but this also comes with much stricter limits that require smart planning to avoid unnecessary change-order costs down the road.

For example, if you start the animation process in 2D looking at one perspective, and you later decide you want a different perspective, we would have to completely illustrate the new perspective from scratch. If the subject matter was created in 3D, on the other hand, the camera can be moved around the environment, showing any perspective in a fraction of the time.

3D Animated Dynamic Organs

3D animation is necessary when your subject matter involves organs that move and fluctuate constantly according to biological patterns, such as the heart and lungs. They require a higher tier of accuracy and realism that only 3D software can achieve.

2D vs 3D Animation in Legal Presentation
Double Bypass Surgery Animation

The 3D animation (above) was used in a case involving a corruption ring of cardiologists who performed hundreds of unnecessary heart surgeries on patients for the sole purpose of boosting profits. The purpose of this animation was to show jurors the unnecessary invasiveness a plaintiff experienced as tubes were attached to arteries and veins in his heart. 

This level of accuracy and detail (above) drops so drastically in 2D, we only recommend it when the organ is not the focus of your presentation and does not require much movement. Notice in the 2D animation (below) that the heart does not move. This is because it does not need to move - because the heart is not the focus of this case like it was in the double bypass surgery. 

2D vs 3D Animation in Legal Presentation

The focus of this animation (above) was a misdiagnosed blood clot. As you can see at 0:17 when we rewind it to the beginning, the blood clot was created in 3D to provide heightened realism and anchor the audience's attention and memory on that important detail. The heart was produced in 2D to save time and unnecessary cost on secondary details.

Therefore, if a constantly moving organ - such as the heart - is the focus of your presentation, it will require 3D to achieve a heightened level of accuracy and realism. If the organ only comes into your presentation as a background or secondary element, 2D animation may suffice.

2D Animated Injury Summaries

When your client’s injuries are numerous and complex, it can reach a point when it becomes much more cost efficient to package dozens of 2D animations and illustrations into a Digital Injury Summary.

2D vs 3D Animation in Legal Presentation
Digital Injury Summary (DIS)

Digital Injury Summaries incorporate all the visual components of your case into a single easy-to-use digital interface that brings your presentation to life. Recommended for catastrophic cases involving numerous injuries and complex surgeries, High Impact can customize your presentation to any subject matter, and equip it with powerful visuals that enable you to command the attention of your audience.

2D vs 3D Animation in Legal Presentation
2D Animation used in DIS to win $6M Slip-and-Fall Settlement

You might remember this animation (above) from the earlier section about 2D Animated Fixed Perspectives. It was used in a Digital Injury Summary that featured a series of four animations, which summarized the totality of a plaintiff's damages, and returned a $6M settlement on a slip-and-fall case.

3D Animated Cellular Activity

3D animation is necessary when your presentation needs to show cellular activity involving millions of particles that would otherwise be almost impossible to illustrate individually or accurately in 2D.

2D vs 3D Animation in Legal Presentation
3D Animated Stent Procedure with Cellular Activity

Particle generation is one of the few areas of animation in which 3D is exponentially faster than 2D. Instead of drawing and animating millions of cells, like you would need to in 2D, our 3D software can create particle movement scenarios based on sound science, using a few algorithms to simulate cellular activity in a virtual environment.

Therefore, if you need to show cellular movement, we will always recommend 3D animation.

The Bottom Line

Your visual media strategist will help you navigate these guidelines in a way that saves you the most time and money, while also leveraging the most strategic elements of your case with powerful visual anchors. The best way to ensure maximum quality, cost-efficiency, delivery speed, and bang for your buck is to prepare as early as possible for your next case.

High Impact’s team of medical experts, artists and developers can build and customize your digital presentation for any case involving personal injury, medical malpractice, birth trauma - or any subject involving complex information. Contact us here or call (800) 749 2184 to learn more.