Myth of 2D

From time to time, you encounter a discussion concerning concepts of 2D and 3D namely in the realm of animated movies, but also in computer imagery at large. General consensus of which imagery should be considered 2D and which 3D seems to be that if an image is drew by hand, it’s 2D imagery by default, whereas 3D imagery is always something realized with a 3D software like Autodesk 3ds Max. Simple enough, right?

So this may sound crazy, but that hand-drawn “2D” Bambi over there left looks pretty three-dimensional to me, and in fact, I don’t see any “dimensional differences” to the 3D rendered wireframe ball next to him. Notice how Bambi’s rear leg is behind the front one, and how the shape of his head, ears, and rest of the body are all properly aligned in perspective, no?

The thing is, the whole idea of 2D/3D division is inherently broken, which only distracts and limits our visual thinking in terms of representational imagery.

See, at the most fundamental level, it takes only two objects to overlap each other for image to become 3D – and I’m not just splitting hairs here, but illustrating how empty and misused the notion of 2D really is. Basically, if the use of perspective is considered as 3D imagery – as it logically should be – then at least 99,99% of any depictive imagery is in essence 3D, making the whole split meaningless. That Bambi is as 3D as any.

So, what people actually mean by “3D” in these days, besides the obnoxious stereoscopy, is really the process of how the perspective distortion is achieved in given image. If an algorithm from a 3D software or engine handles the perspective, then it is “3D”, but if the perspective is a result of a well-coordinated hand, it’s “2D”, which is of course a completely nonsensical train of thought.

Sure, 2D is a relevant concept in many fields, even within real-time imagery, like when talking about gameplay. But when discussing and evaluating computer-generated representations in general level, the notion often looses enough of its descriptive power to only confuse the discussion, not adding to it.

So next time, instead of asking:

Gee *drool*, is that two-dee or three-dee graphics I see?, ask:

Pardon me sir, but may I enquire how much of the perspective is conducted in this piece of art algorithmically, and to what extent artistically by hand?