3D Explainer Videos

The benefits of combining 3D animation and graphics with the web/internet to distribute compelling marketing material world-wide, are well established. If you’re not doing so, you’re missing opportunity.

3D Explainer Animated Video:showcase your products and services in the universal language of visual intelligence.
3D Explainer Animated Video: Created for Munters as part of a larger animation project explaining their unique approach to cooling data centers.

3D explainer video is the latest term for something we’ve been doing for a long time. CraneDigital has nearly 30 years of experience combining advertising, marketing and publishing with 3D animation, graphics and video production to visualize and explain our client’s products and services in unique, compelling and entertaining ways. Yeh, that’s a pretty long sentence, but the search engines will love it.

Munters SyCool animated explainer video
3D explainer animated video
3D explainer animated video: Created for client to showcase unique industrial design benefits.
Radiate from Nutrien Ag Solutions. This video uses 3D animation to explain the benefits of Radiate from Nutrien Ag Solutions.

Explainer videos explain and showcase your products and services in a concise, unique presentation ready to deploy via the web to a world-wide audience. You’ve heard it a million times and it’s even more true today: a picture is worth a thousand words. How many more words is a short, precisely targeted animated explanation of your value proposition worth?

3D Animated Explainer Videos
Working closely with in-house video production team, CraneDigital provides high-quality 3D animation to showcase products in larger, corporate video projects.

The web-surfing public no longer wishes to be bothered by reading to understand information, especially complex, technical information. Instead we’d like to have it explained to us in easy to understand words, with moving pictures and a friendly voice and catchy music to set the tone. Strategically include your corporate-approved logos, fonts, colors, etc. to uphold the all important branding guidelines and you have something AI could never do.

Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization: Cleaning the air in a pandemic.
Created for Lohmiller & Associates during the height of Covid. This project explains how the air is cleaned with Needlepoint Bipolar Ionization.

Explainer videos can be as simple or elaborate as required. The goal is always concise, brief messaging that reaches the right ears and creates a response.

3D explainer video for Shell Oil
Created for Shell Oil, this project explains the complexities of an enormous underground engineering feat; a freeze wall acting as a barrier containing subsurface contaminates. Otherwise impossible to grasp by the general public, this project was designed to showcase the depths with which Shell is willing to go to in order to protect the environment. Everything was modeled by CraneDigital using on-site photographic reference.

Let CraneDigital put our nearly 30 years of design, communication, marketing and animation experience to work for you. A long list of happy clients is proof we’re exceptionally good at it. Give us a call. We can help.

Industrial Animation Case Study: Cahill Heating

At CraneDigital we get to work on some really fun projects, but sometimes aren’t able to share them right away. One thing is for sure: one of the greatest parts of this job is learning something about every industry that walks in the door. It’s an established fact that most communication happens at about an 8th grade level, so “talk to me like I’m in 8th grade” is my typical request to new clients explaining their business.

Not long ago we had the privilege of working with a new client, Cahill Heating, to introduce their revolutionary flameless, portable heating technology. It’s pretty impressive: essentially these guys figured out how to put a jet engine in a trailer, then transport that trailer to the coldest places on earth to use the heat from the engine to keep job sites warm.

Cahill Heating Jet Heat Micro Turbine

“CraneDigital did a fantastic job in a timely manner, on budget, creating a marketing video that perfectly captured our value propositions. It was clear that they did a lot of research on the industry and our business to create a unique and powerful marketing message. Throughout the project, John was very communicative and responsive and he was great to work with. We recommend Crane Digital to any specialty company trying to set themselves apart from their competitors.” – Cahill Heating Services

Comparing one Cahill heater to the competition illustrates how efficient the Cahill heating system is.

There were a few important aspects about Cahill’s value proposition it was important to make clear. One, it’s flameless. In combustible environments flameless heat is a must. Anything risking explosion or fire is a show stopper. The second – fuel consumption. In the rented heat business, fuel represents one of the most significant expenses. You have the cost of the rental unit itself, then the cost of the fuel on top for total project cost.

Industrial animation explains technical concepts in visually understandable terms

So whatever can be done to minimize fuel consumption saves money. One of the value-adds of the Cahill system is it burns less fuel. Cahill’s value prop was they could heat your work site safer, faster, more fuel efficiently and cost effectively, with fewer heaters and less equipment repositioning than anyone else. In fact, no one else was even close.

Cahill Heating portable trailers.
Whether you have CAD files or not, we can help. Only one of the above trailers leveraged available CAD data. The other needed to be modeled to round out the solution.

So how to get that across in a short, to-the-point video. That’s where CraneDigital comes in. Helping refine the message, then craft visuals explaining the process is our thing.

We set about working with the script generated to come up with shots supporting each idea. The shots were roughed out, approved, then moved to production. The net result was a final marketing message explaining the business, the value proposition, and the solution to some difficult problems. The process took about 6 weeks from start to finish.

Stylized approach to showing how Cahill Heaters heat construction sites.

Let CraneDigital help present your unique message to your target audience with compelling, informative media. We have a 24 year track record of intimate, client-focused listening, working hard to understand your business, then recommending and executing. Give us a call. We can help.

Industrial Animation Product Video of Clean Water Process

Industrial animation, product Videos: Recently we had the opportunity to work with long time client Milton Roy on a fun and challenging project. The goal was to create comprehensive but as short as possible animation showing the major steps in the process of cleaning water for human consumption – and where their equipment figured into each step of the process.

industrial animation of clean water storage tower and tanks
industrial animation of clean water storage tower and tanks
3d technical illustration of water treatment plant chemical feed building, with labeling by CraneDigital.
3d technical illustration of water treatment plant chemical feed building, with labeling by CraneDigital.

This industrial animation project lasted for several months and underwent many iterations as we all realized just how many important steps there were. Tremendous thought and engineering talent went into each decision regarding the best way to communicate vital steps, and associated equipment choices. This is essential when creating accurate industrial animation and 3d product videos. The challenge is always to be brief but accurate.

industrial animation of clean water mixing clarifier flox basin
industrial animation of clean water mixing clarifier flox basin
Great care was taken on every detail to make sure we weren’t misrepresenting anything – but also with the clear understanding this was – though technically accurate – clearly a creative interpretation of the process, not an engineering schematic.
industrial animation of low lift pump station
industrial animation of low lift pump station
One of the ongoing challenges of industrial animation and accurate 3D product videos is balancing accuracy and technical complexity with the need to simplify for presentation’s sake. It’s a delicate balance. On the one hand there are the brilliant, talented engineers who’ve spent sometimes years designing and perfecting their piece of the puzzle. On the other, the non-technical audience easily confused by unfamiliar terminology.
industrial animation of sand filtration basin
industrial animation of sand filtration station
Step 1, intake. The idea was to create the different steps in a modular approach to simplify working on each step individually.

Several different approaches were proposed, all geared towards creating a friendly, stylized but recognizable rendition of equipment and environments. The information needed to be organized and presented in such a way to get the point across and to keep pace with contemporary communication culture. In other words, it had to be a little fun too.

This industrial animation project stretched organizational skills, software limits and hardware power to the max, requiring many man hours as well as many more machine hours. The end result was a presentation that succeeded on all levels and made our client look like a hero to their boss. That’s a win, and worth all the hard work that went into it. 3D product videos are always a challenge, but we work hard to make it fun and worthwhile to our clients.

How can CraneDigital help you communicate your difficult to understand message to your audience? We’d love to chat about it.

3D Cut-Away Illustration

3D Cut-away illustration: Hustler Turf's Super Z riding mower.
3D Cut-away illustration: Hustler Turf’s Super Z riding mower.

3D Cut-away illustration is an excellent way to showcase your products by controlling what you want to reveal and protecting what you don’t. Using 3D Cut-Away Illustration and Animation for potential marketing solutions instead of relying on video or photography – benefits your next graphic design project or marketing effort.

3D explainer animated video
3D Cut-away illustrations of industrial power receptacles.

Why Create a Cut-Away Illustration?

In the real world, visualizing how something works can be difficult. Engineers work hard to create excellent products, but it can be challenging to visually convey the finer points without revealing its secret sauce. This delicate balance requires skill, artistry, and technical aptitude.

3D Cutaway Illustration of Mamiya RZ67 Pro II medium format camera.
3D Cutaway Illustration of Mamiya RZ67 Pro II medium format camera. 3D model of the camera was created by careful study of the actual object and modeling from scratch (no CAD).
3D Cut-away illustration is an excellent way of explaining your products by controlling what you want to reveal and protecting what you don't. This internal floating roof storage tank shows exactly how the concept works.
This internal floating roof storage tank shows exactly how the concept works. Internal floating roof tank, created for LEC Global.

3D cut-away illustrations are a great way to show off your product’s features and benefits. Controling what to reveal while keeping the rest hidden helps understand important details not visible before.

Data Center 3D Model: two-story, 48MW ITE data center is a complex image to digest. Using visualization techniques like before and after we're able to provide a better look at what's going on under the roof.Data Center 3D Model: two-story, 48MW ITE data center is a complex image to digest. Using visualization techniques like before and after we're able to provide a better look at what's going on under the roof.
Data Center 3D Model: two-story, 48MW ITE data center is a complex image to digest. This image uses visualization techniques like cut-away illustrations and before and after comparisons to provide a better view under the roof. Two-story, 48MW ITE data center created for Munters.

Fusion of Art and Technical Illustration

I learned about cut-away illustrations years ago upon discovering David Kimble’s work, a famous airbrush artist known for automotive masterpieces. His work inspired me to create my own versions of such illustrations. One big difference between what Mr. Kimble did and what we do at CraneDigital is the use of computers. David created all his illustrations by hand, using an airbrush to painstakingly draw every detail.

3D cut-away illustration is used to showcase different aspects of the rain cycling process.
3D cut-away illustration is used to showcase different aspects of the rain cycling process. Rain cycling diagram created for Rain Cycling.

Like Mr. Kimble, before the 1990s, I used an airbrush for my work. As the images became more complex, I chose to use the computer instead. This opened the door to precision otherwise unattainable, elevating the results from an artist’s interpretation to precision graphics.

David Kimble
David Kimble stands alone atop the world of automobile art. His famous illustrations for automotive giants served as early inspiration for what CraneDigital now does on the computer.
Successful animated product videos use easily understood imaging to explain sometimes complex ideas.
Still from animated video explaining how needlepoint bipolar ionization is used to clean the air in the covid pandemic.

Protect your Intellectual Property

Concealing proprietary modifications or protected features within a product is a breeze with 3D cut-away illustrations. This technique allows you to confidently safeguard your intellectual property and maintain control over sensitive information.

3D Cut-away illustrations are an excellent way to explain your product’s features, benefits and value proposition. By either ghosting away the exterior shell or slicing away a portion, details previously invisible are now visible.
3D Cut-away illustrations are an excellent way to explain your product’s features, benefits and value proposition. By either ghosting away the exterior shell or slicing away a portion, details previously invisible are now visible. DR2500 Scanning Spectrometer created for HACH.

Flexibility and R.O.I.

Laboring over a single view only to have the client wonder what the image might look like from a different perspective happened more than once. 3D cut-away illustrations exist in a360° environment with virtual cameras and lights. This allows complete freedom of movement around the object. Being able to see into the inner-most recesses of something to understand mechanical benefits is just one of many applications. Using this method, once the object is created, there is no limit to how it can be visualized. There is also no limit to how many different images may be created from that scene. This increases your Return On Investment.

3D cut-away illustration is used to show the general layout of this water screening device. Large, complex objects can be visually presented in visually understandable ways to clearly communicate their unique features.
3D cut-away illustration is used to show the general layout of this water screening device. Large, complex objects can be visually presented in visually understandable ways to clearly communicate their unique features. Industrial water straining device created for French company Beaudrey.

The Path

Since discovering this approach to visual communication 30 years ago CraneDigital has worked with clients large and small to help visually realize their products and services to new audiences. Sometimes clients have CAD files created via the engineering phase/process of the project. We can use those engineering CAD files to accurately portray any object, providing marketing with imagery using endless angles, sizes or environments to craft the proper visual message.

Warehouse model created for TrenStar animated video. This warehouse was built inside and out to show various aspects of TrenStar’s supply chain process.

Engineering CAD files or Not

Other times, engineering has not been completed – or even begun. Clients are seeking imagery for concepts to raise capital and begin the actual design/manufacturing phase. No problem – we can help there too. CraneDigital can take any starting point you have, whether sketches on napkins, PowerPoint presentations, verbal descriptions or tight conceptual sketches and create believable, plausible, compelling imagery to assist others understand your vision.

  • CraneDigital has been creating 3D cut-away illustrations and animations for 30 years. Inspired by early artists working before the computer with airbrush and traditional drawing methods, we moved to the computer to perfectly leverage size and scale relationships – and every nuance to perfectly present each object. Industrial water strainer created for S.P. Kinney Engineers.
  • If the goal is complete flexibility in marketing, an object trapped in CAD is a bit like having built a ship in a bottle. We’re experts helping move your CAD data set to a more suitable high-quality illustration and animation environment. Industrial water strainer created for S.P. Kinney Engineers.

Optimizing 3D CAD Data Sets for Animation

3D CAD animation
John Deere Undercarriage, a massive CAD data set moved from engineering to the 3D animation environment for explainer video creation.

We’ve had the privilege of working on several fun projects with different companies over the years. One thing they have in common: they had CAD data trapped in engineering applications and need to turn that data into effective marketing communications. Optimizing 3D CAD data sets for animation takes time and attention to detail, and is a core competency at CraneDigital. It is absolutely essential to ensure a high-quality project is delivered. Once complete, the model is then ready for any assignment required by the client.

Exterior ghosted away to reveal interior of how this jet engine from Cahill Heating lives in a trailer able to be transported to some of the coldest places on earth.
  • Fort Collins Graphic Design with 30 years experience.
  • 3D Cut-away illustration: Hustler Turf's Super Z riding mower.
  • Cuaway views of power receptacles
  • 3D illustration from CAD files: Created for Universal Motion Control, this image showcases two premiere products for marketing purposes.
  • 3D CAD animation
  • 3D CAD Animation used in 3D explainer animated videos
  • 3D CAD Animation used in 3D explainer animated videos
  • Product Animation Industrial Technical Animation

Translating existing 3D CAD data sets into functional 3D models for animation is step one. CAD data sets can be created in many different CAD software applications. Bringing these different file formats into the animation environment requires a flexible and competent workflow.

CAD animation
3D Animated explainer videos showcasing your CAD engineered product.

On complex assemblies such as machines with many parts this requires patience and attention to detail. Let’s face it – picking through complex CAD models with hundreds or thousands of parts can be a daunting task, and isn’t on every animators list of favorite things to do. Fortunately it is at the top of CraneDigital’s list of favorite things.

3D explainer animated video
3D CAD data set optimized for animation and illustration in explainer animated video

Often times CAD assemblies will come through with every screw, nut, bolt and widget required to build it properly in the real world. Any object visible to the camera contribute to a high degree of realism. The invisible objects hidden from a given shot are dead weight – only contributing to sluggish performance – and require removal. Re-organizing and grouping parts and sub assemblies according to how they’ll be animated and textured is one example of how you might organize a data set preparing it for animation.

Product Animation and Illustration using your CAD data.
Product Animation and Illustration using your CAD data.

Another example is having to remodel portions of the object. Often times the CAD translation process creates a model made up of far more polygons than necessary. Models can be initially optimized during the translation process with software and though a good first step – is not a complete solution. Just as an example, a simple cylinder may translate into many excess points and polygons, but in reality, could be re-created as a simple primitive which is much easier for rendering engines to work with. Though this article is about using existing 3D objects – the necessity to create completely new 3D components to repair objects that didn’t translate well is part of every project. This falls under the Modeling category and will be discussed later.

One final example is large, smoothly curved surfaces (think plastic, injection-molded exterior casings). Often times what should appear smooth and perfect instead appears with creases, edges or even worse – tears in the polygonal geometry. The culprits are rogue “edges” and “smoothing angles” that did not translate well. This can be one of the most difficult things to fix, requiring identifying the offending “edge” and working to resolve the issue. Sometimes you’ll think you’ve got it perfect, then test render from different angles with different light – and sure enough, there it is. Rats!

All of this work is considered Optimizing the model for animation. It’s time consuming but worth it, the end result being a perfect 3D replica-a digital twin- of the device properly set up to behave as it would in the real world: accept any motion, camera angle or close-up.

Medical Device Rendering
3D renderings of medical devices created from your CAD data.

In animation there are always ways to work around an imperfect model, especially if you’re only viewing it from one angle. If the camera doesn’t see it, it’s not there. But in 360° degree rotations or high-resolution still images for marketing it’s impossible to hide imperfections and everything needs to be done right.

Fort Collins Graphic Designer
Created for Universal Motion Control, this image is from a product animation showing the value proposition of their gear box.

CAD translation and optimization is a core competency at CraneDigital. It takes time and attention to detail, but is absolutely necessary to ensure a high-quality project is delivered. Once complete, the model is then ready for any assignment required by the client.