November 18th, 2015 | Chris Lloyd

Creative Corner: Bringing Life to Still Images with 2.5D Animation

ICRW Image

Last year, the International Center for Research on Women (ICRW) charged Hey with creating a video designed to show how evidence transforms the lives of women and girls. To bring fresh perspective and a storyline to photos provided by ICRW, we utilized a variety of techniques, including 2.5D animation. Through the use of 2.5D animation, we produced a visually arresting, informative, and emotionally moving piece that increased the organization’s awareness and inspired involvement and donations. 2.5D animation can effectively use images taken for print media, and turn them into a compelling story.

2.5D animation simulates the appearance of 3D with a 2D image.

By cutting the image into many pieces, we generate shadows and new perspectives, giving the image a three-dimensional appearance. At minimum, an artist will inspect an image and cut it into layers consisting of a foreground element, the main subject, and a background element. By moving these layers against each other, we create the illusion of depth. For example, in our ICRW video we created the impression of hands grasping together and pulling away (:20), when in reality, the image was only a snapshot.

Lends authority to the content.

While 2.5D animation commonly appears in historical documentaries, where no video sources exist, it has many interesting applications in advertising. Using animated still images rather than full motion video stands out from more traditional content. Generally (though this is no rule), it compliments slower, more deliberately paced content. Photographs invite us to inspect them for hidden details and interest; and subtle motion helps directs and holds the viewer’s eye on important pieces of the image. Because of the connection to historical documentaries, this style lends a sense of authority and reality to the material.
Take time into account before you begin your project.

Many projects can embrace 2.5D animation, but this technique suits earnest, reality-based messages best. If using more fanciful images, 2.5D animation may create a more cartoonish, whimsical feel. This technique often draws attention to itself, so only use it intentionally, after careful consideration.
Keep in mind costs when considering 2.5D animation. Depending on the image and particular application of the technique, costs vary widely. Sometimes the approach only requires pulling out from the image, and can be done in just a few hours. However, more complex projects can require dozens of individual layers per image, taking days to complete. If considering this technique, get your animator involved as soon as possible to ensure accuracy in your time and budget estimates.
If you’d like to bring your brand’s image to life with 2.5D animation, get in touch with us at

Animator: Jack Strain

Check out the video here.


Comments are closed.