Cutting cost on 3D Animation – Animating in a picture or video

One of the most common reasons that attorneys think they can’t use a 3D animation is because it costs too much. This post talks about where a majority of costs come from when creating a 3D animation, and also describes a specialized animation tool which can make animation budgets much more friendly.

First, here is a 3D animation using this specialized method – This demonstrative exhibit helped win a 100% defense verdict in a fatal car collision. By using this unique approach the cost of the animation was cut by more than 60%.

Landaverde v City of Fontana – 100% Defense Verdict – Lynberg & Watkins

What part of creating an animation costs the most?

Creating a three dimensional environment, like the one pictured below, is time-consuming. This 3D environment, (the entire scene excluding moving vehicles and people,) cost about $7,500 at average billing rates.

Now look at the side-by-side images below. The left shows a traditional photograph of a scene where an accident took place. The right is not another picture, it is a computer generated 3D model of a BMW placed on top of the picture. This technique of placing 3D objects on 2D photographs (or videos) completely eliminates having to create a 3D scene – and thus removing a big cost.

Like any process, this one has its pros and cons:


  • Eliminates environment creation time, drastically reducing cost.
  • Creates visually stunning animations.
  • Uses scientific measurements to establish foundation.


  • Viewpoints are limited to photograph’s or video’s original perspective, (e.g. unable to show a driver’s or witness’ view of the incident.)
  • Requires high quality photographs or videos.
  • Is difficult to use if the scene has changed since the incident took place (e.g. a tree was removed or lane striping was altered.)

Animating inside a picture or video is a technique that can drastically reduce the cost of creation. While traditional animations have the ability to show much more, it is surely a process that creates high quality, foundational exhibits on any budget.