FX’s Archer – A Unique Blend of Animation: Mixing Traditional with 3D-Generated Backgrounds
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FX’s Archer – A Unique Blend of Animation: Mixing Traditional with 3D-Generated Backgrounds

(Blog sampled from an excerpt from Animation Magazine written by Trinity Animation’s Jim Lammers. ©2011 All rights reserved. The original blog can be found here.)

Animation Magazine - Trinity Animation


The Art Behind Archer

In the world of animated series, Archer stands out as a unique and visually captivating show. Created by Adam Reed, this FX hit series effortlessly combines a timeless 1960s-style Cold War setting with modern elements like cell phones, the internet, and video players. What makes Archer truly distinctive is its cinematic quality, achieved through the clever use of animation techniques. Rather than relying solely on traditional animation, the production house, Floyd County, decided to integrate 3D-generated backgrounds into the mix.

Crafting Animated Backgrounds for FXX's ArcherArcher’s world is a blend of pop art aesthetics and modernity, with each frame resembling a movie shot. This cinematic quality is made possible by the strategic use of 3D environments for the show’s animation backgrounds. Unlike the flat panoramas typically used in traditional cel animation or a complete shift to 3D animation, Archer adopts a hybrid approach that seamlessly melds 2D characters with 3D backgrounds. Now entering its fourteenth season, the show has become a cult-classic comedy hit for Fox’s cable network, FXX.



Why 3D Backgrounds?

Crafting Animated Backgrounds for FXX's ArcherThe animation process behind Archer relies on software tools such as Adobe Illustrator and After Effects. It all starts with photography of costumed models, which serves as the foundation for creating the show’s characters.

However, the 3D backgrounds in Archer’s production demand more time and effort than traditional 2D animations. Despite the initial investment, 3D environments offer tremendous benefits, allowing for cost-effective reusing of sets, additional angles, variations, and color schemes. Saved sets can be easily revisited in future episodes, even when requiring new angles or paint schemes.


Trinity’s Animation Process

As the show transitioned from its pilot to full-scale production, it became evident that extensive 3D work would be necessary. To meet this challenge, Floyd County partnered with Trinity Animation, a Kansas City-area animation house with a proven track record of fast-turn, low-cost, high-quality work. Trinity’s broad experience in architecture, product simulations, and technical presentations was instrumental in meeting the unique demands of the show while adapting to its fluctuating labor requirements.

Crafting Animated Backgrounds for FXX's ArcherIn the world of animation, complex and highly detailed backgrounds can sometimes compete with the characters, particularly when techniques like depth-of-field are not commonly used. However, Archer’s animation process brilliantly blends these hybrid techniques. As Neal Holman, a key figure in the show’s production, explains, “The thick, black outlines of our characters keep them from being overwhelmed by the detailed animation backgrounds. Our painting process has evolved from the pilot in subtle ways to keep them sharp without diverting attention from the characters.”

Archer’s success is a testament to the innovative combination of traditional and 3D animation techniques, creating a visual masterpiece that keeps viewers coming back for more. This unique blend of styles enhances the show’s appeal, making it a true standout in the world of animated series.



Contact Trinity Animation

As a professional animation studio in Overland Park, KS, Trinity Animation is uniquely situated as an industry leader and pioneer. Led by Jim Lammers since 1994, Trinity Animation has worked with a variety of clients from all over the globe. Contact us today on our website, email us at sales@trinityanimation.com, or call (816) 525-0103 to see how we can make a difference for your next project!