How to make a 3D pop-up book (tips requested)

crispalomino Posts: 26
edited January 2018 in Post-production techniques


I have been looking for how to do a 3D pop-up book with multiple scenes/pages. I have seen templates for some on Videohive, for instance, but would like to make my own.

I had seen that you could import a 3D model and create, if not mistaken, a point armature for it using parts you set up in the model creation. I had seen the walker from Rebellion and they imported an fbx and animation.

I have the start of a simple book rigged to open and close.

(the video's thumbnail doesn't seem to appear, but the video does play)

I could create the book and pages in Blender and set it up there. I want to be able to build the pop-ups so they are like paper cutouts, but will want to enhance them with movements using point-armatures and/or the puppet tool.

So my questions are:

1. Are there some tutorials available that could assist me with what aspects of what I want to do since I don't think there are any specifically on the topic?

2. What aspects would work better starting with an actual 3D model and what would be better to do in Hitfilm?

This is an example of the kind of set-up I'm looking to do.

This is one of the templates available for After Effects.

Thank you, in advance, for any assistance.



  • When I look at the forum, it says there is 1 comment (prior to this one), but when I look at the thread, I only see my original post.

  • tddavis
    tddavis Posts: 5,200 Expert
    edited January 2018

    @crispalomino I don't know how to do what you're asking in Hitfilm but I suspect that it would be far easier in Blender or other modeling program, but the Puppet Tool would definitely be a good way to go in Hitfilm.  Myself, I have never had much luck importing models and getting the materials right in Hitfilm.  I would probably use my default PNG export of the book pages and import that from Blender all nicely textured and then build the "pop ups" from PNG assets and animating the rotation of the pop and such movement as desired with Puppet, but that's just one way to approach it I am certain. 

    About the post count, I suspect it is counting your edit of the original post as a comment but I can't be certain of that.

  • So here was what I was thinking. I still need to learn what, if any, limitations 3D objects have. I would think you man move, rotate parts by parenting to points (as an armature) and move them in 3D space by making them dimensional. That should be fine for the book cover and perhaps even the pages. By their nature, 3D popup pages are stiff due to the popups which are often made of stiffer card stock, so I don't need them to have any bend.

    I need to make this a template as I have several projects in mind.

    My thinking is I can bring in the book cover with pages. I can set it up to open the book and the pages using parented points for an armature.

    I can create a plane for a page, another plane  masked to be a card on that page and rotate it to pop-up.  Maybe three pop-ups per page. If I set up the page with the rotating cards (hopefully add a little bounce when they pop-up), I could make that a composite and then put that and parent it to one of the 3D model pages in the book.

    I am hoping to be able to replace the cards with the actual images for the popup (thinking I can adjust the mask etc to accommodate the pop-up image).

    Does that sound feasible so far?

    Past that, I need to figure out how to account for the rotating parts not showing as they pass through pages as they close and open. I will also be looking to see if I can do more complicated pop-ups that include more complex folds, and the popups themselves being animated with a possible mixture of point armatures and puppet tool.

    Javert had mentioned (and I'm hoping he sees this post) that they might not be able to do a full out tutorial on this topic, but perhaps aspects of it.

    Thanks for any input and ideas or suggestions. Especially anything in tutorial format.


  • tddavis
    tddavis Posts: 5,200 Expert

    @crispalamino Did a quick google and there are several videos for pop ups books for AE.  In the past, some of the AE stuff has been able to be directly translated to Hitfilm just by changing the name of the tools they used to what Hitfilm calls them.  It would take someone well versed in HItfilm to tell you exactly what to change though. @InScapeDigital would definitely fill that bill.  That should make sure he sees this post for you.

  • Ah, thanks for the paging tip. :)

    I am looking for a tutorial I had seen that I thought might help me and that I would try to convert as you are saying. I forgot to bookmark it (foolish girl that I am) and am still looking for it. Thank you.

  • inScapeDigital
    inScapeDigital Posts: 709 Just Starting Out*

    You're definitely on the right track- complicated as this setup would be, pretty much everything you've planned out is the best way to do it.

    I would keep the book cover as a separate model, then have a single "page" 3D model that can then be duplicated as many times as you need. Keeping the pages separate allows you to, as you said, parent the pop-ups to the pages and have them move as the pages turn. Animating the pages to not fall through each other and stack nicely will take some effort, but can be done.

    Unless they're required to be 3D, I would do as @tddavis said and use PNGs for the pictures. Since the whole scene will be in 3D space, you can add lights and shadows to everything.

    One thing I would amend- instead of masking a Plane for the template portion, I'd suggest creating a placeholder composite shot right off the bat; maybe something smaller like 500x500 pixels. Stick an image in the comp shot so you can see it, then animate the comp shot in the final scene instead. When creating for a template in mind, it's better to do things as soon as you can- going back and selecting "Make Composite Shot" can sometimes disconnect layers if they're parented.

    Also, it was Oli who responded to your comment on my snowflake video- I saw your suggestion, but he had gotten there first.

  • Triem23
    Triem23 Posts: 20,190 Power User

    I think everyone else has more or less covered some good starting hints, but I'll weigh in.

    In general I might argue that a 3D model is best for the book/cover, but pages should be mostly flat planes/photo objects. Don't worry about "paging through the book" as new pages come up (So we never have to see the book get closer to the end). This way you'll be able to create you own templates for reuse. For models, you'll need to worry about them going from flat to 3D as they unfold, but we'll discuss that below when we get to "anchor points."

    The Ae template just means someone else has done what you'll have to do--a lot of tedious keyframing and animation. The good thing is, you only have to do that once, then you can reuse forever.

    Like @InscapeDigital said, it's smarter to create your animation templates using "media holder" composite shots with colored planes and generic images for reference--just get the basic animation and timing down and don't worry about the images. Once the template is done you can drag in the actual images to the media holder comps. In fact, you can even put your 3D MODELS into Media Holder Composite Shots then set the embedded comp to 3D unrolled mode.  This would also allow you to do do any animation a model might have (say the rotors of a helicopter), without having those layers in your book comp.

    Let's talk "anchor points." That's the imaginary center of a 2D or 3D layer (plane, photo/video/model), and any rotation and scale operations are going to happen around the anchor point. For your 2D media holder composites, you'll want to put the anchor point at the bottom-center of the embedded composite. Then you can align the anchor point with the page surface, and all your rotations will align correctly. More importantly if you change the scale of an element it will scale from the page surface so you don't have to adjust a layer's position. It will just work.

    For 3D models, whether directly in the animation comp, or embedded media holders, you also need to shift the anchor point to the bottom center. Now--you'll need to visualize if your 3D object unfold FORWARD or BACKWARD. (It's going to be forwards). Which means the anchor point also needs to shift towards the "top of the page." This will allow you to animate the "z-scale" of the model from 0% to 100% as it flips up.

    If in a version of Hitfilm Pro more recent that 2017 then take a look at Behaviors. There's possibility there, like having objects B and C fold up at the same time as A...

    There's aren't any Hitfilm Specific tutorials for this type of look, but I'll recommend by own "Animate EVERYTHING pt2" tutorial for a look at anchor points, parenting and 2D animation rigging in general.

    And this one for a discussion of rotation order (shouldn't be an issue for a pop-up book) and a quick look at rigging 3D models.

    This tutorial is a good look at combining 2D elements into 3D space, then collapsing them into a single 3D Unrolled embedded composite. Just gives you a few ways to think about organizing your templates.

    General note--remember that any/all composite shots in a Hitfilm Project can be loaded into any other Hitfilm Project via the "Import Composite Shot" function. Select "Import Composite Shot" and select a project file and you'll get a list of all composite shots in that project. If you select a composite shot that has embedded comps those will automatically be loaded as well. This means you can consider creating a project with, say, four or five basic motion templates in composite shots, then easily reload them into a new (or the same!) project via Import Composite Shot. each imported version becomes a unique instance (along with any imported embedded shots), so you could quickly load in another copy of "Pop Up Animation 3" if you need to.

    This got longer than I thought it would. Me being wordy. Big surprise...

    Anyway, the TL/DR version of this is, animating a pop up book isn't different from animating anything else at all (which is why my animation tutorials are called "How to Animate ANYTHING!"). It's more about planning asset organization for easy customization and reuse that the animation.

  • @InScapeDigital

    Hah! I just responded and thanked him. 

    I will incorporate your suggestions and try to post progress.  I think I understood what you meant for the placeholder. Is there an existing tutorial on how that might work? Thanks, Javert.

  • I finally found the tutorial I forgot to bookmark, so am gonna sit down and study this with the suggestions that have been made.

  • Thank you so much for taking the time to do such a lengthy, info-filled post on this, Triem23. I will go over it more slowly and go through the videos (some of which I have indeed seen). I really appreciate it.

  • inScapeDigital
    inScapeDigital Posts: 709 Just Starting Out*

    @crispalomino Unfortunately there is not currently a specific tutorial on putting templates together, since it's kind of different for every effect.