22 October, 2008



What is Animation?


Animation is the process by which we see still pictures MOVE. Each picture is shot on film one at a time and is shown at the rate of 24 pictures per second making the pictures appear to move.


Why do we see these images as moving?


The reason our eyes are tricked into seeing movement can be explained by the ‘Persistence of Vision’ theory.


The persistence of vision theory:


Our brain holds onto an image for a fraction of a second after the image has passed. If the eye sees a series of still images very quickly one picture after another, then the images will appear to move because our eyes cannot cope with fast-moving images – our eyes have been tricked into thinking they have seen movement.


The Moving Hand Theory:


You can do this by waving your hand in front of your eyes very fast. You will seem to see several hands at once. Try doing this in front of a television screen when it is switched on. You will see even more images of your hand because the television is actually flickering. By waving your hand in front of it you make your eyes very confused about what they are actually seeing.



Basic techniques used in animation: 

  1. Drawn Animation.
  2. Cutout Animation.
  3. Model Animation.
  4. Computer Animation.
  5. Others.


Drawn Animation:

What is it?


This covers any form where another replaces one drawing in a sequence. Each drawing is slightly different from the one before. It works the way a flipbook does. These animated films are made up of thousands of drawings which are shown on screen very quickly one after the other.


Cutout Animation:

What is it?


This covers any form of animation where cutout shapes are moved around or replaced by other cutouts. Flat objects like buttons, matchsticks and string can also be used in this form of animation. Cutouts can also be laid on top of drawings.



Model Animation:

What is it?


This involves the filming of puppets or any form of three-dimensional models. The materials used could include plasticize, clay or wire – in fact anything that can be bent or formed into another shape. The puppets are positioned and filmed before being moved ever so slightly and filmed again. These shots are put together as a piece of film and will give the impression of the models moving.


Computer Animation:


Introduction to Computer Animation:


Animation has historically been produced in two ways. The first is by artists creating a succession of cartoon frames, which are then combined into a film. A second method is by using physical models, e.g. King Kong, which are positioned, the image recorded, then the model is moved, the next image is recorded, and this process is continued.


Using a rendering machine to produce successive frames wherein some aspect of the image is varied can produce computer animation. For a simple animation this might be  just moving the camera or the relative motion of rigid bodies in the scene. This is analogous to the second technique described above, i.e., using physical models. More sophisticated computer animation can move the camera and/or the objects in more interesting ways, e.g. along computed curved paths, and can even use the laws of Physics to determine the behavior of objects.


Animation is used in Visualization to show the time dependent behavior of complex systems. A major part of animation is motion control. Early systems did not have the computational power to allow for animation preview and interactive control. Also, many early animators were computer scientists rather than artists. Thus, scripting systems were developed. These systems were used as a computer high-level language where the animator wrote a script (program) to control the animation. Whereas a high level programming language allows for the definition of complex data types, the scripting languages allowed for the definition of “actors”, objects with their own animation rules.

Later systems have allowed for different types of motion control. One way to classify animation techniques is by the level of abstraction in the motion control techniques. A low-level system requires the animator to precisely specify each detail of motion, whereas a high-level system would allow them to use more general or abstract methods. For example, to move a simple rigid object such as a cube requires six degrees of freedom (numbers) per frame. A more complex object will have more degrees of freedom, for example a bird might have over twenty degrees of freedom. Now think about animating an entire flock of birds.


Therefore, a Control Hierarchy is required, so that high-level control constructs can be specified which are then mapped into more detailed control constructs. This is analogous to high level computer languages with complex control structures or data types which are translated at runtime into low level constructs.


What is it?


This refers to the drawing of three-dimensional models and sets on the computer. Images can be scanned into the computer using digital photography or made within the computer itself. Human characters can be built from clay whilst sets and furnishings are modeled using design systems similar to architects drawings. These models are scanned into the computer as wire-frame models that are gradually built up into a colored and textured form that will finally be recorded onto film. The wire-frame model was made on a computer before being built up into the character.





Can you think of films that use computer animation? Animation is often thought of as pure entertainment, but it is used in many other ways.


  • Computer games/CD ROMS creating characters, backgrounds, and sound effects.


  • Internet: Sound and pictures have to be treated as a form of animation in order to send them through telephone lines.


  • Advertising: Animation offers a way of capturing people’s attention as it can create fantasy situations.


  • Science: Many scientific ideas are not possible to film. These concepts are shown through computer-generated animation and allow scientists to visualize what cannot be seen.



  • Military simulation: The effects of testing weapons, or military maneuvers are achieved by simulating the effects on a computer. This is cheaper, safer and faster than doing it for real.


  • Transport: Traffic controllers, who look after the traffic light systems for air and road use animated diagrams to show traffic flow and predict traffic problems. Doctors’ use computer-generated.



Facial Animation:


Facial animation is the most important part of character animation, and realistic and natural expression of emotions is one of the most important parts of animating a believable character. This, however, is also one of the most challenging aspects of animating a character. The human face is one of the most interesting and intricate parts of the human body. We can detect even the subtlest change of expression within the face, and its familiarity allows us to recognize one face out of a sea of hundreds that we come into contact with every day. In order to successfully animate facial expressions and emotion, a thorough understanding of the human facial muscular structure and how expressions are formed is necessary.


Limited Animation:


With limited animation as many repeats as possible are used within the 24 frames per second. A hold is also lengthened to reduce the number of drawings. As a rule not more than 6 drawings are produced for one second of animation. Limited drawings are produced for one second of animation. Limited animation requires almost as much skill on the part of the animator as full animation, since he must create an illusion of action with the greatest sense of economy.


Pose-to-Pose Animation:


Some animations for television were made on pose to pose basis because of budget constraints. In pose-to-pose animation purpose of creating and animating is served, but does not enhance it. However animations for features demand more appeal, where pose-to-pose animation does not serve any purpose of producing the feature. Pose-to-pose animation does not serve any purpose of producing the feature. Pose-to-pose animation is widely used for stylized animation productions.


Full Animation:


Full animation implies a large number of drawings per second of action. Some action may require that every single frame of the 24 frames within the second is animated in order to achieve an illusion of fluidity on the screen. Neither time nor money is spared on animation. As a rule only TV commercials and feature length animated films can afford this luxury.


Animation is expensive and time consuming. It is not economically possible to animate more than is needed and edit the scenes later, as it is in live action films. In cartoons the director carefully presumes every action so that the animator works within exact limits and does no more drawings than necessary.


Ideally, director should be able to view line test loops of the film as it progresses and so have a chance to make adjustments. But often there is no time to make corrections in limited animation and the aim is to make the animation work the first time.

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