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Sunday, September 14, 2008


What is animation?

In Latin, ‘Anima’ means soul. Animation is all about giving soul to a character.
It is about moving something which cannot move itself. Time and space play
a critical role in animation. The object of animation could be a 2D painting,
a clay statue, a picture of a person/ animal/ thing – just about anything at all.
Animation simulates movement through a series of pictures that have objects
in slightly different positions.

How does animation work?

A simple theory known as persistence of vision offers an explanation. The
Greek astronomer Ptolemy discovered this principle back in 130 AD. If
images are flashed before the eye at a speed of at least ten frames per
second, the brain thinks it is seeing a single moving image. The numberof
Frames Per Second (or FPS) directly correlates to how smooth the
movement appears. If the frame rate is too slow, the motion will look
awkward and jerky. If the frame rate is too high, the motion will blur.

Animation techniques

2D cel animation

Also known as traditional animation, 2D animation involves the creation
of a high volume of separate drawings that define a sequence. These
drawings are then traced with ink onto transparent celluloid sheets
called cel, which are scanned and painted using a special application
software. These cels are layered on each other to create a sequence.
The sequence is later edited to synchronise the audio and video content.
This technique is widely used in creating characters for animations and
cartoon programmes.Did you know that a full-length feature film produced
using cel animation often requires a million or more drawings to complete?

3D CGI animation

This technique makes extensive use of animation software programmes. 3D
objects are constructed using curves or 2D geometric figures. Software
programmes are used to modify the texture, light and colour of the object
surface. Virtual cameras are used to zoom, focus, illuminate and resize the
3D objects. Important frames are developed to regulate the flow of intermediate
frames. This technique is commonly used to create animation for television
programmes, movies and online and console games.

3D motion capture animation

This process of creating 3D characters is similar to the 3D CGI animation
technique; however, the techniques differ with respect to the time when
the animation effects are introduced. To produce animation effects,
sensors from a computer are attached physically to a human being.
These sensors help coordinate the real-time movements of the human
actor with the movements of a computerised 3D character. This technique
is widely used for low-resolution games, Internet characters, live TV
performances and special effects for animated movies.

What does it take to be a complete animator?

A good animator should have knowledge of:

~ Drawing techniques

~ Animation techniques

~ Different styles of animation such as 2D and 3D animation

~ Design and layout

~ How people move and express their feelings

~ How animals move

~ How to create different moods and feelings in characters

~ Computers and animation software applications

~ The history of art and design

~ Film and television production

Besides, he or she also needs to:

~ Be artistic, creative and innovative

~ Be a good communicator

~ Have inclination for good music

~ Be able to ideate and conceptualise

~ Be focused, self-disciplined and self-motivated

~ Be able to use knowledge of the human body and how animals move to
create animations

~ Be versatile and adaptable and able to accept criticism

~ Be able to work to a deadline

~ Be observant, with an eye for detail

~ Be able to work well in a team

~ Be able to understand the comic nature of cartoons


Creating animation Animation creation consists of idea development,
pre-production, production, and post-production.
In idea development,
the characters and story for the film, ad or other creative are created
and a go-ahead taken on the same.
In pre-production, the idea is converted
into layouts. The script is written and finalised, characters are designed,
a storyboard is created and layouts are developed. Cost-wise, this phase is
extremely important since a single mistake here can put the entire project

Pre-production for 2D animation

1. Scriptwriting 2. Storyboarding

3. Character development 4. Backgrounds

5.Layout designing 6. Animatics

7. Voice

Production for 2D animation:

In this stage, we get to see the actual results of the treatment given to the story as well as its visualization.

A large volume of production work is outsourced by overseas clients to Indian studios and the majority of Indian animation professionals are involved in production-related activities.

1.Animation 2.In-betweening*

3. Scanning 4. Compositing*

5.Background preparation 6. Colouring

* In-betweening: Tweening (short for in-betweening) is the creation of intermediate frames between two main images to give the appearance that the first image flows smoothly into the second one.

* Compositing: Images from different sources, e.g. real-world video, digitised film, synthetic 3D images,
2D animations, painted backdrops, still photos and text, are combined to create a finished frame of animation.

1. Editing 2.Special effects (SFX)

3.Colour correction 4. Compositing

5.Voice & music editing 6. Rendering*

*Colour correction: Undesirable cast or tint is removed from a colour image.

*Rendering: Giving final touches to an animation scene, in which the (vector) data is converted to the raster image or animation.

Animation Principles


This action gives the illusion of weight and volume to a character as it moves. Also squash and stretch is useful in animating dialogue and doing facial expressions. How extreme the use of squash and stretch is, depends on what is required in animating the scene. Usually it's broader in a short style of picture and subtler in a feature. It is used in all forms of character animation from a bouncing ball to the body weight of a person walking. This is the most important element you will be required to master and will be used often.

This movement prepares the audience for a major action the character is about to perform, such as, starting to run, jump or change expression. A dancer does not just leap off the floor. A backwards motion occurs before the forward action is executed. The backward motion is the anticipation. A comic effect can be done by not using anticipation after a series of gags that used anticipation. Almost all real action has major or minor anticipation such as a pitcher's wind-up or a golfers' back swing. Feature animation is often less broad than short animation unless a scene requires it to develop a characters personality.

A pose or action should clearly communicate to the audience the attitude, mood, reaction or idea of the character as it relates to the story and continuity of the story line. The effective use of long, medium, or close up shots, as well as camera angles also helps in telling the story. There is a limited amount of time in a film, so each sequence, scene and frame of film must relate to the overall story. Do not confuse the audience with too many actions at once. Use one action clearly stated to get the idea across, unless you are animating a scene that is to depict clutter and confusion. Staging directs the audience's attention to the story or idea being told. Care must be taken in background design so it isn't obscuring the animation or competing with it due to excess detail behind the animation. Background and animation should work together as a pictorial unit in a scene.

Straight ahead animation starts at the first drawing and works drawing to drawing to the end of a scene. You can lose size, volume, and proportions with this method, but it does have spontaneity and freshness. Fast, wild action scenes are done this way. Pose to Pose is more planned out and charted with key drawings done at intervals throughout the scene. Size, volumes, and proportions are controlled better this way, as is the action. The lead animator will turn charting and keys over to his assistant. An assistant can be better used with this method so that the animator doesn't have to draw every drawing in a scene. An animator can do more scenes this way and concentrate on the planning of the animation. Many scenes use a bit of both methods of animation.

When the main body of the character stops all other parts continue to catch up to the main mass of the character, such as arms, long hair, clothing, coat tails or a dress, floppy ears or a long tail (these follow the path of action). Nothing stops all at once. This is follow through. Overlapping action is when the character changes direction while his clothes or hair continues forward. The character is going in a new direction, to be followed, a number of frames later, by his clothes in the new direction. "DRAG," in animation, for example, would be when Goofy starts to run, but his head, ears, upper body, and clothes do not keep up with his legs. In features, this type of action is done more subtly. Example: When Snow White starts to dance, her dress does not begin to move with her immediately but catches up a few frames later. Long hair and animal tail will also be handled in the same manner. Timing becomes critical to the effectiveness of drag and the overlapping action.

As action starts, we have more drawings near the starting pose, one or two in the middle, and more drawings near the next pose. Fewer drawings make the action faster and more drawings make the action slower. Slow-ins and slow-outs soften the action, making it more life-like. For a gag action, we may omit some slow-out or slow-ins for shock appeal or the surprise element. This will give more snap to the scene.

All actions, with few exceptions (such as the animation of a mechanical device), follow an arc or slightly circular path. This is especially true of the human figure and the action of animals. Arcs give animation a more natural action and better flow. Think of natural movements in the terms of a pendulum swinging. All arm movement, head turns and even eye movements are executed on an arcs.

This action adds to and enriches the main action and adds more dimension to the character animation, supplementing and/or re-enforcing the main action. Example: A character is angrily walking toward another character. The walk is forceful, aggressive, and forward leaning. The leg action is just short of a stomping walk. The secondary action is a few strong gestures of the arms working with the walk. Also, the possibility of dialogue being delivered at the same time with tilts and turns of the head to accentuate the walk and dialogue, but not so much as to distract from the walk action. All of these actions should work together in support of one another. Think of the walk as the primary action and arm swings, head bounce and all other actions of the body as secondary or supporting action.

Expertise in timing comes best with experience and personal experimentation, using the trial and error method in refining technique. The basics are: more drawings between poses slow and smooth the action. Fewer drawings make the action faster and crisper. A variety of slow and fast timing within a scene adds texture and interest to the movement. Most animation is done on twos (one drawing photographed on two frames of film) or on ones (one drawing photographed on each frame of film). Twos are used most of the time, and ones are used during camera moves such as trucks, pans and occasionally for subtle and quick dialogue animation. Also, there is timing in the acting of a character to establish mood, emotion, and reaction to another character or to a situation. Studying movement of actors and performers on stage and in films is useful when animating human or animal characters. This frame by frame examination of film footage will aid you in understanding timing for animation. This is a great way to learn from the others.

Exaggeration is not extreme distortion of a drawing or extremely broad, violent action all the time. It¹s like a caricature of facial features, expressions, poses, attitudes and actions. Action traced from live action film can be accurate, but stiff and mechanical. In feature animation, a character must move more broadly to look natural. The same is true of facial expressions, but the action should not be as broad as in a short cartoon style. Exaggeration in a walk or an eye movement or even a head turn will give your film more appeal. Use good taste and common sense to keep from becoming too theatrical and excessively animated

The basic principles of drawing form, weight, volume solidity and the illusion of three dimension apply to animation as it does to academic drawing. The way you draw cartoons, you draw in the classical sense, using pencil sketches and drawings for reproduction of life. You transform these into color and movement giving the characters the illusion of three-and four-dimensional life. Three dimensional is movement in space. The fourth dimension is movement in time.

A live performer has charisma. An animated character has appeal. Appealing animation does not mean just being cute and cuddly. All characters have to have appeal whether they are heroic, villainous, comic or cute. Appeal, as you will use it, includes an easy to read design, clear drawing, and personality development that will capture and involve the audience¹s interest. Early cartoons were basically a series of gags strung together on a main theme. Over the years, the artists have learned that to produce a feature there was a need for story continuity, character development and a higher quality of artwork throughout the entire production. Like all forms of story telling, the feature has to appeal to the mind as well as to the eye.

Beginner should be knowing basics of key frames, break downs and inbetweens, basic knowledge about principles and their application and an eye for poses... for these guys, after working really hard, their animations look acceptable.. and a copule of principles are applied well, altho many of the others are goofed up.. these guys need to think about every thing at every stage and they are usually confused....
Intermediate would be doing the same things listed above with better application of principles but their characters dont yet come alive.. except occassionaly.... To these guys, their work needs just that extra to make it look awsome.. they have to strive to get the principles into their work... but they atleast know where they fall and they try not to... with the guidance of experts, they can pull off great shorts pretty quickly... these constitute most of the people.. the intermediate is a wide range of people, usually consisting of feature animators and high end game animators, to top quality students... The elite of this group are animators in places like Pixar and blue sky and ILM.. people like Rick O Conor, bobby beck, Shawn kelly, and the best here, would blur the line between intermediate and expert... this range covers the starting feature animators and junior animators to senior Game animators and feature animators... The blur between intermediate and expert is filled up by people like the Animation Supervisors or Character supervisors in the big studios...
Expert is some one the stature of Eric Goldberg or Glen Keane, where they dont *think* about principles at all.. they have them coming naturally, and all they think of is the performance of the character...these guys struggle with stuff like acting choices, character portrayal and stuff..
This is not a great way to categorize but, Im pretty happy with it.. im still a beginner at this.. and hope to work another 2 to 3 years to reach the beginner intermediate stage.. no one knows when you become an expert, it suddenly happens and every one notices... there are just a handful of experts..
Now, lets work our asses off to get out of the stinkin beginner stage...

Wednesday, September 10, 2008