Animation Essay, Research Paper
My personal enjoyment with animation has inspired me to write this essay,
pertaining to animation. Since I was a child I have been fascinated with
cartoons; from when they started out to be black and white, and until now with
full colour and computer effects. To better perceive what my personal feelings
about animation are, I must first discuss in full detail, a general overview of
how animators bring traditional animation alive with motion.
Animation seems like a smooth movement of drawn sequences of artwork,
pasted together to form a single sequence of animation. This is the basis of
animation, but animation is far simpler than it may seem. “The true meaning of
animation is that it is a series of drawings strung together to create the
illusion of smooth fluent movement.”1 But the process of creating this so-
called illusion, is a pain staking process during which artists must spend
tremendous hours of agony to produce only seconds of animated film.
Before an animator goes about creating an animation he or she must have
the knowledge of several rules of animation, which animators around the world
follow. The first rule of animation is that an animator must hold the
understanding of the techniques used to produce single cells of animation.
Second rule, and one of the most important ones is that, the animator must have
great patience, so that his or her piece of artwork is not rushed, to prevent
the animation from looking choppy and not as smooth as it should look. Finally
what is required from an animator is “it takes commitment and effort to make the
basis of animation come alive with fresh ideas.”2 The following is not a rule of
animation, but is often taught to animators around the world. “Animators were
often taught that animation is only limited by the imagination and skills of its
creators.”3 Using these rules animation companies hire artists who are familiar
with the rules previously discussed, but to create a feature full-length
animation you need more than just these rules. Below the process of creating a
feature full-length animation will be discussed in further detail.
To create a traditional animation requires a team of cooperative artists
and editors. It also demands a collective, creative approach, within which the
individual artists and editors of the team must harmonize and communicate well
with the other members of the team, for the final product to be successful.
Because so many personnel are involved in producing a single piece of animated
film, creation of this is very costly. Companies must create a team of animators
that are willing to work together to get the finished product perfect the first
time around. No matter how modest or ambitious the project, the team of
animators follow a strict number of structured procedures, and must possess the
understanding of the concepts and terminology in traditional animation.
When the team has been assembled. The team begins a long process of set
procedures, which all animators worldwide use. Below the many set procedures are
described in full detail.
The script is the first stage in all film production. In an animation
script, the visual action in the plot and performance is far more important than
The storyboard is a series of roughly drawn images that convey the
action described in the script. This scene-by-scene portrayal helps the writer,
director and animation team to access the content of the project and to correct
any deficiencies in the scripted story.
After the script and storyboard are completed, the recording of any
dialogue or key music is undertaken. Since traditional animation relies on
perfect synchronization of the picture to the soundtrack, the animator must
receive the recorded track before beginning to draw.
Designers create visual interpretations of all the actors in the script.
When these interpretations are approved, the actors are drawn from many angles
on a model sheet which the animators will use as a reference.
A Leica reel is a filmed storyboard which can be projected in
synchronization with the soundtrack. It helps the director see how the film is
shaping up and make any changes to its visual aspects before animation is begun.
Line tests are animation drawings, produced in pencil on paper, filmed
to the precise timings of each scene. As line tests are approved they are cut
into Leica reel, replacing the original drawings and giving the director an even
better idea of how the final film will look.
Cleanup artists take the animation drawings now and clean them up, to
give them a consistent visual style.
8.Trace and Paint
When a cleaned-up line test is approved, each drawing is transferred to
a sheet of celluloid or acetate (a cell) and painted in the colours of the
Background artists produce the animation’s backgrounds, the background
is everything behind or, sometimes, in front of the actors that does not move.
The finished animation cells are passed to the checker, who makes sure
that everything is correctly drawn, traced, painted and prepared for the
cameraman who is to finally film it.
When the checker is satisfied that all the artwork for each scene is
correct, the artwork is passed to the camera operator who shoots the final scene.
When the whole film exists in final form, and the director is satisfied
with it, the editor, with the director, chooses sound effects to go with the
action in the film. These sound effects are then laid in synchronization with
the action, and mixed with the voice track and music on one complete soundtrack.
Creating an answer print involves merging the sound and picture on one
piece of 24 frames per second film, the film is now ready for projection!
The above described how traditional animation is created. But now with
the computer becoming more useful and more tangible in its usefulness in
everyday society, animation is going through a dramatic change, with newer and
easier alternatives in creating and editing animations, on work stations and
home computers. Highly known animation studios like Disney and Silicon Graphics
are stepping up to a higher and more advanced level of animation, by using
computers to create animation effects that traditional animation techniques
would never be able to create. Special computer effects that were created on
computers were observed in the movies “Abyss”, “Terminator 2″, and “Jurassic
Park”. All these movies had some computerized animation added to the film
producing special effects never seen previously on movies until now. This is
because computer-generated animations are more flexible than traditional
animations, because it can be altered, viewed, and manipulated in any way the
computer animator wishes by a click of the mouse. Furthermore computer-generated
animations appear to be more realistic, to the audience, because realistic
objects can be scanned into the animation by a computer scanner easily, and be
used as part of the animation. But the most attractive feature computer
animation holds is that “animations done on computer are cheaper and take less
time to produce.”4
There are two major ways to go about producing a computer-generated
animation. The first and most used process is called “Stop-Frame
Cinematography”, where an artist draws each cell of the animation or cuts out
pictures, then puts all the frames of still animation in an special scanner
which scans all the separate cells into the computer. Then the computer animator
arranges all the frames in the order, that it will be viewed in. Then the artist
colours and edits each frame of animation with a computer paint program. After
the animation on computer is completed the soundtrack and background voices are
digitized into the computer, and mixed synchronously together. The final process
of creation is where the foreground animation is merged with the background, and
the mixed sounds are synchronized with animation. After the animation is
completed it is printed to film by a computer film printer, and is ready for
viewing. The second process, which with the production of powerful high speed
computers is becoming more familiar in films with computer generated animation
and special effects, an example of this process is in the films “Jurassic Park”
and “Terminator 2″. The process I am describing is referred in the industry as
“Computer Object Renderization”. This is where a computer-generated actor is
created by a process called “Wire Framing”. This process is like bending and
shaping metal wire to create a solid human figure or sculpture; at this point no
colour or texture has been created. After the wire framed actor is created, it
goes through a process referred as “Texture Mapping”, where texture is added to
the wire framed actor, producing depth and dimension to the computer actor. This
process could be thought of as paper mashing a wire sculpture. Now the actor
appears to be three-dimensional with shadows and shades added to the actors
darker areas of the skeletal form. The computer actor is now ready for details
like toes, fingers, nose, eyes, etc… to be added, to make the appearance of
the actor more realistic. Now that the computer-rendered actor is completed
with all its human or animal like details. Its movement can be controlled by a
electronic suit which has several movement sensory devices located on key areas
of the suit. That means a human actor can put on the suit, and his or her
movement will be transferred to the computer and processed as digital
information. This causes the rendered actor to move on the computer monitor.
After the actor’s movements have been acted out like the script needed, voices
are sequently merged together creating a single sequence of animation. Now the
actor can be printed to the film’s background, creating full feature animation.
This is how animation studios produce computer rendered animations.
Due to the tremendous pace at which computers are becoming more widely
available in our everyday society today, almost anyone with some general
computer knowledge can now produce simple computer-generated animations, with a
home computer and some computer hardware, like a computer image digitizer,
computer drawing tablet with sensory drawing pen, colour film printer, sound
card with microphone receiver, and finally a video camera, these devices will
enhance the computer’s graphics capabilities for doing computer generated
animations or movies. Secondly what is needed to create computer animation is
computer animation software which can execute fairly complicated graphics
applications. Finally, the most important piece of equipment which is needed, to
create sophisticated graphical animations is an abundance of external computer
memory or RAM. This is, because it takes enormous amounts of memory to animate
computer images which contain colour. This equipment has its limitations whereas
it can only produce simple computer animations, nothing like “T2″ or “Jurassic
Park”. “Long stringed sequences of animation like full-feature cartoons, contain
vast amounts of information that must be stored and manipulated.”5 “This
enormous kind of digital computer information requires the kind of power and
storage capabilities that only industrial size supercomputers can provide.”6
These sorts of computers, cost a significant amount of money, making it nearly
impossible for the general public to get at this technology.
Ever since the “first animated cartoons were produced in 1910,”7
involving such animals as “Felix the Cat” and “Mickey Mouse”, and on to feature-
full length classics “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs”, “Fantasia”, and many
more, the history of animation has been characterized by the almost constant
introduction of ever more complex forms of animation. “Beginning in the 1960’s,
films showing abstract colour designs in motion were programmed by means of
computers that calculate intricate movements with amazing precision.”8 Today
computer animation has achieved the ability to create moving images and
backgrounds of great complexity. This advanced innovation in animation, has
prompted the multimedia world to manipulate this technology to adapt to their
needs. Such as using computerized animation widely in their television
commercials, titles, and in producing more convincing music videos for the
consumers. Computer animation has just become popular in our society, it has not
even began to show its full capabilities. For in the near future we will be
graced with the presences of it in every technological medium; such as in
multimedia advertisement, video entertainment, and in the education system. We
must either accept this technology and learn to use it, or be left in the dark,
falling behind in the technological world.
Even though many companies are using computerized animations to promote
their product or film, old-style cell animation continues to be the sole
technique which quality animators, such as Disney Productions use, but with
computer-generated objects still often mixed with the traditional animation,
adding a new outlook to the animation. As we near the year 2000, and enter the
high-tech age of computer generated graphics and animation, I believe that the
true admirers of the art of animation will always have a nostalgia for the
techniques first used by the pioneers of animation.
1.Compton’s Encyclopedia, 1991 edition, Vol.3, “Cartoons.”
2.Randy McCallum, Cinemation (British Columbia: Motion Works Inc., 1992), p. 19.
3.ibid., p. 23.
4.Edward Desmond, “Beyond Mickey Mouse,” Time (Nov.1.1993), p. 32.
5.Toolworks Encyclopedia, 1992 edition, CD ROM, “Animation.”
6.ibid., CD ROM.
7.Compton’s Encyclopedia, 1991 edition, Vol.3, “Cartoons”
8.Toolworks Encyclopedia, 1992 edition, CD ROM, “Animation.”
1.Brown, Robert. “Cartoons.” Compton’s Encyclopedia, (1991), Vol.3, pp. 163-165.
2.Desmond, Edward W. “Beyond Mickey Mouse.” Time, Sept.27,1993, pp. 42-47.
3.Elmer, Philip. “Video Game Boom.” Time, Nov.1,1993, pp. 16-20.
4.McCallum, Randy. Cinemation. British Columbia: Motion Works Inc., 1992, pp. 1-
5.Redmond, John R. “Animation.” Toolworks Encyclopedia, (1992), CD ROM.
6.Young, Harvill. “3D Imaging Technology.” MacWorld, Sept.1,1992, pp. 276-285.