When we talk about animation or cartoons in casual conversation, we mention Tom & Jerry, Bugs Bunny or He-Man, the examples of classic 2D animation that are drawn in phases, on paper. But, animation is not just about that. There are different styles of animation, from classic 2D Animation, computer 2D Animation, Stop Motion Animation to Cutout Animation…
Classic 2D Animation
Classic 2D Animation consists of series of drawings, i.e. drawn phases of a movement that, when played one after the other, create the illusion of a movement. This is how it all started, and this type of animation has been used for many years. It usually involved drawings on paper or celluloid sheets that animators made on their drawing tables, which were lit from below to make the paper transparent. This way you could draw several phases of a movement. Later, these drawings were recorded with a special camera designed exclusively for this purpose. For example, until the second half of the 90s, Disney exclusively produced classic 2D animated films created via this technique (Little Mermaid, Bambi, Pinocchio, etc.).
Computer Assisted Classic 2D Animation
With the development of technologies (computers), new animation tools were developed! So paper, drafting tables, and wooden pencils slowly faded into oblivion (or at least into the background) and were replaced by computers, computer screens, graphics tablets (for drawing), and digital pens. Hence the term Computer Assisted. Basically, computer aided classical 2D animation is very similar to classical 2D animation. Here we have a series of traditionally hand drawn images that ultimately create the illusion of motion. The difference, however, is that the drawings are drawn with a help of a computer (digitally) using either Photoshop, Illustrator, or some other similar program. So we no longer need a camera to capture drawings, we just need an animation program (After Effects, Toon Boom Animation, SynFig Studio, etc.) through which we pull these drawings or graphic elements through, and finally create the illusion of movement. i.e. animation. The whole process of creating drawings / animations has been modernized by the use of computers and everything is much easier, faster, and less complicated because there are more options and tools. Most of today’s commercial animated films and TV series are made this way.
Computer 2D Animation
What the difference is between digitally assisted classic 2D animation and digital 2D animation? Through digital 2D animation, we do not create the illusion of motion the classic, old fashioned way. By hand drawing the motion in phases, which is then animated in a program. The animation and motion are not created by a cartoonist, but by an animator. By using a computer we produce keyframes. However, in order for an animator to animate, he needs elements, and that can be anything. Figures and backgrounds that the illustrator draws and prepares for animation are divided into basic elements in layers – head, neck, hips, arms, fists, thighs, legs, feet, and then cut and prepared as photos and vector graphics. The animator then downloads these 2D image objects and animates them in an animation program using the keyframes, plugins, and various effects. This type of animation is most commonly used in the creation of commercials, as it is easier and faster than digitally supported classic 2D animation.
Computer Assisted 3D Animation
As computers evolved, they not only became tools for creating 2D animation, but also helped in the development of a new type of animation, so called Computer 3D Animation, i.e. CGI animation! Characters are no longer two dimensional, but become three-dimensional, moving in three-dimensional space and reacting to the environment and vice versa. Therefore, programs for 3D animation have been developed, such as 3d Studio Max, Maya, Blender, Zbrush, etc. 3D animation on the computer is much more demanding and more complicated than 2D Animation. It requires technical knowledge of various programs and even knowledge of mathematical and physical principles (for example, simulations of fabric, water, wind, fur, hair, etc.). And before you start the actual animation process, you need to deal with 3D modeling, rigging, skinning, and some other actions that are of great importance in 3D animation. This type of animation came to life mostly in the second half of the 90s and in the early 2000s: Pixar made their first CGI animated film Toy Story in 1995, followed by 3 more sequels, as well as countless other computer generated CGI animated films (Bugs Life, Antz, Shrek, Ice Age, etc.). And computer animation has come to life, especially in the world of feature films, where it is an extremely useful tool for creating a variety of spectacular special and visual effects…
Motion capture is not really a style of animation, but a process for digitally recording the movements of people, animals or specific objects. The movements are recorded using special technology, such as cameras or sensors, and transmitted to a computer. However, in order for the movements to be recorded at all, special suits are required. These serve as trackers for cameras, which use them to capture movements. As for the sensors, the principle is similar, actors wear sensors distributed over every part of the body. Later, this recorded motion is applied to a 3D digital model, resulting in the realistic movement of the computer character. However, the animator has to manually clean and refine some movements and add some keyframes. This technique is widely used in the world of film and especially in video games.
p.s. to find out more about MoCap, visit our blog MoCap: Performing art for the Digital World
Stop Motion Animation
In Stop Motion Animation we do not have drawings, we animate physical objects by moving them step by step, frame by frame, and we photograph each of these frames. This way we can animate almost anything we want: dolls from your toy closet, or puppets specially made for this kind of animation (with body parts and joints). And it can be the most everyday things from our environment… for example, you can animate your living room chairs or shoes this way. The possibilities are endless. A great number of famous titles have been made using Stop Motion Animation (Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, Corpse Bride, Chicken Run, Kubo and the Two Strings, Fantastic Mr. Fox, etc.).
Animation of clay and (or) plastic
This type of animation is very similar to Stop Motion Animation. In fact, the animation process itself is identical. Because in this case we also animate real objects (in this case made of clay or plasticine), which we move step by step, and then photograph each movement frame by frame to get the movement, i.e. the animation. The difference is that for this style you don’t need special puppets with body parts and joints, and you can not use things from the environment, but you can make your own figures and backgrounds out of clay or plasticine and animate them as you wish. This style is not easy and requires a lot of patience and time, but the end result can be quite unique, interesting and fun. Some of the examples of this style certainly are the children’s series Mio Mao, Purple & Brown and Chicken Run.
Cutout Animation is also very similar to stop-motion animation, because it works on a similar principle: moving elements frame by frame and photographing each of these movements. The difference is that this not animating, i.e. moving things and (or) puppets, but moving 2D cut out elements on a 2D background. Usually, these are elements cut out of paper, hence the name Cutout Animation. Probably the most famous examples of this type of animation are the animated visuals in Monty Python’s Flying Circus and South Park. In South Park, though, only the first episode was created this way, while in later episodes and seasons, this style was faked by using a computer.
For the purpose of the intro of show Let’s go on a journey with Goran Milić, we created a Cutout Animation for each of his travel destinations:
This style dates back to the 1960s and is now one of the most popular animation styles, especially in the world of advertising and videos. Graphic animation, as the name suggests, is the animation of simple graphics, i.e. objects (illustrations, lines, dots, etc.) that may or may not be stylized. This style of animation is often used in the creation of various screensavers for video games, in advertising, logo animation, promotional videos, explainer videos, and in many other cases. These are usually short logo animations, intros, outros, presentations etc.
Text Animation (aka Typography Animation)
Text animation is the animation of text, i.e. letters, words, and eventually sentences. In many cases, these are simple animations are produced in programs like After Effect. So sometimes, all you need to do is drag and drop an effect onto the text itself, play a little with keyframes, and the animation is almost done. But things are not always that simple. Sometimes the client’s requirements are a bit more complex, so it takes a bit more effort. In such cases, text animations can be very complex, interesting, and visually appealing. Text animation is often used in music videos (called lyric videos), intros, outros, and explainer videos.
Similar to text animation, sand animations are pretty clear. But how exactly do we animate it? Well, the sand is animated on the glass that is lit from below (called the lightbox), and this can result in some pretty stunning images. The animation process itself is similar to Stop Motion Animation: as you move the sand (by hand or with a tool such as wooden stick), frame by frame and photograph each frame, creating the illusion of movement / animation. In some cases, the sand animation is done live. This technique dates back to 1969. The idea of this technique is quite simple, but the execution can be quite complicated and demanding, which is why it is not used that often.
Animation of color on glass
Similar to sand animation, here we animate on glass. But unlike sand animation, color animation on glass is an even more complex and challenging technique, and therefore not very popular among animators, especially in commercial animation. Each image of this animation, i.e. each phase of the movement, is painted on a separate glass surface, similar to drawing on transparent celluloid sheets in a classic 2D animation. Every image on the glass is then photographed. This technique was developed in 1976 by Canadian animator Carolyn Leaf, who even received an Oscar nomination for her short animated film The Street, created by using this technique.
Another animation style that is quite clear and understandable from the name itself. It is usually a video in which a human hand holding a pencil, draws on a whiteboard. This animation style is most often used in explainer videos when there is a need to explain and show something in the simplest and most efficient way. The drawing is often accompanied by a voiceover, explaining what the drawings on the board represent. This style is relatively new and emerged in 2009. At the time, it was an experimental advertising move. It reached its peak of popularity in 2013. Since then, it has lost popularity, although it is still occasionally used in the advertising world.
And that brings us to the end. Of course, you could write many more pages about the history and techniques of animation, but we think these little bits of information are enough to get you started. If you really want to learn more about animation, I recommend you turn to literature, such as Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life, Timing for Animation, Encyclopedia of Animation Techniques, etc.
And as Piggy Pork would say … that’s all, Folks!