Basics of Animation: Types and Techniques with Reference Material

In this post, we will get some basic idea about various types of Animations.

The Animation Sector can be roughly divided into four main disciplines:

  1. 2D Drawn or Traditional
  2. 2D Computer Generated
  3. Stop Frame
  4. 3D Computer Generated

Most companies will concentrate on one discipline and but some studios do all four.

2D Drawn or Traditional

2D drawn animation (also popularly known as Cel animation) was the first technique to develop. Developed in early 20th century, it mainly contains hand drawn drawings by the graphic artist, each slightly progressive than the previous one. When run rapidly on the screen in the sequence, it creates an illusion of motion. Traditionally,  the work was done on thin transparent sheets of paper called Cel (hence, the name) and then projected onto the screen. This type of animation is more or less obsolete now as it requires lot of manual and tedious work by the artist and quality control is quite difficult. But still, even today, some animation lovers produce such type of animation purely for their pleasure.

2D Computer Generated

This is a modern version of the traditional technique mentioned above. It still works on the basic principle of rapidly displaying a sequence of progressive images to create an illusion of movement. But in this case, the images are computer generated rather than hand drawn.

Tweening and morphing are two most popular techniques to auto generate images. In both these techniques, the first and last images are fed into the computer (digitally like bitmap images) and the intermediate images are computed by using sophisticated algorithms based on user parameters. One of the most popular program using this technique is Flash animation program.

Stop Frame Animation type of animation is created by physically manipulating real-world objects and photographing them one frame at a time to create the illusion of movement. There are many different types of stop-motion animations, but the most popular is the ‘clay’ animation. In this, real world clay models are developed and shot frame-by-frame. Stop frame animation is one of the most difficult type to achieve (smooth movements means more number of shots hence more work). This type is typically seen in children’s TV serials and learning series.

3D Computer Generated is the latest in animation techniques and technology. In 3D animation, a model is developed in highly advanced software, like: 3Dmax or Maya and then animated.Big animation studios like Pixar are at the forefront of this technology. These are also used in movie special effects. This is the most advanced and highly complex animation technique ever conceived. There are hundreds of sub branches and techniques.

For example, for achieving real life-like motion, actual human or animal movement can be captured (called motion capture) using special infrared cameras and then fed into computer to animate the model. Even models may be scanned into the computers using stereoscopic cameras and other advanced techniques. The possibilities are endless in this domain.

Hope you enjoyed this post and learned a bit about basics of animation.

Here are some references for further reading:

(Source & Image Credits: Pixar Studios, Animation Arena, Kidzdom)

One Comment

Narendra June 16, 2010

Nice! Thanks Buddy! It has given me the lots of information about the basics of animation.