Animation is the process of displaying still images in a rapid sequence to create the illusion of movement. These images can be hand drawn, computer generated, or pictures of 3D objects. Though most people associate animation with cartoons, it also has applications in industrial and scientific research. Regardless of the type, the viewer’s body plays a main role in why people see continuous movement instead of a series of quickly changing images.
The origin of the movement of static images can be reconducted to the Voynich manuscript that dates back to between 1404 and 1438. It contains several series of illustrations of the same subject-matter and even few circles that – when spun around the center – would create an illusion of motion.
The phenakistoscope (1832), zoetrope (1834) and praxinoscope (1877), as well as the common flip book, were early animation devices to produce movement from sequential drawings using technological means, but animation did not develop further until the advent of motion picture film.
These devices produced the appearance of movement from sequential drawings using technological means, but animation did not really develop much further until the advent of cinematography. The cinématographe was a projector, printer, and camera in one machine that allowed moving pictures to be shown successfully on a screen which was invented by history’s earliest film makers, Auguste and Louis Lumière, in 1894.
There are three main types of animation: traditional, stop motion, and computer generated. Each can be used to make both 2D or 3D images. There are also other less common forms, many of which focus on using an unusual medium like sand or glass to create the images, as well as combinations of live action and drawings or computer created images.
Traditional animation: involves drawing every frame of a film by hand. After all the drawings are completed and colored, they can be photographed or scanned into a computer and then combined with sound on film. The process is extremely time-consuming, since it requires the creation of around 24 drawings per second of film. It’s also labor-intensive, which is why most traditionally animated films are produced by large companies.
Stop motion: in this process, animators manipulate and photograph objects one motion and frame at a time. The objects can be almost anything, ranging from clay figures to paper cut outs to household objects. Some stop motion films use actual people, who hold specific poses for individual frames. After photographing the objects, the photos are then transferred to film and combined with sound, as with the traditional method.
Computer generated: Animators can also use computer software to create films and models, which is generally faster than the traditional method. The characters and objects they make can be either two-dimensional or three-dimensional, but the process for creating each type is a little different. For 2D computer generated animation, the animator creates a series of images with each one very slightly different from the last, very similarly to the traditional method. To create 3D images, he or she has to make a model of the character or object. This can be done by creating animation variables, which are points on a computer model that can be moved to create a different posture or look, or by using motion capture, in which a live actor acts the part of the character and his or her motions are recorded and applied to the computer-created model.