Category: Gareth – 2D Animation

JAWS – Trailer Evaluation

My game trailer was presented infront of audience, and I was given written feedback from 5 of my peers. I was pleasantly surprised when my trailer generated such a great response, being rated a 9 or even 10 out of 10 from some people. The trailer wasn’t without it’s criticisms, however.

General Consensus 

In general, I felt my trailer received very positive feedback, and in a couple of the feedback forms, the “What are the Weaknesses?” section contained comments such as “I can’t think of any“, or “Does with even count for you?, I have no words for this“. From the 5 feedback reports I received, my trailer scored an average of 10/10. The comments I received directly after the presentation were better than I could have anticipated also; I received commands like “It builds suspense well and has a climatic ending“, and one person even said “It’s basically everything you want in a trailer” I don’t think it gets much better than that.

Sound

The feedback for the sound featured in my animation was positive, with no real criticisms on that part. The written feedback contained comments such as “Sound and music fit the visuals” and “Good use of music, incorporated well with animation“. The soundtrack really had to carry the trailer, and it was the 2nd biggest part of the entire production. I had created the sound mostly from scratch, taking inspiration from various different sources to create a piece that flowed nicely into each scene. It was nice to see that people appreciated all the work I put into it.

One of the criticisms I got however was related to the length of certain scenes- “Sometimes there was a bit of a pause between scenes” and “Graphics maybe go by too fast” Unfortunately this is something that was dictated by the length of that particular music during those parts, so in a sense, thats a criticism of the soundtrack. It’s something I also had a problem with, but I couldn’t really fix without chopping up or changing the soundtrack completely. It’s something that could have been amended, but due to time constraints I was unable to do so.

Personally, I would have done the sound and music after the animation had been completed, and then have the music controlled by the animation, and not the other way around.

Animation

The feedback for the animation was largely positive, and its the part I was personally most proud of. I received comments such as “Animation was fantastic over the live action” and “Professional looking graphics, the live action and animation go well together“. I felt that my unique style choice set my animation apart, and really gave it a unique feel.

The criticisms I did get were mostly over small details, two reported similarly- “Try to make the animations more smooth“, while one wrote “Uh… the character was small compared to the fish? The fish were big so the shark seemed less scary” In the end I feel these are simply nit-picks, and not really comments on the entirety of the animations. In response to the criticism over my jagged animations, it was once again a matter of time constraints and general lack of experience working with the program.

Given more time and perhaps previous experience with After Effects, these small issues could easily be ironed out.

Motion Graphics 

The motion graphics were a relatively small portion of the animation, but none the less greatly contributed to the final result. I was told that my graphics looked professional and suited the style of the animation.

Conclusion

In conclusion, I couldn’t have asked for a better response. I filled me with absolute joy that everyone enjoyed the result of my hard work. Though there were faults, I felt that none were too stand-outish or detracted from the overall experience I wanted to create, and could have been fixed with relative ease, given more time.

The biggest criticism of the trailer myself is how long it is. It exceeds the given time limit by 24 seconds, something I tried to rectify but couldn’t without making the scenes go by too fast, splicing the music, or removing scenes entirely. I’ve been told that it’s an acceptable length, but I can’t help but feel I failed somewhat in that regard.

 

Jaws Tang

 

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JAWS – Trailer Production

A production log explaining some of the process I used to create the animation aspect of my trailer.

Backgrounds and Lighting

The backgrounds are the environments of my animation, and they range from dark abyssal trenches to colourful reefs. Each environment requires a different style of lighting and effects.

The most basic environment in my animation was from the Scene with the squids in the darkened abyssal waters.

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I started out with a photo of an appropriate cliff face and edited it to fit a 1920 x 1080 resolution. With this basic environment I then continued to create various lighting effects such as lights and a basic vignette-

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These were all created very simply with Paint.NET, a program I would us to create all of my animation assets.

After compositing them all into Adobe After Effects and tweaking with some of the layer transparencies and Blending modes, I got this result-

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To give the illusion of movement in the water, I created a light source that was on a slow wiggle path, illuminating different parts of the environment as it drifted around. It was subtle, but effective. I continued to use this technique almost throughout my entire animation.

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By providing  a light source  over the top of the backgrounds, I can create an light environment that both the live-action and animated characters will be affected by, helping to blend the two together. Adjusting the contrast/hue saturation of various animated assets to fit the environment and adding separate shadows to them also gives an effect of place in the environment.

To further blend the animated with the live action, I used the Wiggler tool with the Brightness/Contrast effect in an effort to simulate the flashing caustic light over certain environments. It’s another subtle effect, but something I feel adds further depth.

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I ended up changing/customising all of these  effects depending on the given environment so each one feels unique.

In one particular scene I had to add a peice of terrain to suit my needs. I used a similar techniques to blend the two, but also had to purposefully degrade the quality of the HD image to suit the rather grainy/lower resolution background.

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On the topic of grain and resolution, despite having a 1080p camera, I found the iPhone to struggle with recording low-light environments resulting in degraded image quality. In an attempt to fix this, I used the ‘Remove Grain’ effect with varying results.

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In the end, the effect wasn’t enough to fix he problem entirely without producing other unwanted visual effects.

Animation and Effects

The toughest aspect of my producing my trailer was the creation of the individual animations for the characters. Among those, I found the Giant Squid turned out particularly well. After some experimenting I found that my original graphic wasn’t suitable, so I had to make a T-posed/stretched out version-

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This subsequently gave me movement possibilities for each individual tentacle, and I was able to produce some fluid and realistic animation.

I used the puppet tool to create all of my characters’s animations. Timing the puppet movement with what was happening in the animation was difficult, and the puppet tool itself was very restrictive when creating exaggerated animations. Fortunately, the fluid movements of the tool worked well with my underwater environment.

JAWS Process 6.png

I then used a similar technique with my main character. However, I decided to use a hierarchy method so I could pose my character into different positions depending on what the scene required-

JAWS Process 7.png

 

 

Each scene has its own unique style, so I had to edit each asset individually to suit it. In the  short scene with the Jellyfish, I made use of the transparency and glow effects to make the characters feel less flat and 2 dimensional. I played around with various settings until I found combinations that were suitable.

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Similarly, I used the gaussian blur and opacity effects to create the illusion of objects further in the distance.

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To create the movement of the yellow fish, I keyframed a basic path from right-to-left and then skewed it into curves. I then keyframed individual rotation points along the path so the fish pitches up and down with it, creating an effect of the fish swimming through the water.

Jaws Process 10

In an effort to make my animation as fluid as possible, I used the Keyframe Velocity effect. Keyframe velocity can slow or speed up the entry/or exit of an objects position.

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I allow the the light on the helmet to light up, I created a separate layer in Paint.NET of the shape of the light, parented it to main character, but kept it above the overlays and effects that created the darkness, giving the effect that it is illuminated. Adding a simple glow to the layer completed the effect.

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Adding the particles in my animation proved troublesome. I started by adding the Particle  Simulator II to a solid, and worked out the particles from there. For this particular scene, I parented the solid containing the particles to my logo, so they would move with it. For some reason, the particle effect doesn’t give you an option to control the particles speed, which is something I just had to work around.

Live-Action Recording and Editing

Recording the live-action portion of my animation was indeed the most stressful part of the production process.

I travled to the National Marine Aquarium in Plymouth to capture my live action footage. I took with me a GoPro Hero3+ Black Edition, an iPhone 6 and a Tripod.

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I mounted the GoPro onto a tripod so it would remain steady, and aimed it at the aquariums. I also did the same with the iPhone, incase the GoPro didn’t capture the desired footage or ran out of battery/memory.

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After recording the footage and returning home, I inspected the GoPro footage first. GoPro has a specific program for extracting and editing footage called GoPro studio.

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The main issue with the GoPro I found was that it lacked a rear screen to see what the camera was seeing, so I was left guessing what was and wasn’t inside the GoPro’s gigantic FoV.

GoPros aren’t exactly designed for conventional filming, and as a result film with a massive FoV which gave my images a disorietanting feel. GoPro Studio does have an option to remove this effect, though it wasn’t perfect and compressed the image. I also found that all my footage from the GoPro had a flashing red light reflected off the glass from the device itself, which would be very distracting within the animation.

In the end I found the iPhones’s footage to be far more acceptable for my animation. Aside from being slightly lower in quality, I was able to position the iPhone with great precision and get the exact shots I needed because I could see what the camera was capturing.

Final Production and Saving

My final animation file is saved as .MPG, because I found that it saved at an acceptable quality while keeping the file size low enough to effectively transport and playback. When rendering with CC Media Encoder, the MPG preset matched the resolution and FPS of the animation and complied the audio within the same file, when as presets for MP4, MPEG 4 and AVI rendered with the audio in a separate file, for some reason.

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My animation was split up into 11 separate files for each scene, each saved as .AVI as to not loose quality before I compiled them all into one composition, added the soundtrack and sound effects, and then finally save the output as .mpg

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Planning a 2D Animation Sequence

Inspiration/Source Material

Jaws_(NES_Screenshot)

This is Jaws. More specifically, the Jaws game on the NES. I’ve always wanted to design a game based around underwater exploration, and this little number from 1987 provided me the basic foundations on what do build my project on.

The original game had very simple gameplay. You’d control a diver from left-to-right and shoot various innocent animals with your harpoon gun to collect shells, and then drive your tiny sprite boat from port-to-port to purchase upgrades until your final showdown with Jaws. Even for 1987 it’s pretty bad, and it’s certainly nothing compared to other games of the time like Contra and The Legend of Zelda II.

I want to bring this game up-to-date, and provide a unique platformer experience focused around atmosphere, exploration and action-puzzle solving. As far as I know, underwater games have been in short supply as of late, and I think brining an atmospheric style of game to the public would be a breath of fresh air.

However, the only underwater exploration game I’ve ever played is Endless Ocean.

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Endless ocean was a game released on the Wii in 2009. It was a game heavily based around atmosphere and exploration, which is exactly the premise of my planned remake. One of the features I loved so much in Endless Ocean was the ability to identify and collect all the different species of marine life. I’d like a similar feature in my Jaws remake, as an incentive to explore and perhaps even learn a little bit.

The visual style of my animated pieces is going to be relatively simple. I want the intractable features of the game  (Main character, sea creatures etc.) clearly divided against the realistic, live action backgrounds to help the audience differ from what is part of the game, and what is simply a moving background.

Overall, I want the animation to be simple and visually appealing, with an emphasis on atmosphere and mystery. The game would be something anyone can enjoy, suitable for all ages, with an absence of gore and only mildly scary themes. (Unless you have Ichthyophobia, in which case this game would be terrifying)

Development Sketches

Once I had my visual style pinned down, it was time to create some assets. The thing about my game is that the majority of the design work has been done for me, the biggest assets in my game are simply fish.

I did have the opportunity to get creative with some character designs, however.

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My main character is called Finn, and she is the diver you would take control of through the game.

The design comes from modern SCUBA gear, but compressed and far-less cumbersome. The idea of the helmet comes from me wanting to be clear about which way the character is facing, as this becomes difficult in 2D, especially with a simple visual style. The large Fin and visor’s location on the helmet can be used as clear directors of which way the character is facing, and can be easily animated.

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Here are a few different designs I drummed up to explore a few new ideas. In the end however I couldn’t decide, so I ended up with a mixture of all 3 suits to create my final character;

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Colour was the next step. I was so indecisive during this phase that I tried countless pallets and designs. Here are but a few:

Development Screenshot

The devlopment for the animation assets was a realativly simple one. I wanted to give the look of a 3D object, but I felt I didn’t have enough time to model and texture each asset individually in Cinema 4D, so I thought I’d have a crack at giving the illusion of 3D, through something called Polygon Art.

Tunawip 1

Jaws Tuna

It’s essentially taking the rough shape of an object and seperating it into ‘polygons’, on which you apply shade and colour. This was a development screenshot of the Tuna fish.

Clownwip 1

Jaws Clown

Ditto, with the clownfish. All my curret animation peices use this method.

Character Sheets

Finn

Jaws Finn

Finn is the main character you would control throughout the game, and also the character present throughout the whole animation. I designed Finn would be an anonymous and silent character to help lend a sense of mystery, but also so the player/viewer could find it easier to identify with the character.

Extras

A collection of extra characters that will appear throughout the animation. (If fish be classified as characters) Most of these “characters” simply appear as part of the scenery, but are none the less essential to the animation.

(Not presented to scale)

Oscellaris Clownfish (Amphiprion ocellaris)

Jaws Clown

Yellow Tang (Zebrasoma flavescens)

Jaws Tang

3-Stripe Damselfish (Dascyllus melanurus)

Jaws Damsel

Bluefin Tuna (Thunnus thynnus)Jaws TunaHumboldt Squid (Dosidicus gigas)

Jaws Humboldt Side

Giant Squid (Architeuthis Dux)

Jaws Giantsquid

Jaws (Ultracarcharodon carcharias)

Jaws Jaws

Storyboard

Here is the storyboard displaying the basic premise of my animation.

JawsBoard 1The very first scene in the animation shows the character slowly falling to the sea floor. The first scene is crucial in that is sets the tone for the rest of the animation. Here we see Finn alone, and that’s a key point that drives the narrative through to the end.

JawsBoard 2The second scene is where the explorative segment of the animation starts. Finn begins to explore the environment and identifies a couple of sea creatures in the process. This sets another key point in the animation, it showcases that the game contains exploration.JawsBoard 3Ditto in another scene with some Clownfish.JawsBoard 4Finn pauses momentarily over a drop-off, and then bravely dives into the abyss. This sets the tone and premise for the deep water segment, displaying to the audience that the game isn’t restricted to shallow water and that the environments are varied. JawsBoard 5A simple scene where Finn encounters some Jellyfish. (The Jellyfish may or may not be animated, depending on what footage I am able to obtain)

JawsBoard 6Finn continues swimming in the darkness, and red squid zoom past her. With her spotlight she looks downwards to reveal a Giant squid swimming silently beneath her in the depths Another key moment in the animation, it shows that not all the creatures are necessarily friendly, which flows nicely into the next scene;  Jawsboard 7Finn approaches a Moray Eel, only for it lunge at her, causing Finn to step back in caution.JawsBoard 8Finn uses her harpoon gun to launch herself over an undersea canyon. This displays another gameplay element.JawsBoard 9This scene begins the mysterious segment of the animation, on which the music is almost stopped and the animation focuses on proving a lonely atmosphere. Finn is here simply watching a school of fish swim overhead.JawsBoard 10Finn is once again exploring a darkened environment, and is startled as she spots a large shadow pass behind her.JawsBoard 11The finale of the animation is Finn at the surface. She dives down briefly beneath the waves, only to come face-to-face with Jaws.JawsBoard 12The ending of the animation, on which the title is displayed.

Backgrounds

The backgrounds of my animation will be mostly the live-action footage from the aquarium enviroments. For example:

JAWS Banner

These are my art assests composed onto a real-life background.

Presentation

The final presentation can be found here.

Motion Graphics/Animation Proposal

A sheet containing both my animation and motion-graphics proposal for my project.

(I had to re-upload this post due to WordPress being seriously un-cooperative. Hopefully this one works)

Proposal 1

Proposal 2

This text exists only to prevent the blog post from bugging out and breaking. It seems that WordPress doesn’t like posts with just images, you have to have at least some sort of text to go with it.

Animation Techniques Report

Animation is the process of creating movement, and creating the illusion of movement through persistence of vision. Animation can be created using many different forms of media, from simple flip-books and paper cut-outs, to advanced film and editing software.

The very first form of “animation” can be observed in palaeolithic cave paintings, in which ancient humans attempted to capture the motion of animals running through sequences of repeated drawings across a cave face, or single drawings of animals with legs superimposed in different positions, in an attempt to display movement.

For ages this was the only way humans could record motion. It was only until 1832 when the phenakistoscope was invented. The phenakistoscope is regarded as the world’s first form of media entertainment. This simple contraption would shape the path for the future of film.

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A phenakistoscope disc, drawn by Eadweard Muybridge in 1893

This revolutionary new invention would birth other contraptions designed with the same basic principle, such as the Zoetrope and Praxinoscope. All of these inventions relied on the brains ability to sequence fragmented movement together, a phenomenon called the Phi phenomenon. The Phi phenomenon causes us to perceive motion among fragmented images, a characteristic on which all these early animation contraptions rely.

As early as 1890, the next leap in motion recording was taken; the Cinématographe Léon Bouly, or simply cinematograph for short. It was essentially a motion camera, projector, and printer rolled into one. Needless to say it was nothing short of  revolutionary for the time.

The Cinematograph it’s projection position.

The Cinematograph was lightweight and relativity easy to transport, thus providing early film-makers with the flexibility of recording anything anywhere, and was capable of delivering a much higher-quality image than any of its predecessors. It’s projector was capable of producing a very large image of which great audiences of people could view at once, a social function that would later become known as a cinema. The Cinematograph  was successful all over the world, and entertained over 500,000 in 1900.

With the advent of the Cinematograph, the very first animation was produced. On the 28th of October 1892, the very first animated film was shown to the public. ‘Pauvre Pierrot’ is a short film lasting about 15 minutes, and consists of over 500 individually painted images.

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Through primitive choppy and disconnected, it’s still a remarkable feat for it’s era.

Jump forward 100 years, animation is still a prevalent part of the media industry. Cartoons are perhaps the best example of animation used in world-wide entertainment. Just as the cinematograph drew the crowds in the 1800’s, millions of children turn their gaze to the television to watch their favourite characters in their latest shenanigans.
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Animations like the Road Runner, Tom and Jerry, and Danger Mouse are Cel animations. This animation technique involves hand-drawing the actual animation frame-by-frame onto transparent cellulose sheets, on which they are then layered onto a backgrounds to produce a film. This technique was used widely through the 1980s-90s and produced the base and the demand for the next generation of cartoons.

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Claymation may be one of the only truly timeless forms of animation.

Again in 1990, the world saw the return of physical stop-motion with Wallace and Gromit. Stop animation, including claymation and pixilation is the process of taking individual frames or pictures and them compositing them together to create the illusion of fluid movement. Claymation movies to this day are still popular, providing a charm and style that no other animation method has been able to effectively produce. Popular films produced using this technique are Postman Pat, Shaun the Sheep, Morph and The Clangers.

Stop-motion is hardly restricted to claymation and animated characters. In 1980 George Lucas used stop-motion in Starwars as a way to implement special effects, in which the imperial walkers are animated with the technique.

With the creation of the personal computer, it was inevitable that the creation of animation wouldn’t be restricted to professional cartoonists anymore. Flash, though relatively primitive nowadays opened the doors for budding artists and animators to try their hand at 2D animation.

Adobe C4 Flash
Happy Tree Friends, a rather misleading cartoon series created with Adobe Flash.

A ‘Flash’ animation is simply an animation created in Adobe Flash. Adobe flash is a user-friendly program that allows people to create their own animations using virtual stop-motion. Adobe flash is perhaps best suited for the simple, slightly minimalistic art styles that modern cartoons have adopted, and the glorious dawn of Youtube, Flash animations would become astronomically popular, further spreading the world of Adobe Flash and animation to every corner of the globe.

On the topic of Youtube, a more ambiguous form of animation has resurfaced. The art of Pixilation.

Pixilation is essentially a form of stop motion, just involving human actors in the place of puppets or clay models. Pixilation is mainly use to produce movements or actions that ordinarily wouldn’t be possible in the real world.

The animated film has gone from strength to strength with the creation Wallace and Gromit (1990), James and the Giant Peach (1996) ,Coraline (2009) and Frankenweenie (2012). As mentioned before, 3D stop-motion continues to lead it’s genre through the centuries as it provides a unique artistic style that even the latest 3D CGI software has yet to match. However, The use of animation has evolved far beyond film making. Today, animation is present anywhere there is a screen. The applications of animation are perhaps limitless.

Animation also plays a key role in scientific visualisation. Data can be represented in motion to help give a more fluid understanding. This is just as important in teaching, as motion graphics can be used to convey information in a way that is pleasing to the eye, aiding student engagement and ultimately their learning ability. The digital projector and Interactive Whiteboard facilitates this shift to a more visual learning style.

Advertisements have been around longer than animation has, however that doesn’t mean they haven’t embraced the flexibility of motion graphics. Rarely an advertisement goes by without a form of animation, simply because animation is the best way to get and hold the readers attention. If the animation is pleasing to the viewer, it also has a higher chance of leaving a lasting impression as opposed to a static image. These are all examples of animation used in a more modern and informative fashion.

Some companies like Coke Cola go as far as to even produce short films to more effectivley advertise their product, ensuring viewer engagement.

Modern trends in animation continue to climb the evolutionary tree with every new project. Today, traditional methods such as Cel are rarely used, and have been replaced with more advanced digital techniques created in software like Toon Boom, and Anime Studio. 2D animation isn’t restricted to cartoons, films anymore either; almost all games utilise ‘animated textures’, on which a moving 2D image is applied to a 3D model. This is mostly used  for particle effects, HUDs and virtual screens.

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‘Adventure Time’ is an example of a modern-day cartoon series, which uses digital software to produce clean, sharp and fluid images.
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‘The amazing world of Gumball’ presents a unique and often abstract art style based heavily in Japanese cartoon styles. It’s the first of it’s kind to use live-action backgrounds and 3D animation alongside its 2D characters.

The software used to produce 2D animation can vary widely, and depending on your personal preference and and end goal, you may want to choose one or the other. The obvious here is of course Adobe Flash, but by now more advanced and intuitive programs have surfaced.

Toon Boom is a household name when it comes to the realm of 2D animation, it’s used by Nickelodeon, Warner Bros, and even Disney. Toon Boom is recognised as the best animation software available to buy, and covers many different animation styles and practices, including 3D cameras and particle effects. Because of the broad spectrum of techniques whit program facilitates, almost any animation of any particular style can be produced with relative ease.
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DigiCel is another animation program favoured by Disney. It allows for the creation of a more traditional frame-by-frame animation technique, mimicking the old Cel-animation production in a virtual environment. DigiCel is mostly suited for a more traditional style of animation, such as the exhibited by Walt Disney and Don Bluth.

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Anime studio is one of the more affordable animation softwares out there. Anime Studio does not support frame-by-frame techniques, instead relying on a bone-rigging movement functions. The program is praised for it’s affordability and 3D camera functions. Because of this however, Anime Studio does lack any ability to produce ‘complex’ animations like rotoscopes very effectively.

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Pencil is a free open-source animation tool. It supports frame-by-frame animation and has a clear user-friendly interface. Naturally it’s not going to be of too higher quality simply because it is freeware. It’s a friendly platform that is useful for introducing the basics of animation. The tools available to the user resemble those from MS Paint, and as a result the animation quality you are able to produce may be very limited.

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Animation Production Techniques

Examples of different production techniques for animation, 2D and 3D.

Stop AnimationShaun-the-Sheep-TS3TheSnapshot_05.jpg

Stop animation, including claymation and pixilation is the process of taking individual frames or pictures and them compositing them together to create the illusion of fluid movement. Popular films produced using this technique are Wallace and Gromit, Shaun the Sheep, Morph and The Clangers.

Time Lapsetrails3.jpg

A time lapse film involves filming over a long period of time, (by motion film or many individual photos), and then edited to be sped up to give the effect of time speeding up. Essentially, a time lapse film condenses a long periods of time into a short few minutes. This technique is often used in documentaries to showcase nature.

Cel

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Cel animation involves drawing the actual animation frame-by-frame onto transparent cellulose sheets, on which they are then layered onto a backgrounds to produce a film. This technique was used to make the early Simpsons, Spongebob and Road Runner cartoons.

Flash

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Flash animation is simply an animation created in Adobe Flash. Adobe flash is a user-friendly program that allows people to create their own animation. Adobe flash is best suited for simple, maybe even minimalistic art styles.

Pixilation

Stop-Motion-Karate-5

Pixilation is essentially a form of stop motion, just involving human actors in the place of puppets or clay models. Pixilation is mainly use to produce movements or actions that ordinarily wouldn’t be possible in real life.