This animation moves at 10 frames per second.
This animation moves at 2 frames per second. At this rate, the individual frames should be discernible.
12 frames per second is the typical rate for an animated cartoon.

Animation is the optical illusion of motion created by the consecutive display of images of static elements. In film and video production, this refers to techniques by which each frame of a film or movie is produced individually. These frames may be generated by computers, or by photographing a drawn or painted image, or by repeatedly making small changes to a model unit (see claymation and stop motion), and then photographing the result with a special animation camera. When the frames are strung together and the resulting film is viewed, there is an illusion of continuous movement due to the phenomenon known as persistence of vision. Generating such a film tends to be very labour intensive and tedious, though the development of computer animation has greatly sped up the process.

Graphics file formats like GIF, MNG, SVG and Flash (SWF) allow animation to be viewed on a computer or over the Internet.

Animation techniquesEdit

Traditional animation began with each frame being painted and then filmed. Cel animation, developed by Bray and Hurd in the 1910s, sped up the process by using transparent overlays so that characters could be moved without the need to repaint the background for every frame. More recently, styles of animation based on painting and drawing have evolved, such as the minimalist Simpsons cartoons, or the roughly sketched The Snowman.

Computer animation has advanced rapidly, and is now approaching the point where movies can be created with characters so lifelike as to be hard to distinguish from real actors. This involved a move from 2D to 3D, the difference being that in 2D animation the effect of perspective is created artistically, but in 3D objects are modeled in an internal 3D representation within the computer, and are then 'lit' and 'shot' from chosen angles, just as in real life, before being 'rendered' to a 2D bitmapped frame. Predictions that famous dead actors might even be 'brought back to life' to play in new movies before long have led to speculation about the moral and copyright issues involved. The use of computer animation as a way of achieving the otherwise impossible in conventionally shot movies has led to the term "computer generated imagery" being used, though the term has become hard to distinguish from computer animation as it is now used in referring to 3D movies that are entirely animated.

Computer animation involves modelling, motion generation, followed by the addition of surfaces, and finally rendering. Surfaces are programmed to stretch and bend automatically in response to movements of a 'wire frame model', and the final rendering converts such movements to a bitmap image. It is the recent developments in rendering complex surfaces like fur and clothing textures that have enabled stunningly life-like character models, including surfaces that even ripple, fold and blow in the wind, with every fibre or hair individually calculated for rendering. However, that actually has little to do with the animation itself. Animation is the process of bringing a lifeless puppet to life through the use of motion. Many people confuse fancy effects and high-res textures with animation, but in fact life-like motion can be created using the simplest of models.

There is for some a misconception that computers create animation today. However, a computer is nothing more than a very expensive and complicated drawing tool, as a pencil is a drawing tool. The choices a computer makes when interpolating motion are almost always awkward or unattractive ones, because the computer can not know what the animator is trying to express. Even if a complex physics system were created complete enough to exactly mimic the real world, the end result would not be affecting, because a significant part of the craft of animation concerns the artistic choices that an animator makes, and of which a computer is incapable.



The major use of animation has always been for entertainment. However, there is growing use of instructional animation and educational animation to support explanation and learning.

The "classic" form of animation, the "animated cartoon", as developed in the early 1900s and refined by Ub Iwerks, Walt Disney and others, requires up to 24 distinct drawings for one second of animation. This technique is described in detail in the article Traditional animation.

Because animation is very time-consuming and often very expensive to produce, the majority of animation for TV and movies comes from professional animation studios. However, the field of independent animation has existed at least since the 1950s, with animation being produced by independent studios (and sometimes by a single person). Several independent animation producers have gone on to enter the professional animation industry. Bill Plympton is one of the most well known independent animators today.

Limited animation is a way of increasing production and decreasing costs of animation by using "short cuts" in the animation process. This method was pioneered by UPA and popularized by Hanna-Barbera, and adapted by other studios as cartoons moved from movie theaters to television.

Animation studiosEdit

Animation Studios, like Movie studios may be production facilities, or financial entities. In some cases, especially in Anime they have things in common with artists studios where a Master or group of talented individuals oversee the work of lesser artists and crafts persons in realizing their vision.

Styles and techniques of animationEdit

Branch pagesEdit

See alsoEdit

Further readingEdit

  • Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston, Disney animation: The Illusion Of Life, Abbeville 1981
  • Walters Faber, Helen Walters, Algrant (Ed.), Animation Unlimited: Innovative Short Films Since 1940, HarperCollins Publishers 2004
  • Trish Ledoux, Doug Ranney, Fred Patten (Ed.), Complete Anime Guide: Japanese Animation Film Directory and Resource Guide, Tiger Mountain Press 1997
  • The Animator's Survival Kit, Richard Williams
  • Animation Script to Screen, Shamus Culhane
  • The Animation Book, Kit Laybourne
  • CG101: A Computer Graphics Industry Reference. Terrence Masson Unique and personal histories of early computer animation production, plus a comprehensive foundation of the industry for all reading levels.

External linksEdit