Animation has come a very long way since its beginnings. This art form simply started out as experimentation for artists: they wanted to see if they could tell a story by animating their hand-drawn illustrations.
And then that experimentation became a big deal when the first feature-length animated movie, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was released back in 1937 and blew everyone’s minds. Since then, animation’s trajectory just skyrocketed, and nowadays, you can see products of animation everywhere — from movies, shows, to video games. Long story short, animation as an art form may be young, but it’s one of the most beloved in our current time.
Considering that animation has undergone major development throughout the years, it is then no wonder that it currently has numerous types and techniques. And right now, you’re probably wondering: what are the different kinds of animation? They are as follows:
First things first: before the film was invented and created the types of animation that we are most familiar with right now, there were early forms of animated pictures. The perfect example of these early animation forms is the zoetrope. The zoetrope is essentially just a wheel with a number of static pictures around the inside so that when the wheel spins, it would look like the pictures would move as well.
Other early forms would also include flipbook animation, object animation, chuckimation, and pixilation. Flipbook animation is similar to zoetrope, but instead of a wheel, flipbook places pictures on every page of a book so that it creates an illusion that the pictures are moving once the pages are flipped quickly.
Meanwhile, object animation and chuckimation involve filming regular inanimate objects and animating them using stop-motion or off-camera hand-movement. And finally, pixilation is similar to the previous two, but instead of using inanimate objects, pixilation uses people as stop-motion characters.
Oftentimes referred to as hand-drawn animation or cel animation, traditional animation is the first form of animation that we are officially introduced to. The first animated movies, such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, were created with this technique.
Traditional animation is a very lengthy and tedious process. To begin with, thousands of pictures were drawn by hand on acetate sheets — or cels — and each cel has to be slightly different from the one before it. After that, each cel has to be photographed onto a separate frame of film so that when the film reel would be played, the animation would move.
Sometimes, this type of animation can also be combined with live-action video by placing the cels on top of the film. Films like Space Jam and Who Framed Roger Rabbit made use of that particular technique.
Now that the process of traditional animation has been established, one can see that this type of animation takes an enormous amount of artistic skill. And though the popularity of traditional animation has dwindled a little bit in our current time due to the rise of digital techniques, it still remains to be a vital part of animation.
So long as animation is still alive as an art form, the techniques of traditional animation will also continue to endure the test of time.
It is not an understatement to say that computer technology completely revolutionized the field of animation. Simply put, computer animation is anything that is created digitally using a computer. Computer animation has technically been around since the 1960s, but it only came to prominence in the 1990s when animators started to use it alongside traditional animation. And since technology evolves quite fast, computer animation has developed two main types. They are the following:
Digital 2D Animation
Essentially speaking, digital 2D animation is just like traditional animation but instead of hand-drawn illustrations, it can be created digitally. To be more specific, digital 2D animation is vector-based, and it simultaneously uses the exact same techniques as traditional animation and computer interpolation.
This type of animation can usually be created using computer programs like Flash, After Effects, Cel Action, and TV Paint. And just like traditional animation, 2D animation can use different layers to build up pictures. Since 2D animation is vector-based, it generally lacks depth, and as a result, it’s not used for artistic purposes as much anymore.
That said, 2D animation is still commonly used in advertising and desktop publishing. Additionally, it is also the basis of many graphical user interfaces (GUIs) that we use every day, such as Mac OS and Microsoft Windows.
Digital 3D Animation
Commonly referred to as CGI (computer-generated imagery) or CG (computer-generated), digital 3D animation is the process of generating three-dimensional moving images in a digital environment. The way this usually works is that an animator will create a very simple version called a skeleton for a digital character (Avar) and then build up from this with digital muscles, skin, hair, pores, etc.
After this, the animator will then use keyframing to set the Avar’s position, but unlike traditional animation, they won’t need to do this on every frame. They just need to do it on the key ones, and then the computer programs will then fill in the movement between these keyframes to create a full animation.
That said, one can see that digital 3D animation works in a completely different way than traditional animation. If traditional animation requires an animator to be an amazing draftsman, computer animation requires you to be able to manipulate puppets.
This kind of animation has more depth than digital 2D, and as a result, this is more commonly utilized nowadays.
Motion capture, sometimes commonly known as mo-cap or mocap, is the process of recording the movement of objects or people. In other words, this type of animation aims to make 3D digital animation as life-like as possible. The way this works is that an actor will be filmed doing actions, speaking, or even acting full scenes, while special sensors on their body and face are “capture” by a film camera. This is then translated into a digital character, which can be controlled by an animator.
This type of animation is often used in blockbusters, like the superhero movies and those others that deal with non-human characters.
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At first thought, stop motion may seem simple, but in reality, it’s actually a lot hard and time-consuming. Basically, stop motion is a form of animation where objects are physically manipulated and filmed frame-by-frame. Just like the other types of animation, stop motion comes in many forms. For starters, object animation and pixilation can use the stop-motion technique without specialist equipment, but special stop-motion models have often been utilized for special effects in live-action films.
Other forms of stop motion make use of artistic materials to create physical objects. A perfect example of this is cut-out animation, which involves flat pictures being physically cut out of paper or fabric and then animated. Puppets can also be used for stop motion as well as clay and plasticine figures. Using clay and plasticine figures is called claymation, and this is a form of stop motion that takes a really long time since a figure has to be moved about twelve times for every second of film.
In a way, stop motion shares a lot of similarities with traditional animation. But unlike traditional animation, stop motion still continues to be a popular form. This is because many animators work with stop motion for artistic reasons since it is still difficult to recreate stop motion models digitally.
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Animation may be a young art form, but it is one of the fast-growing and most beloved of all time. Everywhere we look, we see products of animation: from blockbuster films to hit TV shows to advertisements to video games. Indeed, it has truly become one of the most popular art forms out there.
And since animation has evolved and developed so much over the years, it is no surprise that it now has a lot of types and techniques on its belt. Starting from traditional animation, then evolving to stop motion, and then computer animation, we see that animation is showing no signs of slowing down. It will continue to evolve and develop, and more types and techniques will be born someday. In other words, the trajectory of animation is on an upward climb, and nothing can stop animation from growing.
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