What is Animation?
Animation is the art of bringing life to an otherwise inanimate objects, or illustrated / 3D generated characters.
It is created by projecting sequenced images quickly, one after another to create the illusion of life.
But that's not really the first thing you imagine when you hear the word Animation, isn't it? That's just technical stuff...
You're probably thinking of Disney, Pixar, or Ghibli.
The most important part of all of that is the word life. Bringing life is the true essence of the animator's job. And there are many ways of doing that.
It could be by drawing, it could be by moving character rigs on a 3D software. It could be with puppets, cut-out characters, or lego figures.
SPECIALIZED TERMS USE IN ANIMATION.
The timeline is the part of the animation software that represents the animation's progress over time.
Depending on the software, we might use the timeline to make changes to the timing of the animation, as well as the position of the elements.
The frame rate of an animation is the number of individual images (or frames) that are being displayed over the span of one second. It is a setting you can adjust in the animation software.
Animation is usually done in 24 frames per second (FPS).
WORKING ON ONE'S & TWO'S
Working on One's or Two's is a term used in hand drawn animation.
Working on one's would mean doing a new drawing over every single frame of the animation.
Working on twos means holding each drawing for two frames, so one second of animation at 24 frames per second would only be 12 drawings, not 24.
In 2D animation working on two's looks fine in most instances, and there are even cases where drawings can be held longer. In 3D, though, working on one's is the standard.
SHOTS & SCENES
Normally in live action filmmaking, the term 'shot' refers to the images between camera edits, while a scene is all the shots and dialogue that take place at a particular location for a continuous block of time.
In animation, however, we often use the term 'scene' and 'shot' interchangeably. When we talk about a scene/shot, we often refer to one specific continuous piece of animation in between camera cuts.
KEYFRAMES | BREAKDOWNS | INBETWEENS
Key frames, breakdowns and in-betweens are important terms, but they mean slightly different things depending on the type of animation.
In hand drawn animation, keyframes (or just keys) are the major important poses that define the scene. Breakdowns come between keys and define what the motion from key to key will be. In-betweens are all the frames that come in between to smooth out the motion.
In 3D, a keyframe is any position on the timeline where the animator has defined the position of the character. In-betweens are all the frames that the computer interprets or automatically generates to move the character from key to key.
TIMING | SPACING | EASINH
Timing, spacing and easing are closely related terms.
Timing means the total number of frames that will be used for a movement. Spacing is the amount of change that comes between each frame. Decreasing the spacing, makes an object slower, while increasing the spacing makes it look faster.
In digital animation, easing is how spacing is controlled, usually through a motion graph on the timeline.
When animating, it's very useful to be able to see more than one frame at a time.
In paper animation this is done by having multiple drawings on a light table, but in modern animation programs there's often a feature called onion skinning. It lets you see semi-transparent representations of the frames behind or ahead of the current frame you're working on.
Compositing is the process of putting all the individual pieces of a scene together to create the final visual output.
You might have a background, multiple characters, and some scenery all being developed separately. Compositing is how all those pieces get put together into a single scene.
12 PRNCIPLES OF ANIMATION
The foundation of any animation education is the 12 principles of animation.
The 12 principles were a set of core concepts that were developed in the 1930's by animators at Walt Disney Studios as they were transitioning from doing shorts to feature films. It was a gradual process of discovery and refinement as the animators tried to push their work to a new higher standard.
These 12 principles were first compiled by the legendary animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston in 1981 in their book The Illusion of Life.
Creating the illusion of life is what the principles are all about. They help us create characters that look like they have weight, personality, and exist in a real world with real physics at work.
Even though they were developed by 2D animators, they still apply to 3D and any other type of animation.
1. SQUASH & STRETCH
Squash and stretch describe how an object changes shape in response tom forces acting on it.
Squash is when the object is compressed by an impact of an opposing force. Stretch is when an object is distended by something pulling on it, or by moving quickly.
Anticipation is a smaller movement that comes before a major one, and signals that the major movement is about to happen.
Staging is the presentation of a shot in a way that makes the content of the shot as clear as possible, and the narrative function of the shot as strong as possible.
4. STRAIGHT AHEAD vs POSE-TO-POSE
Straight-ahead and pose-to-pose are different approaches to animating.
Straight-ahead means creating each new frame in sequence from beginning to end. Pose-to-pose means creating the key poses for each action first, and then filling in the in-between poses.
5. FOLLOW THROUGH & OVERLAPPING ACTION
Follow-through and overlapping action refers to the tendency of different parts of a body to move at different speeds.
This includes the concept of drag, which is when one part of the body lags behind when a motion starts.
6. SLOW IN & SLOW OUT
Slow-in and slow-out refer to the tendency of objects to gradually accelerate (and then decelerate) when moving from one position to another.
These are sometimes referred to as ease-in and ease-out, or simply easing.
The principle of arcs come from the observation that living things don't move in straight lines, but rather in curved motions.
Creating graceful, clear arcs often elevates the animation and reveals the experience level of the animator.
8. SECONDARY ACTION
Secondary action refers to smaller movements (or gestures) that support the primary actions of a character.
These actions make the shot clearer by emphasizing the attitude or motivation behind the movement
Timing is controlling the speed of an action through the number of frames used to represent it.
It is one of the most fundamental of the 12 principles and takes years to master.
Exaggeration means representing a subject in a heightened or more extreme way, rather than strictly realistic, in order to push your animation further.
11. SOLID DRAWING
Solid drawing means posing characters in a way that creates a sense of volume, weight and balance.
Drawing for animation requires being able to draw the characters from any angle or pose, with three-dimensionality in mind.
Appeal is a broad term for any qualities of a character's design that makes them inherently compelling to watch.
This includes the design of the character, as well as how the character is animated.
TYPES OF ANIMATION
There are many different types of animation;
2. Hand Drawn
4. Stop Motion
5. Motion Graphics
6. 3D Animation
2D HAND-DRAWN ANIMATION
The first type of 2D animation might be called traditional animation or cel animation. I prefer the term hand-drawn animation because that define its most important aspect - the fact that it is drawn by hand.
This is the classic type of animation you're probably most familiar with. In the old days, animators drew characters frame by frame, and then those drawings were transferred onto clear acetate sheets called cels for painting. That's where the term cel animation comes from.
Through the 1990s almost all animation studios stopped using cels and started scanning drawings into the computer for digital coloring, and now many hand-drawn animators skip paper altogether and draw directly into the computer using a tablet or Wacom Cintiq monitors.
So hand-drawn animation could be done entirely analog or entirely digitally, or some mix of the two. The important thing is that hand drawn animators still create their animation frame by frame using the same techniques and principles as in those old days of paper and cels.
2D VECTOR ANIMATION
Nowadays there are new ways to create 2D animation using a 2D digital puppet. These are 2D characters which are built with a system of bones and controls that can be manipulated in a way similar to a 3D character rig.
The difference between 2D rigged characters and hand-drawn characters can get a bit blurry. Programs like Toon Boom Harmony and Adobe Animate CC let you seamlessly mix and match hand-drawn animation with 2D puppet techniques, sometimes even within the same character.
A character could have bones that let the animator pose it, but also have other parts that are animated by hand.
STOP MOTION ANIMATION
Stop motion has several variants, but they all involve manipulating real world objects. These objects are moved slightly, and photographed one frame at a time. When shown in sequence, these frames create the illusion of movement.
Claymation is a similar technique. In it, malleable characters are used, though they're generally made out of a substance called plasticine, not actual clay.
You can also do stop motion with regular figurines, and objects, like all those great Lego animations you can find on YouTube.
Another variation of stop motion is paper cut-out animation. In this style, characters are built out of paper shapes. They might be pinned together at the joints to make a posable figure, or pieces might be set in place so that they can be swapped out. They are then moved and photographed frame by frame, just like a stop motion puppet. That's how South Park was originally animated.
Another rare type of stop motion is called pixelation. In pixelation, real people are used instead of puppets.
All of these types of stop motion share an important characteristic:
They all have to be shot straight-ahead, which means starting at frame one and shooting each frame one after another, all the way through the end of the scene.
If a mistake is made on one frame, it's very difficult to fix it without having to start all over again. You can't just redraw that frame like you can in 2D animation. This makes this type of animation particularly intense and it requires a lot of patience.
MOTION GRAPHICS ANIMATION
The last big category of animation is motion graphics. Motion graphics focuses on making dynamic and interesting presentations of moving text logos and basic illustrations.
Motion graphics can be both 2D and 3D, and you'll find them everywhere in commercials, explainer videos, sporting events, the news and other TV productions.
Proper character animation is generally outside the scope of motion graphics, but many of the core animation principles apply to motion graphics too.
For a more in-depth look at the 5 types of animation, search for the complete guide on the 5 types of animation, including detailed history of each types.