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Animation is a process used to give the sensation of movement to images or drawings or to other types of inanimate objects (plasticine figures, for example). It is normally considered an optical illusion.

There are numerous techniques for performing animation that go beyond familiar cartoons. Pictures can be generated by drawing, painting or photographing the tiny changes made repeatedly to a reality model or a virtual three-dimensional model; it is also possible to animate objects of reality and actors.

Among the formats of animation (or that support animation) are GIF, SWF (flash animation), etc. Animations in GIF are saved image by image, but there are animations that are not achieved well, but are interpreted and "armed" in real time when running (such as SWF format).

Conceiving an animation tends to be a very intensive and tedious job. This is why most of the production comes from animation companies that have been in charge of organizing this work. Even so there is the author animation. It comes from the personal work of one or a few artists. Some take advantage of new technologies to simplify the task. You begin the process of animation by making a model of the character or the thing to be animated. This model can be a drawing, or it can be also in plasticine.

Animation is an optical illusion in which a series of objects or static images, when viewed behind each other at a certain speed, create the illusion of natural movement. This optical illusion is based on the principle of persistence of vision (also called "principle of persistence of the retina"), established in 1829 by the Belgian physicist Joseph Plateau. Although Plateau stated that according to the principle of persistence of vision a minimum of 10 "sightings" per second were necessary in order for reality to appear in our eyes with a natural fluidity (and not as an abrupt succession of still images) in the cinema and in other arts using visual or audiovisual technology, a standard of 24 frames per second has been captured and projected.

This standard is the rate at which cameras record and project the projectors. However, as established by the principle of retinal persistence, a minimal amount of images per second is required in order for an animation to appear fluid and natural and not an abrupt succession of images clearly differentiated from one another. Whatever the minimal amount, limited animation is spoken when the animation consists of a frequency of images below the minimum (visual sensation of an abrupt succession of still images). Full animation is spoken when the minimum of images per second (sensation of fluidity and natural movement) is met or exceeded. Pixilation, for example, animation technique mentioned below, is an example of limited animation. The cartoons, already mentioned, and the techniques known as stop motion or go motion, described below, are examples of complete animation.

Animation Techniques

Animated Cartoon

The cartoons are created by drawing each frame. At first each picture was painted and then it was filmed, a process that was accelerated when the animation by cells or acetate paper invented by Bray and Hurd in the decade of 1910 appeared.

Volume Animation - Stop Motion

Volume Animation also known as "stop motion" "frame-by-frame animation", "image stop", "crank passage" or "photo-to-photo animation". In it are not animated drawings or flat images but static and motionless objects placed in front of a camera. It consists of looking at the motion of these objects by capturing frames: in each frame the object has moved slightly and in each new change of position must always have oriented the object in a certain direction in relation to the previous change of position and frame, as far as possible, the greater logical continuity of the movement to be imitated. Later, by reproducing the frames one after the other, as is done in fact with any cinematic projection obtained by actual filming, the projection on screen creates the optical illusion that the object moves by itself. Any three-dimensional object can be animated in this way, but generally puppets (generally equipped with an articulated internal metallic skeleton, such as the dinosaur dolls used in the television documentary Dinosaurs), puppets, plasticine figures the Italian series Mio Mao) or other materials. Models of scale models (such as the giant quadruped AT-AT vehicles of The Empire Strikes Back, which were actually made using scale models, or RoboCop's robot ED-209) are also often encouraged.

Volume Animation has a photographic realism completely absent in a cartoon. Effectively in a cartoon the depth of field is a simple optical illusion, realized with greater or lesser verisimilitude, whereas in the volume animation the depth of field is authentic since it is obtained by means of conventional filming. The only difference is that the stop motion is a shot obtained manually, frame by frame, and not automatically and in real time as is the case in conventional shooting. In general, animations that do not fall into the category of cartoon, that is, that were not drawn or painted, but were created taking pictures of reality, are referred to as animations in volume or stop motion. Traditionally there are two large groups of stop motion animations: the animation of plasticine (or any malleable material), in English claymation, and animations of objects (more rigid).

The animation with plasticine can be done in the "freestyle", when there is no definite figure but the figures are transformed into the progress of the animation (as do the Mio and Mao cats in the Italian series Mio Mao); or it can be oriented to personages, who maintain a constant figure in the course of the film. 

Go Motion

The Animation in Go Motion is a variation of the animation in Stop Motion. Invented by Phil Tippett for the 1980 movie The Empire Strikes Back The go motion consists of getting each frame while slightly shaking the one or a part of the photographed object. The resulting blur on moving parts (in English, blur, blur) increases the sense of realism in the resulting animation. In real-time shooting, when an object is faster than the shutter speed of the camera, the object appears blurry in some frames, even though the film projection is flawlessly realistic, and this is the effect sought by the technique of animation by go motion.


It is a variant of stop motion, in which animated objects are people and authentic common objects (not models or models). As in any other form of animation, these objects are photographed repeatedly, and shifted slightly between each photograph. Norman McLaren popularized this technique, used in his famous short animated Neighbors, but as early as 1908, the Aragonese second of Chomón used in his work Hotel electric the same technique to animate objects. It is widely used in video clips.

Rotoscopy – Rotoscope

Rotoscopy is an animation technique that uses a machine called a rotoscope. The Rotoscope has a glass plate on which transparent sheets (called cels [in] in English) can be placed. Underneath, a projector illuminates the frame of a fimación realized in real time and in real image. In this way the outline of the filmed objects can be drawn by tracing through the resulting transparency. Koko the Clown, from the Fleischer studio was animated with rotoscopy. It is speculated that Walt Disney's Snow White used rotoscopy, but the artists only used real action models as references, they did not draw on top of the footage.

In computer animation the technique analogous to rotoscopy is the motion capture technique. There is some controversy over whether the use of the rotoscope is genuine animation, and about its artistic value as such.

Clip Animation

Better known in as Cutout Animation, is the technique in which cut figures are used, be it of paper or even photographs. The bodies of the characters are constructed with the cuts of their parts. Moving and replacing the parts are obtained various poses, and thus the character is given life.

Computer Animation

Computer Animation also called digital animation, is the technique of creating images in motion through the use of computers or computers. More and more graphics are created in 3D, although 2D graphics are still widely used for slow connections and real-time applications that need fast rendering. Sometimes the goal of animation is computation itself, others may be another medium, like a movie. The designs are made with the help of programs of design, modeling and finally rendering. In animation, however, images are not taken but produced individually, and therefore do not necessarily have to meet the standard of cinema. An animation movie always has 24 frames per second, but not necessarily all those frames show different images: in animation, images are often repeated in several frames.

There are different animation rates:

  • In One: each image is different, without repetition. 24 images per second, 1 image each frame.
  • In Two: each image is repeated twice. 12 images per second, 1 image every 2 frames.
  • In Three: each image is repeated three times. 8 images per second, 1 image every 3 frames.

Thanks to new technologies, other standards emerge. For example, in the East, where there is a capacity to reproduce 30 frames per second, animations can be found in which the frames are repeated three times, assuming a saving in the number of drawings in the long run without the viewer perceiving the difference.

Complete animation is when encouraged in some or in doses. It is the standard of the American animation for cinemas, mainly the films of Walt Disney, and also the European largometrajes. Generally, the scenes are animated with many fast movements in some, and the rest in doses (loss of quality is imperceptible).

Limited animation is when encouraged at a lower rate. The standard of anime or Japanese animation is in threees. Loss of quality is already perceptible if one is an observer. The concept of limited animation also affects other different aspects of the rate.

For example, it is limited animation when cycles are repeated: an animated character running while in the background the same houses appear again and again in the same order.

It should be borne in mind that different elements of the image (a character, another character, a moving object, a background plane, another background plane) are animated separately, and that therefore within the same scene there may be elements with different rates of animation.

The contribution of information technology can be classified in two fields: as a tool of creation and as a means of representation.

For animations drawn or painted by hand there are programs that assist the creation of intermediate paintings. Remember that it takes a lot of these to give the feeling of movement. In animations made with vector graphics and with three-dimensional models the program itself calculates the transformation (interpolation) of one pose to another.

Various file formats allow you to represent animation on a computer, and over the Internet. Among the best known are SWF, GIF, MNG and SVG. The file may contain a sequence of frames, such as raster graphics (or the difference between a frame and the previous frame), or it may contain the definition of strokes and their deformations over time, in a vector format. There are file formats specific to animations, and generic formats are also used that can contain various types of multimedia.

Other Animation Techniques

Virtually any form of producing images, any matter that can be photographed, can be used to animate. There are many techniques of animation that have only been used by some and are unknown to the general public. These include: glass painting, sand animation, needle screen, celluloid painting, tweening. But it is also possible to reproduce it by computer.


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