Animating through Ages
From zoetropes to stop motion animation, the history of animation is broad and vibrant. Since its first incarnation in the 1800s, animation has been a means to bring stories, emotion, and laughter to people from all walks of life. As we journey through the ages to explore the evolution of animation, we can discover how this beloved art form has grown and changed, yet still remains an incredible source of entertainment.
1. Historical Animation Methods
The history of animation can be traced back to the 1800s. During this time, a variety of animation techniques were developed and perfected, which laid the foundation for the art today. Below is a look at some of the most notable methods used to create animation before computers.
- Flip books – These were one of the earliest forms of animation. Flip books are a physical series of images which, when flipped in succession, give the impression of motion.
- Thaumatrope – This ancient animation device was a spinning disk with two images, one on either side. When the disk is spun, the two images appear to merge as one.
- Praxinoscope – An illuminated box covered in mirrors which would show an animation when spun. The animation would be painted onto the sides of the box.
The invention of celluloid animation in the late 1800s was a major milestone and allowed for more complex movies to be created. This celluloid animation involved painting individual frames of the animation on a cel and shooting them onto film. This technique was widely used for many years until it was replaced by stop motion.
Stop motion animation involves capturing physical objects and moving them slightly between each frame. This allows animators to create smooth and realistic movements. Traditional stop motion is still used today in conjunction with modern technologies.
Around the 1970s, another form of animation took the industry by storm – hand-drawn animation. This classic animation style sees simple drawings drawn by hand and filmed one frame at a time. This technique was also replaced by technology in the early 2000s.
Computer animation has been around since the 1960s but not until the early 2000s did it become widely used to produce feature films. It involves the use of computer graphics software to create 3D models and simulate movement. This type of animation has become so realistic that the difference between computer animation and hand-drawn is almost indistinguishable.
2. Advancements of Animated Technology
Animation has come a long way since its inception. In its early days, it was mainly hand drawn–moving each frame at a time to simulate movement. But as the years progressed and technology got better, advancements in animated technology followed shortly behind.
- The production of cel animation began in the early 1900s—an animation of individual drawings which are photographed and viewed in sequence to bring out an illusion of movements.
- Traditional cel animation was used in many of the classic Disney films such as Snow White and The Lion King.
- Developed in Japan, Off-shoot animation is a combination of traditional animation and CGI (Computer-Generated Imaging), where computers are used for colouring, shading, and editing of frames.
- Computer animation has become increasingly popular since its arrival in the late 1980s. Initially used primarily for 3D modelling, computer animation utilizes CGI (Computer-Generated Image) to generate photorealistic images, as seen in movies such as Toy Story.
- Today, computer animation is used for a variety of applications, from television shows and commercials to educational programs and video games.
- Developments in the field of animation have become even more sophisticated, with the introduction of motion capture technology, which allows for the precise transfer of motion between two or more 3D objects.
- Stop-motion animation is an animation process in which objects are moved in small increments between frames, creating the illusion of movement.
- One of the most famous examples of stop-motion animation is the 1933 film King Kong, which utilized miniatures to create realistic and awe-inspiring movements.
- Today, stop motion animation is still used, but has been combined with CGI to create more sophisticated and realistic effects.
Augmented Reality Animation
- Augmented reality animation is a form of animation which combines real-world environments with virtual objects and characters.
- Using a combination of 3D animation, computer vision, and audio-visual technologies, augmented reality animation is able to blend the virtual with the real and create an immersive experience.
- Augmented reality animation is used in a wide variety of settings, from video games to motion pictures and beyond.
From traditional to modern, the have come leaps and bounds over time. From the earliest days of hand-drawn frames to the now almost lifelike augmented reality, animation has always been an integral part of entertaining and, at times, educating audiences.
3. Evolving Character Design
Character Design Evolution of the Years
- 1950s – The beginning of animation: flat shaded cel animation was popular, with a few basic colors used to form characters on a cel. Movement was often limited to two positions, with a few basic frames.
- 1960s – Slicker cel animation: Cells were more detailed and expressive, with design improvement based on fewer but more elaborate frames. Lines and details were shaded more distinctly and backgrounds had more definition.
- 1970s – Computer animation: This was the first era of 3D computerized animation, and it was used to create complex and more detailed designs. Characters could be moved and manipulated freely with a defined and consistent animation style.
- 1980s – The Golden Age: Animators developed incredibly complex and detailed designs that incorporated a variety of movements and complex shading. Many character designs featured more humanoid features than ever before.
- 1990s – Increased realism: Animators started using 3D computer animation to create incredibly realistic environments, and characters moved more like real people. Design was more realistic, and there was greater attention to details like facial expressions, weight and movement.
- 2000s – Hi-tech: Animators pushed the boundaries of realism, creating hyper-realistic animation with 3D computer animation and motion-capture technology. The designs were incredibly detailed and complex, incorporating realistic proportions, smooth shading, and high-fidelity facial and body movements.
The evolution of character design has changed drastically over the years. Starting from the flat shaded animations in the 1950s, the format has developed to become more complex and detailed, fully embracing the capabilities of 3D computer animation and motion-capture technology. It has moved from the two-dimensional cel animation of the 50s to the realistic animation of the 21st century.
The 1950s showed a few basic colors being used in cel animation and limited movements of characters. During the next decade, character animation started to become more expressive with fewer but more intricate frames. The 70s brought computer animation and 3D capabilities which increased design possibilities. Designs in the 80s started becoming more humanoid and featured complex movements and finer shading details. The 90s brought increased realism, with characters that moved in a more believable and natural manner, stared to attain more realistic proportions, and had well-defined facial expressions and body movements. Finally, the 21st century has brought hi-tech animation, with hyper-realistic graphics and highly-detailed and well-animated characters.
Character design has come an incredibly long way in recent years, from two-dimensional and simple animations to fully-realistic hyper-realistic animations with well-defined and believable characters. It’s an incredible sight to witness the evolution of animation to bring us such amazing animated visuals.
4. Benefits of Animation Through Time
As mankind pushed through different time periods, every era left its mark on the world of animation and stopped us in our tracks with its innovative use of the artistic medium. Whether it’s classic hand-drawn line illustrations or modern 3D graphics, animation has developed and adapted to each new era.
Classical Antiquity. Here, we can find some of the earliest animations in existence, with the Bayeux Tapestry depicting events from the Norman Conquest during the 11th century. From Egypt to Greece, there are other examples of animation from antiquity that have survived the test of time.
The Middle Ages. While there were some attempts at animation during the Middle Ages, it wasn’t until the Renaissance – during the 15th and 16th centuries – that significant achievements were made. The ‘travelling plane’ technique used during this period is still used today to create posters and logos.
Early modern period. The remedies to some of the shortfalls in animation from the Middle Ages have been summarised as: light, color, movement, variation and surprise. These developments can be seen during the 18th and 19th centuries, in the works of Muybridge, Marey and Edison. Some of the most famous works are Zoetrope, Kinetoscope, and later, the hand-drawn and painted cell animation.
Modern animation. Some would say modern animation was born with Walt Disney and his classic films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland. But the impact of computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology has been revolutionary for animation, which now offers a wide range of potential uses, from creating visual effects and simulations to its use in television, video games and movies.
- Animation can create new worlds and visual experiences to immerse viewers.
- Modern animation can create realistic characters and settings that cannot be produced in real life.
- Animation has the ability to transform a concept or message into an exciting communication medium.
- Animation allows for ideas to be explored in ways that traditional media can’t, from examining complex processes to presenting a condensed, enjoyable story.
These are just some of the benefits that animation has brought us over the years – a testament to the impact it has had on our world and our lives.
5. The Current State of Animation
Animation has come a long way since its beginnings. Technology advancements have made the process of creating a cartoon easier and more efficient.
In the development of animation, five eras have been identified by scholars:
- Black and White Animations (1800s-1930s): This era is characterized by the limitations of the technology available at the time and the use of drawings and photographs as the main source of animation. Animators had to rely solely on hand-drawn images, celluloid sheets, and a camera to create an animated film.
- Full Color Animation (1930s-1960s): This era saw the emergence of color in animation films, which revolutionized the field. As technology and artistry progressed, the introduction of cel animation allowed for the creation of more complex visuals and stories. The first feature-length animated film, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, was released in 1937.
- Computer-Generated Animation and 3D (1970s-Present): This era was marked by the emergence of computer-generated animated films. Technology advancements allowed for the complexities and details found in modern-day films to be produced with ease. Computer animation and 3D animation grew in popularity and have become standards in the industry.
Today, animation is no longer limited to the big screen. It has found its way into video games, special effects in movies, commercial advertisements, and websites. Thanks to the rise in popularity of the internet, animators around the world have access to vast amounts of resources to create entertaining content.
Moreover, with the advancement of technology, 3D animation has become increasingly popular in the entertainment industry. Animated characters can now be easily created or edited with software, allowing animators to make realistic and remarkable animations. 3D animation has also been used in various fields such as architecture, product design, medical visualization, and education.
Animation has certainly made a huge impact on popular culture. From feature-length animated films to 2D animated shows, there is something for everyone. With the advancements in technology, the possibilities of the craft are virtually endless. Animators of today have access to resources that allow them to create beautiful and captivating works of art.
6. Future Possibilities in Animation
Animation has come a long way, but what more can we expect in the future?
The advent of virtual reality and motion tracking technology has opened up a new avenue for animators, and many exciting possibilities of events can be imagined.
- Motion Capture: One of the most interesting innovations in the world of motion capture is the ability to capture human movements more accurately and realistically than ever, without the use of physical motion capture systems. This can be used to create realistic human characters and scenes for animation.
- Virtual Reality: Virtual reality has seen its fair share of applications in video gaming, but its potential for use in animation is seemingly limitless. We can expect to see more immersive experiences from animators in the future, as they continue to explore opportunities for interaction.
- Machine Learning: Machine learning is already an essential tool for the animation industry, used in the creation of motion-capture films, and it will only become more important in the future. We can anticipate the use of machine learning algorithms to create far more complex and realistic animations than ever before.
- Real-time Animations: Real-time animations are already becoming more popular in animation, with the rise of advanced computing technology. Animators can create realistic animations in real-time, at a fraction of the cost and time required for traditional animation.
These are just some of the possibilities that the future may hold for the world of animation. It is certain to be an exciting time for those who love creating art, and for those who love watching it.
From vintage silhouettes to CGI, animation has been around for centuries, and as technology changes, so too will the ways in which it’s created. Through the ages, animation has been an ever-evolving artform that has stirred up joy, amazement, and inspired generations to come. Where it heads next on its journey will be an exciting discovery!