The basics of animation 2D classical and digital

I confess that the cartoons are my real passion. Comics are just a surrogate. I always dreamed of being an animator watching Disney films. But for one greenhorn grew between the 70s and 80s, when drawing comics could be a possible activity (enough paper, pencils and inks), create cartoons it was absolutely unthinkable. I stopped a few flipbook made during boring lessons at school on white corners of the pages of books.

In recent years, things have changed and with the help of technology create animated short films “home made” is no longer a mirage. It can be done at an affordable cost.

The Lumiere brothers have taught us that if we keep images in rapid sequence we have the illusion of movement . In fact, a cartoon is done by a series of drawings (frames that are slightly different from each other) shown below at regular intervals in such a way that the image fixed on the retina of the eye that observes, is replaced by the following before he “dissolves”. It takes 24 fps (frames per second), the animation standards, then 24 drawings per second of animation. And until a few years ago he did everything by hand.

The task of an animator is to create the “timing” of the scene that should meet: namely establish frame to frame as will be the sequence of images . In particular, it must locate the so-called “keyframe”. They are the key frame, for example, the change of direction of a linear movement (the moment when the ball touches the ground is a key moment). The work of talented animators, as Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas, Milt Kahl (the first that come to mind the golden age of animation) or Don Bluth (remember the video game Dragon ‘Lair?), Is to identify and draw the keyframes. The other frames, such inbetween, are left to servers. A big job!

The 2D computer animation

What has changed with the introduction of the computer? In essence nothing. The urban legends circulating in 70 years that the Japanese cartoons were made by computers – those who grew up on bread, Nutella and goldrake you recall – are absolutely false. To make a cartoon it always takes 24 drawings per second, and the artist must always draw, maybe with new media, keyframes. And inbetweens? Well, those we think the software! Wonderful! To be sure I have simplified a lot, I’d brutalized the concept, but more or less so.

We go little by little in detail, but not too much given the vastness of the subject: there are lots of animation techniques, it is difficult to generalize. You will always find an exception. Let’s say that there are software for traditional animation as

Pencil : fantastic free app ( ) to make simple animations, created by a passionate
Digicel : software used professionally ( ), apparently “poor” but highly rated
Photoshop : yes, good old PS, the CS4 onwards can create animations – look at the amazing short by Ryan Woodward precisely made with PS.

This list is clearly not exhaustive. These software allow you to create classic animations: you draw both keyframes that inbeetwen.

What is a vector image? Unlike a raster image composed of many colored dots next to each other, a vector image is a sequence of values ​​= points in Cartesian space. The visualization software draws lines by interpolating the points to form the image. Apart from the smaller size of an image of this kind with respect to a raster, it has the advantage of being more easily manageable by a computer. The animation software using this approach allow you to “draw for you” the missing frames (tweens or interpolation) very precisely. You have to concentrate only on key frames. How does it work? The basic idea is that the cut-out animation.

Have you ever built a house of paper puppets with “fermacampioni” in the joints of the limbs? Move the little puppet and photographed every position. Have you made a cutout animation (stop motion). In software the principle is the same, the “pieces” of the puppet in vector designs them (but it also works with raster), “joints” them together, put the “puppet” in various positions (key frames), determine the timing, I think the rest of the software:

ToonBoom Animation : family of professional software for the production of cartoons, from pre to post production;
Synfig : app open source cutout animation
Flash : does not need any comment;
AnimeStudio : Another well-known for entertainment software.

Although this list is not exhaustive, of course. The great thing about this software is that it lets you create your actual book characters in their various parts to be reused. Not to mention the fact that almost all are equipped with tools for “lip sync” from audio files from a library of “lips” (mouths drawn in various positions corresponding to the basic sounds), there the software thinks of sync mouth with audio. To move the characters is used the technique of “bone rigging” (derived from animation 3d): assign your character a skeleton hooking the various parts like arms and legs. Move the skeleton, the software will take care of interpolating the rest. A video taken from a how to Anime Studio, clearly expresses the concept of the words.

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