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All You Need to Know to Produce a Quality Animated Film

written by: Rianne Hill Soriano•edited by: Tricia Goss•updated: 10/25/2011

Animation is composed of a series of still images that sequentially progress to create the illusion of movement. It involves the creation of many challenging art requirements. Learn everything from the basics to 3D animation in this comprehensive guide.

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    History and Importance of Animation in the Film Industry

    Through the decades, animation has played a vital role in the progress of cinema as a technical and artistic format. Just a few years after the birth of the motion picture camera, the earliest explorations on using a series of drawings to tell stories readily found its place in filmmaking. Animation as a form of cinematic storytelling evolved into the many techniques filmmakers can use for their projects. From simple hand-drawn images used in the traditional process, animation further developed into a variety of styles including the many looks produced through stop-motion animation and computer animation -- both of which can be produced in either 2D or 3D format. Some filmmaking works are entirely animated, while others combine live-action footage with animated elements to create special effects shots.
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    Computer Animation Basics

    Digital technology revolutionized the filmmaking process and it soon dominated the methods involved in making both live-action and animated films. It allowed filmmakers to explore many ways to produce film projects digitally. In animation, the digital format ushered the dawn of computer animation, which involves the use of a computer program to create animated visuals. Depending on the specific style and production workflow intended for the production, the required animated elements are generated using single or multiple computer programs, or they are produced by combining scanned hand-drawings or scale models with computer-generated images.

    Computer animation requires familiarity in the basics of filmmaking and digital terms widely used in animated film productions such as video editing, motion graphics, chroma keying, pixelation, CGI animation and rendering. Learn more about all of these aspects.

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    Animation for Amateur Works and Home Movie Projects

    Animation is generally a very technical process that requires mastery of production workflows and computer programs to integrate animated elements in the movie-making process. However, the evolution of the format now provides many options catering to the different learning curves of users.

    For amateur filmmakers and animators, making minor projects such as home movies is now possible through animation programs geared towards the general public. These user-friendly 2D and 3D animation programs don't require technical, complicated tasks or a long-time mastery of technical functions and features. They make it possible for students and first-time animators to familiarize themselves with the basics of animation, while also allowing them to produce animation projects using easy-to-learn programs.

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    Basics of Stop-motion Animation

    Since the early days of cinema, stop-motion animation has become a widely used animation technique that involves physically manipulating an object and shooting frame by frame with a camera. Although any material can be utilized for stop-motion animation, clay and puppets are the most practically used ones because of the ease of repositioning them, along with their versatility in moving incrementally to follow the required poses. This generally follows the same concept as traditional animation, which uses frame-by-frame hand-drawn elements, and even live-action film, which also uses still images moving sequentially to show the illusion of movement.

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    Guide to Making 2D-Animated Movies

    2D animation has long been used in animation productions. Making a 2D-animated film used to be a completely hand-drawn process. As digital technology has now dominated the process used in animation and live-action projects, most productions now use computer programs. 2D animation primarily requires the creation of images using scanned hand-drawn elements or digitally created elements that use 2D bitmap graphics or 2D vector graphics. The main advantage of the digital format is its ability to automate specific types of movements, which makes the animation process faster than its traditional animation counterpart.

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    Guide to Making 3D-Animated Movies

    Unlike 2D animation that has options for both computer and non-computer techniques, 3D animation primarily involves the use of computer technology. This format requires the generation of a three-dimensional mathematical representation of geometric data stored in the computer, and then the 3D-animation or special effects program performs complicated calculations and rendering of the images in order to create and move 3D elements on screen. Many software programs can be used for 3D-animation productions. Each of them requires a certain level of mastery in order to maximize their features and functions.