The Tools and Techniques Used in Animated Films

Animated films are something that all ages can enjoy. Contrary to many people’s opinions, animation is far from something that is limited to children’s shows and films.

In fact, there are a variety of different animation techniques which are used to create specific types of animation, but each can be utilised in a variety of different ways to create almost any themes; from happy, go lucky feature length, to hard-hitting emotional shorts.

Stop Motion Animation

Notably one of the earliest animation techniques to be used, stop-motion animation has a long, profound history in the film industry. It was created by Albert E. Smith and Stuart Blackton in 1898 in an animated short which saw a group of toys take part in a circus performance.

This technique requires animators to use a physical character with an armature fitted inside. This is essentially a skeleton which gives a sculpture or character its shape. These armatures give the areas of a character a range of motion, such as elbow and knee joints, as well as a rotational join for heads and shoulders.

In order to animate with this technique, the animator must set up a camera and meticulously move each part slightly, taking a picture with each movement. These pictures are then compiled so that when flicked through in order, the scene appears to move. It is quite a long winded process, but the results can be incredible. Simply take a look at Coraline as an example of a polished stop motion piece – it is what LAIKA Studios do best.

2D Animation

Another popular animation technique is 2D animation. This covers a variety of different mediums, with cel (hand-drawn) and vector-based animation under one umbrella term but each an individual style in its own right.

Originally based on frame by frame animation techniques similar to that in stop-motion, hand-drawn animation is the technique which most old Disney films use. Animators would flick quickly between two sheets of tracing paper, moving each part of the focus slightly to create a smooth, seamless animation style. However, compared to newer techniques, hand-drawn animation which is created with pencil and paper like the days of yore often has a more rugged, artistic feel to it than the polished nature of computer animated features.

Once each aspect of a scene is complete, the pieces of paper will be filed together in order to create a fully animated scene when flicked through.

2D animation can be traced way back in history, with the first example being shown in 1650 by Venetian inventor Giovanni Fontana who drew a frame by frame animation of a lantern and slid it past a lens which was illuminated by a light, projecting the frames on the wall.

3D Animation

As technology has progressed over the years, many animators have turned to computers to create animated films. 3D animation – also affectionately known as CGI Animation  – uses similar principles to the other types of animation, but is essentially very different in how it is implemented.

Rather than solely using physical characters or drawings, computer-generated elements are created and attached to a skeleton and moved to create an animated scene. 3D animation still relies on frame by frame animation techniques for more control, but some motions can be automated by a process known in the animation world as tweening.

This process only needs tok now the start and end movement position of an object and the programme will fill the frames in between the two points. This makes an animators job easier in some respects for those movements which don’t necessarily need to be as controlled.

Once the animated scene is completed, the animator will render the scene by compressing all the animation into a video file. While this technique may seem faster than the more traditional animation styles, the rendering usually takes a long time, potentially making the finished product take longer to be produced.

3D animation is most commonly seen coming from Pixar, Dreamworks and Illumination Entertainment, but is spreading into more domestic circles, too. More and more TV adverts are using 3D animation to produce short adverts for use on TV.

woman wearing 3D TV glasses with popcorn falling down

Animation is a fascinating subject, and one that many people start getting involved in from home with only their camera and creativity involved! Who knows, your old cine film may hold the key to a brilliant animated short made by one of your relatives!

For more information on how we can help you transfer your old cine film to DVD format, please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us today!