Animation Techniques

Published 27 Feb 2017

Table of content


All animation started with the mouse in Florida. Walt Disney. Animation is a sequence of drawn pictures, first manually, one by one, now computer enhanced. In Disney’s beginning stages, animated programs required 24 images to produce one second duration of television programming. Producing animation was cheaper, but the financial income potential was limited. However in those days, Mr. Disney was doing great financially. Animation filming techniques continues to invent increasingly brilliant ideas for developing these bewitching little creatures to entertain us. Animation uses new technology giving illusions of movement at various speeds, depending on the role amazing little creatures are playing. Modern animated movies play more smoothly and fluidly than classic cartoons. An Even today, “A full length animated movie takes a million separate drawings and three years to complete” Walt Disney. Animated images are designed in several dimensions, usually, 2-D or 3-D. Animation is very fascinating, fun to watch, and portray fluffy story lines. After all, children are its target audience. The colorful, vibrant charming multi-dimensional creations mysteriously give false impressions of movement and deceptive appearances of being simple to create.

How Animation is Created;

Animation is created with the use of several types of cameras and art work allowing the audience to see unrealistic actions. As with all movie making, every segment is broken down, and redone to fractions of seconds. Any timing of movements that are not centered, are caught and corrected much earlier with todays digital technology used for filming animation. Many filming techniques were copied from artists paintings, such as collage or abstract.

Techniques used in Filming Animation:

Time Lapse; The recording of the production is filmed at a much slower rate than its playback time.
High Speed Photography; Opposite of time lapse. The camera photographs at least 128 frames per second.
High Resolution; Hi-Tech electronic systems brings out distinguishable details of the images. Used in the facial movements of the animated characters.
Collage; Variety of clips, joining one another or overlapping each other.
Rotoscope; Animation drawn over pre recorded or existing films to give the production a closer to life like appearance.
Cel; A clear background animation cartoons are drawn and painted. Using special cameras, the frames are photographed one by one. This was invented in 1915, and was used for cartoons.

StoryBoard; After actors have made the script version of the animated film, the artists starts drawing the sketches that creates the characters. After the actors work is completed, the assignment of story boards are next. Storyboards are a set of drawings that tells actions of the characters. Story boards are used for outstanding actions, such as Spiderman leaping off skyscrapers, or the highlights of the show. Story boards are used for parts of the filming that are unrealistic. Every shot is drawn. Storyboards are tacked onto corkboards so changes can be easily made. Storyboards notes each camera movements, actions and scripts.

Audio; Acting for an animated cartoon is much more difficult for an actor or singer, than acting in programs with live people. Two actors sit in two different glass rooms with microphones, and they read the scripts to each other, although they may not see each other. It is much harder to know how to match the emotions to the script, because there is no picture of what the characters look like yet. For the casting, they look for actors who have, or can imitate, voices that children will respond to. In animated films, the scripts and music is recorded before any art work begins.

Stop Motion Technique; Stop motion technique means one single image is filmed at a time. Usually 24 images are filmed per one second of showtime. The camera focuses on the object; One frame of film is exposed, then the camera stops; Object is changed; This repeats 24 times, and one second of film is produced.

Computer Generated Technique; Combines multiple techniques, 3-D virtual space and wireframe built on a blank slate, and goes from there. 3-D virtual space is the drawing, measured by the X, Y and Z axis graphs. Everyone learned about this in algebra. The wireframe is the computered imitation of the model. 3-D and wireframe methods are capable of producing unrealistic actions. A software version of this method is manufactured by Sven Technologies. A photograph is taken of the real live mortal person the character resembles. After the photographed is scanned, the 3-D virtual space and wireframes are used to create the fictional people, fishes, stars, ocean waves etc…This technique is always used in special effects.

Compositing; Without compositing, the car in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang could not fly, smoke or swim. Multiple shots make up one photograph, a composite. Different shots are required to make fantasy actions possible. This can be done in computerized digital or optical, using several different cameras, a printer and high definition lenses. Compositing is broken down into steps.
Bottom Plate, where other elements will be placed on the top of the bottom plate.

Each individual element is photographed separately-usually against a blue background because the color is visually isolated
A black and white silhouette is made; the bluescreen transforms to white and everything is photographed in black. This is called a matte.
Traveling matte are objects that move, such as The Little Mermaid swimming.
After the matting is completed, on final composite shot is taken.

Information for table;

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Oh What A Car! To give fantasy illusions of the flying car, manual or optical compositing, and plenty of it, was used. Not all of the show is animated, that may have been impossible, or would have taken a very long time. This amazing car flies, spreads its wings out to float on water, it talks and sings with detailed facial expressions.
Lord of the Rings 1978 animated remake used the rotoscope method. The characters movements and the arched shaped buildings look much more life like, and realistic. The animated artists drew over the details of an existing sketch.

Snow White and the Seven dwarfs used different filmings. Snow White was the only character retroscoped so she would stand out in the animated movie. She was the star of the show. It shows up in her movements, where she is more coordinated, moves more easily. The contrast is very visual when comparing her movements to the dwarfs or the witch, the rock sliding etc…The other aspects of the show appears to have been filmed using the cel method. The frames looked like they were photographed one by one, giving the overall picture a choppy look, but very up to date in its time. When the rocks are falling off the cliff, the stop motion technique was applied.
The Frog Princess is cel animated. The Princess moves are separated, but the interruptions in her moves are not supposed to be noticed. The birds flying was filmed with high speed photography. The come into the picture, quickly, not interruptions in their moves. The frames were filmed at about 128 frames per second.

The Little Mermaid was filmed in 2-Dimensional photography. Her facial features, big eye and mouth movements was state of the art technology in that time. There were many stop motion shots taken; her and her boyfriend laying on the beach, the dawn lit sky, her singing against a mid bright sun. The frames did not move for a while. When she was singing, she was photographed in the time lapse method.

A Beautiful Aurora; A time Lapse Animation was filmed, of course using time lapse. The snow falling over the ground was filmed maybe the traditional 24 frames per second. Different motions and different speeds were possible by using computer generated methods. The snow falling slowly, but the waves crashing on the beach was filmed at about 80 frames per second.

Another time lapse film was the time lapse animation of the moon going through a full lunar cycle. All of the details of the moon are visible, the light reflections, the dark circles, and the rotations are captured in the filming process. The moon in the video is moving fast. But time lapse films videos at a fraction of the rate of speed it is played back in.

Superman, is full of special effects, to amazing to be realistic. Up to date, state of the art techniques were used; for one thing, they know every version of Superman is going to be a success. Each filming has to be better than the last. Composites, computer generated techniques, combined with many photographs and designs wee implicated; The rocket, the fire from the rocket, outer space images and Superman flying were very distinct, clear, easy to be seen and moved freely across the screen. Since the objects and characters were so distinguishable, 3-D techniques were used as well.

Digital Media Production:

Creating animation looks easy, like the artists just drew a colorful, fantasy car flying through the air, or a lifelike mermaid swimming under the water. But lots of tedious details go into making animation characters. Putting the show together, requires people who are patient, and know what they are doing. The smallest short cut can mess up the entire film. It is not only the creating the animated characters, that makes the show. It does not matter how creative and talented and technically advanced the artists (or the technology) is if the filming process malfunctions. Some animations require only the showing the digital images, the shooting. Many of the more advanced animated shows require filming, very slow filming or photography as a part of the process. Although technology is what we call science fiction, or unbelievable, the creators behind it sill have to have talent and training. Besides excellent drawing, painting and visual imagery skills, they have to be good in math.

Media is the way people are reached. Digital is numerical. Digital Media primarily uses numeric systems to create movies, videos and cartoons. Our eyes retain memory of visual images for about one tenth of a second. Creating animation requires attention to the tiniest details, the slightest imperfection is noticed. Many of the animation we see today is a repeat of the past. It looks more advanced, because of the electronics used to create the productions. Using numerical system will result in more accurate measurements than guessing. But almost all animation, as almost everything what we see today, musicals, videos concerts is repeated from the past.


Event though artists works is a replicate of the past, amazing breakthrough developments in animation have occurred. Disney did amazing things with using fantasy and imagination resulting in animation or life like cartoon characters. However, the perfection and amazement in animation is beyond belief. This is one of the reasons children are so much smarter today. These animated cartoons gets their attention. Children feel important when they see a life like character they know is made for them. Animations develops children’s imaginations. Because of the continued advancements, more animated shows reach more audiences. Many years ago, there is no possibility of the number of animated shows or videos could have been produced as there are being produced today. For one thing, the production company’s did not have a place to show them. Movie theaters had one screen, showed on show. Satellite dishes were unheard of; cable television maybe had 10 stations. They had to hand draw thousands of slides. Twenty four photos equaled one second of air time. Today’s numerical system allows more rapid output of yesterdays productions.


  • Sources are videos can be viewed
  • Fantasia Beautiful Aurora
  • Frog Princess; 9:59
  • Lord of the Rings;
  • Moon Going Through a Full Lunar cycle; continous
  • Paula Abdul Opposites Attract
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