Animation has significantly improved over the years, from the old two-dimensional cartoons of old to the amazing, and often believable, three-dimensional animation that can now be seen in many movies.
So, how does computer animation work? In a nutshell, 3D animation is created by using a computer to “give life” to static images. In other words, by quickly running through a sequence of images, a computer can appear to make static objects move. This article will explain the basics of how computer animation works.
How Does Computer Animation Work?
There are 2 types of computer animation. The first is called computer assisted animation and the second type is computer generated animation. There are differences between the two, the most significant being that computer assisted animation creates 2 dimensional, commonly referred to as 2D, images. Computer generated animation creates 3 dimensional, or 3D, objects.
The other major difference is that in computer assisted creation, the artist will draw the original 2D objects either on paper or with the help of a computer. In computer generated graphics, the computer does all of the work, since it’s not possible to create this type of dimension using pencil and paper.
In traditional animation, an artist first draws out his objects, scenes and characters in a sequence. Next, he places the most important elements of the sequence in an outline. These are known as keyframes. Each keyframe represents a significant point of time in the final sequence.
Originally, junior animators were then called in to draw the parts of the sequence between these keyframes, thus creating one continuous sequence. Creating these cells, or frames, which fill the gaps between the keyframes is referred to as tweening.
With computer assisted animation, tweening is done by the computer using advanced mathematical algorithms to create a smooth, animated sequence. In computer generated animation, the entire process is done by the computer, from the beginning drawing to the final animation sequence.
What Kind of Software Is Needed to Create 3D Animation?
Today’s computer animators use sophisticated software programs to generate 3D images and graphics. A few of the most popular 3D animation software programs are Maya, 3D Max and Poser. These programs are used by amateur animators and professional artists alike. Unfortunately, the cost of these programs is completely out of reach for the average person. Many of them cost $5000 or more! Thankfully, there are few cheaper options, including free software, available for aspiring animators to learn with.