Animation techniques I.


These are techniques where the camera hangs suspended, looking down at a table on which the animator animates or takes pictures of finished pre-prepared images (or phases). The camera can zoom in and out (getting closer or further away), and the whole table moves sideways.

Cartoon Animation

The animation is drawn on papers or transparent foils, or cels. These allow for the use of painted backgrounds or multiple layers with characters.

In order to ensure that the individual images remain in the same place and that the movement drawn on them is smooth, they are fixed with metal pegs.

If the individual planes (layers) with characters and backgrounds are arranged on several layers of glass (multiplane), the camera movement can create a partially spatial impression.

Today, cartoon animation is created in the computer. Instead of pencils and brushes, artists use graphic tablets, the individual layers are no longer taken under the camera, they are animated in the computer. But the principle remains the same.

A specific discipline of cartoon animation is called rotoscoping. It is created by tracing characters filmed in real time with a normal camera. The most famous examples are Disney’s Snow White or the Czech film Alois Nebel (dir. Tomáš Luňák).

Cut-out Film

A character is painted on carboard or other flat solid surface (sheet metal, plastic, wood…) and is divided into parts. The animator moves them directly under the camera and the individual phases of movement are recorded by the camera  ̶  on a film strip as in the past, on the computer as it is done today. As with cartoon film, layers can be used, spread over several planes of the animation table, to achieve spatial effects.

Relief Film

Animated in a similar way to cut-out film, but the objects are partly spatial, so that light and shadow are reflected on them; the resulting impression is reminiscent of puppet film.

The puppets have a so-called skeleton – a mechanism that allows them to be adjusted to different positions.

Paint-on-Glass Animation

The animator paints with oil paints on the glass directly under the camera, slightly adjusting the painting for each frame. The glass is illuminated from below. Some parts of the image are painted on cels in advance and the animator uses them as they are. Several sheets (planes) of painted glass are used to achieve spatial effects (out of focus, movement of each plane in perspective, etc.).

Other Traditional Techniques

Almost anything can be animated. All sorts of objects are animated – from dishes to cars, flowers, modelling clay, ceramic clay, stones, beads, cotton yarn and many other materials; the imagination has no limits.

Sand animation is a very effective technique. The sand is poured on the light table and the animator animates it with his or her hands, pouring the sand or using brushes. Different layers of sand, when illuminated, produce different shades from black (where the table light does not shine through the thick layer) to white (where there is no sand).

A very specific technique is pin-screen.

It is a frame with a fine screen. Countless pins are inserted into its holes. By illuminating it from the side, a shadow is created, the intensity of which can be changed by sliding the pins in and out. Various objects such as rollers are used to this end. After each exposure, the composition of the pins changes slightly, thus creating animation. The result is a monochromatic image with soft hatching.

Some animators in the age of film cameras experimented, achieving rather strange and impressive results by not recording the image, but by drawing the image frame by frame directly on the film strip (a film frame is only about 20mm wide), by engraving it or by etching it using various chemicals.

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