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A03- What is animation?

ANIMATION is the central subject of this series. Naturally we will discuss a lot about it.

Q: Yes, of-course. But what exactly is this animation?

As far as the definition is concerned- ‘Animation means getting or creating an illusion of life or motion, using series of continuously progressive images.’ It’s derived from a Latin word, ‘animātiō’ meaning ‘imparting life’ or ‘the act of bringing to life’. This same definition is also applied to a film. As you know, a film is composed of a long strip of several sequential images. When played through a projector, we see motion. In-fact, that is why we call it a ‘movie’.

But instead of literal definition, why not actually CREATE an animation to learn it.

Q: Wow! Can we?

Why not. Lets see-


In the picture above, a ball is shown placed on floor, using a circle and a line. Now lets imagine that we want to have that ball jumping. Like a movie or film, to make an animation for this, we will have to draw few more sketches. As the ball will be jumping, in the second sketch we will draw the ball placed slightly above. And in the third sketch, it will be even above.


Now the ball will start to drop. Lets draw it lower in the forth sketch and in the last one it will be on the floor again. So we have these five sketches.


Now, what if we add one more picture (sixth), showing the ball slightly pressed down? It will look like this.


Now we know for certain, that there are six different sketches and even the balls are different in each of them. None of the individual ball is ‘alive’ to ‘actually’ jump. But, what if we pass these six sketches in front of our eye, very fast? Lets see…


Q: Wow! looks like the ball is actually jumping. Great!

We no more see six balls separately, right?
And what if we have 12 pictures instead of 6?


Now the ball bouncing looks even better. In-fact, we can no longer recognise the individual picture separately nor do we see 12 different balls. We see one and the same ball which is jumping. Isn’t it? That is called animation. Yes, we actually made one.

Q: I never thought it to be so easy.

If we watch a series of continuing images rapidly, we get an illusion of motion. We ‘think’ that the objects inside the picture are actually moving. We no more recognise each individual picture separately but in-stead, feel that it is one and the same thing, which is moving. If we keep on adding such images in sequence, we can show the ball jumping right or to the left.


We can show it to be lighter!

Ball-4a-lightWeb200Or very heavy.


Or we can have many such balls jumping and bouncing…


If we take a notebook, draw such sketches on a few pages and flip them swiftly, we can see the animation on it. It’s called ‘Flip-book’ animation, really! Don’t you remember, Ishan’s flip-book from ‘Taare zameen par’? You can try making such flip books. You will surely love doing it.

Q: Now I am getting more interested. I will surely try it.

Animation is done by having such sketches, one by one. Each one of the sketch or picture is called as a ‘Frame’ in animation language. And so, this technique is called ‘Frame by frame’ animation.

Q: ‘Frame by frame’, Okay…

In our ‘ball’ example, we had to draw each one of the sketches. That too, having each one of them, slightly varying from the previous one. Right now we drew just 12 pictures. And we just animated a simple ball, with just a single bounce. But imagine if, instead of the ball, we want ‘Tom’ or ‘Jerry’ there. Then? Or what if we want a table lamp? jumping with the ball?

Ball-7a-tinguWeb200And what about a complete film?

Q: OMG! Looks very difficult! We will need to draw soooooo many sketches, do we not…?

Yes. This was the way to make all the animation films, we all like, till recently. Even today, this method is used to create many animations. We can call this method as the ‘mother’ of all animation techniques.

Q: hm, hmm, go ahead…

Of-course, this requires a lot of patience and dedication. To make an animation of one second, it needs at-least 15 to 20 ‘Frames’. Which means, a minute of animation will need- 60 sec X 20 = 1,200 frames. And one hour is 60 min X 1,200 frames which will be…72,000 frames.

Q: SEVENTY-TWO THOUSAND! You seriously want us to learn animation, right?

Haha, just kidding.

But yes, to draw these many frames, is really cumbersome, if not impossible. It becomes very hectic, time consuming and thereby tedious. And its not always about tediousness, many of us can not maintain accuracy and consistency throughout such a long work. And that is why it started experimentation around the world. Many techniques started evolving to improve the animation process and to make it easier.

There came The computer… and everything changed!


Q: Oh! Thank god, now we are talking…

Involving computer to create animation, was a breakthrough. It was innovative and was so much advantageous, to think of such a helping hand, in form of a computer. In our ball example we drew all 12 drawings ourself. Now what do you think it would have been, if a computer would be used?

Q: I guess…. umm…. it would be ….. um… ~  … alright, no idea!

Let me explain. We would draw the first frame having ball on floor. Then, directly draw the frame with ball at its highest point, skipping all the frames in-between. Now the computer will ‘draw’ all the remaining frames, for us, by determining the count and difference in the frames. Furthermore, if we want the ball to jump here and there, then we will have to draw just the important frames, and computer will fill all the remaining ones.

Q: This is great! I mean…its awesome!

Now 72,000 will not be SEVENTY-TWO THOUSAND anymore! Right?

Well, this is just a beginning. Follow along the exciting tour of 3D animation.
See you next time!




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Posted by Mahesh Deshpande

Director at Advaita Studios Pvt. Ltd. Having wide career experience in Design, 3d graphics and animation, since 1998. Actively involved in various 3d graphics programs and training.