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A04- Computer Animation

Animation is the most favourite medium to reach hearts of viewers. Today, not only for entertainment, but animation is widely used in sectors like medical, engineering, advertisements and so on. In our last discussion, we talked about ‘Frame by frame’ animation. Remember?

Q: Of-course, It is done by creating sequence of images.

Yes. Likewise, if we make few clay models and then take several photographs one by one, while gradually changing their shape, we will get a nice animation.

StopMotion-102e-200hQ: I think, I have heard it before. It’s called ‘stop motion’, right?

Yes, indeed, it also is a type of animation. A puppet show is also a kind of animation. We can use variety of mediums to generate animation and more importantly convey our ideas to others. After all its about the art, not about the medium. May it be a pencil to draw a picture, or a brush and colours to paint, a paper to fold and make origami or a lump of clay to be shaped to make a nice model. Using computer is very much the same thing as using one of these mediums.

Q: Can you elaborate more on computer animation?

Why not. Computer is also a kind of tool like pencil or brush. By using it we can create great artworks. Using computer for making animation makes it very useful and enjoyable. Typically, computer animation is not done using this ‘frame by frame’ technique. When using a computer for animation, there is a special kind of technique. It’s called ‘Key-frame’ animation. As we talked about the ball animation, in our previous post, we discussed about only the important or ‘key’ pictures of the ball. We have seen that we have to tell the computer, only two positions of the ball. First when the ball is on floor and then when the ball is at its top or jumped state. These will be the ‘key’ poses supplied to the computer. Now computer will calculate rest of the positions and draw all the pictures for us. So we can save a lot of time using computer in this way.


Q: Do we actually tell computer to do animation for us?

Of-course, why not. That ‘is’ computer animation. You will be making many computer animations using this same technique. Even our short-film will be done using the same technique. But more on that in the later talks. Computer animation is not just limited to ‘key frame’ technique. There are other techniques, like procedural animation and simulation. Unlike ‘frame by frame’ or ‘key frame’ methods, these complex techniques use mathematical formulae to produce motion. Thus computer animation can be very useful and effective, like a ‘magic wand’.

But even if computer can make our life easy, it is after all a ‘tool’, a ‘means’. We have to apply art, we have to work hard, practice a lot. This field is ABSOLUTELY NOT for those, who think that ‘it’ can be done just by hitting few buttons.

When dealing with animation, the key word should be ‘visualisation’. To make a good animation film, we have to use several methods. We have to make the viewers ‘visualise’ something. The technique can be any of the one mentioned above. Imagine a grandma telling a story of the sparrow. Without anything real in-front, the baby can see the sparrow sitting, eating and dancing. This too is an animation. We can find several example of visualisation and thereby animations, around us. When ‘Babasaheb Purandare’, the great historian, tells us stories of ‘Shivaji Maharaj’, we can actually ‘see’ the forts, the soldiers, their horses and everything around us. We feel, as if we are standing there. Even right now, you must be ‘seeing’ something, as I am talking to you. Isn’t it? Likely, we can effectively use computer as a tool for visualisation and to convey our ideas.

Q: Yes, now I got a much clearer picture about ‘CG’. But then what is 3D animation?

When we draw something on a paper, its got some length and width. In such case we have nothing to do with the thickness of the paper. We consider its two dimensions only. Such kind of picture is called a ‘Two dimensional’ or 2D picture. But if we create a model using clay or by folding paper, then we can see the model from all different sides. That means, we do consider all three dimensions viz.- length, width, height or thickness etc. So naturally it is 3 dimensional animation or 3D animation for short.

In computer animation also, we find different groups of softwares using such different techniques. Mainly 2D and 3D softwares. Using 2D softwares is very much like drawing on paper. We can draw, many frames one by one and produce ‘frame by frame’ animations. Of-course computer helps us on the way. On the other hand in 3D softwares, we actually can create 3D models, just like clay work. We can see the models from around. ‘Key frame animation’ is the most popular method in 3D world. Of-course 3D animation softwares are much more advanced in these methods and even use ‘procedural’ and ‘simulation’ techniques.

This ‘Lets learn 3D animation’ series is based around 3D specifically. We will learn and use the tools and make our animations using 3D softwares. It will be full of fun. So don’t forget to be with me next time. If you have any queries, don’t hesitate to ask me. Use the ‘Leave a Reply’ section below. Your comments and suggestions are important to me.

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.