Building a career in animation requires a deep understanding of the countless styles and demands that the industry has.

Most people think of cartoons when the word “animation” comes to mind. That certainly is true but the industry itself encompasses different fields! Animation is all about bringing concepts – realistic and fantastical ones alike – to life as a way to tell a story.  

We’ve covered the 12 principles of Animation by Disney as well as the different types of 3D animation but let’s talk about the genres of animation. If you’d like to become a part of the animation industry, you’ll have to become an expert at any of these animation types:

Traditional or Cel Animation

Also known as 2D animation, traditional animation is one of the oldest forms of animation. This method involves hand drawing the characters or objects on a transparent piece of paper fitted on a peg one frame at a time to create a sequence.

To create the illusion of movement, the sequential drawings are screened quickly, one after another in a sequence. This method is not only expensive, it’s also time and labor-intensive. Being proficient in traditional animation is a great skill to have if you’d like to build a career in traditional media.

Digital 2D Animation

The introduction of the computer revolutionized the animation industry. Animating in 2D used to be expensive and time-consuming; now it’s fast, easy, and accessible. Computer animation has been around since the 60s but it was only in the 90s when animators began using computers alongside traditional forms of animation.

These days, a tablet, a computer program, and a PC stylus are used to animate in 2D instead of hand drawing characters or objects frame by frame. From stick figures to entire worlds, artists could animate a complex sequence using a computer program. Some of the most popular 2D animation programs are:

  • Flash
  • After Effects
  • Cel Action
  • TV Paint

The animation software comes with a diverse tool kit of features that help illustrators animate the characters or objects in various ways, such as fine-tuning the elements. No actual photography of individual frames is shot to create the sequence so the method is now faster and more affordable.

Digital 2D animation is one of the most utilized animation methods in advertising, video game development, manga, movie making, and other creative industries. That’s why mastering a 2D animation program is a critical part of your animation career.

3D Animation

3D animation is the latest and greatest form of animation. The thing with 2D animation is that it lacks depth. Using a 3D animation software, artists could animate objects and/or characters with depth, which add to the life-like qualities of the final sequence.

To create a 3D character, an animator would create a 3D polygon mesh, different vertices are connected to give the character a form. Then, the mesh is rigged to create the digital character’s skeleton, which could be manipulated for certain poses and/or movements. The artist would build the many physical characteristics of a character gradually, including the muscles, skin, hair, pores, etc.

Keyframing is used to set the character’s position, a technique that’s also applied in 2D animation. But unlike traditional animation in which the keyframing is done on every frame, 3D animators will only use keyframing on certain parts of the sequence. The in-between movements will be filled in by the computer program, which quickens the entire process even more.

The full sequence is incredibly life-like because the physical attributes of the character could be built and manipulated down to the minute details, including the facial movements, body movements, shadows, etc. Once the sequence has been completed, the character will be posed at certain frames and the 3D software will do the rendering.

Motion Capture

Motion capture is a type of 3D animation method that utilizes special sensors to create life-like characters. The sensors are attached to an actor’s face and body to capture the said actor’s actions, speech, and facial movements.

Once the digital character’s data has been gathered, the animator would use a variety of computer applications to breathe life to the character. Andy Serkis has starred in a string of motion-capture roles, some of his most unforgettable characters are LOTR’s Gollum, Star Wars’ Supreme Leader Snoke, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes’ Caesar, and the king of the monsters himself, King Kong.

Stop Motion Animation

Stop motion is an animation method in which objects are manipulated physically and then shot frame by frame to create the illusion of movement. The characters or objects are often made with clay (called Claymation), paper cut-outs, fabrics, puppets, silhouettes, or plasticine figures. Stop motion animation comes in various forms but the cut-out method was the earliest known form of this technique.

Because scenes are shot frame by frame, stop motion is one of the most labor-intensive forms of animation. It’s possible to animate stop motion models using a computer software but the effect isn’t the same as traditionally shot stop motion animation because it is difficult to recreate the models or characters digitally.

During the early days of filmmaking, stop motion animation was used as a form of special effects. Movies like the old Terminator and Star Wars films used stop animation models for some scenes. Despite the painstaking work, however, some artists prefer to shoot full-length features this way. Films like Chicken Run, Coraline, ParaNorman, and Kubo and the Two Strings, are just some of the films that were shot entirely in stop motion.

The animation industry is always changing and fiercely competitive that’s why it’s important to get the right training. This goes regardless of the animation technique that you’d like to specialize in. Taking postgraduate studies and online courses will pave the way to a solid career in animation.

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