Animation Techniques

Example of GIF animationgif animation of clouds

I've listed here the major animation techniques used today.
Each is listed with an example that you can look up.
Some of them, especially in the StopMotion section, are general terms, and have as many sub-techniques as there are imaginative people.


2D Animation Techniques

  • Classic, hand drawn animation - Disney's Lion King.
  • Cut outs - Monty Python (see also in stop motion and in 3D. This technique crosses all barriers!)
  • Rotoscope - Waking Life
  • Flip book - Keith Haring has made some famous ones.

Computer Assisted Animation (2D)

This term refers to all types of animation that use a computer somewhere in the process.
One could argue that this means ALL ANIMATION today.
Mostly we use it to describe the tools that have come to replace pencil, paper and film, for example:

  • Flash animations - Many TV series are now done in Flash, check out this example.
  • Coloring and layering hand drawn animation using a computer
  • Drawing directly into an animation software with a Pen Tablet

3D Animation Techniques

  • 3D animation- Pixar's Up, Toy Story
  • Stereoscopic 3D - Coraline, Avatar
  • CGI cut out - South Park
  • Motion Capture (an aid tool for 3D animators)- Final Fantasy, Avatar, Gollum in Lord of the Rings.
  • Morphing (If you're old enough to remember the changing faces in Michael Jackson's Clip Black or White? that's Morphing.)

Stop Motion Techniques

  • Clay or Plasticine ("claymation")- Nick Park's Wallace and Gromit
  • Real Clay animation (and lot's of other stuff you won't suspect)- Jan Svankmajer's Dimensions of Dialogue
  • Puppet animation- Tim Burton and Henry Selick's The Nightmare Before Christmas
  • Pixilation - Peter Gabriel's music video "Sledgehammer"
  • Cut outs - Daniel Greave's Flat World is a stunning combination of classic hand drawings with cut outs.

Types of Animation that are done on a light table, shot frame by frame under a camera:

  • Sand animation - This is sometimes done as a performance art, shown live for an audience, and sometimes it's stop framed into proper film.
  • Oil colors - Caroline Leaf's The Street, and the frankly-unbelievable Old Man and the Sea by Alexander Petrov.
  • Plasticine - Ishu Patel's Afterlife

Types of animation named after a software

Some types of animation are named after the software used to create them.
Flash animation has come to mean a certain kind of graphic look and feel, which has also spawned the pleading request "Can you make it NOT look like Flash, PLEASE!"

There are also:

  • GIF animations - GIF is a type of file format, used for small, light weight animations with no more than a few frames.
  • After Effects animation - usually means either cut outs done in After Effects, or animation done with the program's Puppet Tool (which is amazing, BTW).
  • Blender, Mudbox, and Maya - all names of 3D animation softwares.
  • Pivot stick figure - A freeware for making stick figure animations. So simple, and so popular!

I'm sure there's more

I hope I've covered all the major topics.
If I've missed something - do drop me a line!

How does computer animation work?

Cut-out animation rages through the ages - From Lotte Reiniger to Waltz with Bashir


What do you say? Leave me a comment in the box below


Articles in This Section:

animation techniques

how does computer animation work?

what is pixilation animation?

what is a storyboard?

storyboard syllabus

cut out animation rages through the ages

... and - Make your own animation!




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