What is Pixilation Animation?

Pixilation is a form of Stop Motion animation, in which you animate live actors instead of clay figures.
See this beautiful example:

Her Morning Elegance
Song By Oren Lavie,
Animators – Yuval and Merav Nathan

The name "Pixilation" is derived from the “Pixies”, the Mythological Cornish Elves (and not from computer pixels). It’s called this way because, I guess, the actors on the screen seem to be moved by some naughty creatures.

The principle is very simple:

Move the actors or the objects little by little in front of a camera, shooting one frame at a time. Then play the images in sequence on film or computer screen. You take pictures instead of drawing them. (Try the free, online tool at the end of this article!)

This animation technique goes all the way back to the beginning of animation history. 
Pioneer animator Norman McLaren made the short film “Neighbours” while working for the National Film Board of Canada – probably the finest greenhouse for experimental animations ever.
See how he made people fly in the air without any green screen or fancy effects software (this was 1952!):

Norman McLaren - Neighbours

Pixilation was “3D” long before computers got involved in animation :-)
It’s not a drawing – It’s REAL, a real world and people, and so our expectations and reactions as viewers are different. A real person flying in the air is more impressive than a drawing of one.
This was the beginning of animated special effects in movies.

Two major genres of Pixilation

There seem to be two major genres for this particular branch of Stop motion animation:

Personal films, highly artistic and experimental in nature, and Music Videos.

In the Short and Indie Film corner, you will find:

  • Giants, like Yan Svankmajer (look up a “jabberwocky”),
  • Experimental animation such as “Vision Point” by Stephen Arthur
  • And, of course, any animation student playing with StopMotion equipment for the first time. 

It’s so natural to just step in front of the camera and grab a few frames :-)

The music videos are probably this guy’s fault:

Peter Gabriel - Sledgehammer

Peter Gabriel put himself at the mercy of Aardman animators, and the rest is history. 
(Never got the bit with the chickens in the end - what is that about? Always reminds me of Mr. Bean stuffing the turkey LOL)
Today, anyone with a digital camera can make pixilation, as YouTube readily proves, and the only limit to what you can do is your imagination.

Make your own pixilation animation

Start right now using your webcam! 
Try MonkeyJam, It's a free software, and very easy to use.

Related articles:

How does computer animation work?

What is cut-out animation?

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