The Different Types Of Animation

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Traditional Animation

Many people might refer to this as 2D animation, however, I actually would place 2D animation in a different category. Traditional animation can sometimes be referred to as cell animation, and this style of animation is genuinely one of the oldest forms of animation. With this style of animation, the animator will actually draw every single frame in order to create the animation sequence, just like they used to do back in the old days at Disney. if you have ever seen one of those flip books you will probably have an idea of what I mean. Sequential images that are screened quickly one after another creates the illusion of movement.

Traditional animation nearly always consists of hand drawings called frames. In the past, these drawings occurred on a big light table. These light tables were basically just an old drafting table with a big light panel in the center of it. This is where the animator drew the sequence. The light allowed the animator to see their previous drawings through the paper, this gives the animator a much better look at his overall animation, this technique is called onion skinning. Nowadays most traditional animation is done using computers and usually a graphics tablet. 2D or traditional animation is usually animated at 12 frames per second. With some faster actions requiring 24 frames per second. Japanese animation is usually known to be animated at an even lower frame rate in most cases.


2D Animation

Next on the list would have to be 2d animation. Now when I talk about 2D animation what I really mean is vector animation, like the sort of ones that were done on flash or now on animate. This style of animation has become so popular over the last decade, predominantly due to the accessibility of the technology. Flash, animate or other similar programs are cheap to learn and easy to use in comparison to the software required for other forms of animation. The reason I would tend to place 2D animation in a different animation category is mainly because, in addition to the option of animating frame by frame, an animator has the option of creating rigs for their characters and then moving the individual parts, instead of having to draw the character over an over again. After effects allows you to create complex rigs for animation or alternatively it let you use the puppet tool to drag body parts around. This level of flexibility gives beginners more options when approaching an animation especially if drawing isn’t the strongest suit. It also allows scope for animation companies such as our selves to produce much more cost-effective animations for commercial projects that simply were not possible a decade ago.


3D Animation

3D animation, also known as computer animation or honestly at this stage is probably just animation, as let’s face it this is the most common form of animation these days. I think it’s similar to how traditional animation was once called animation 30 years ago. 3D animation, however, works in a completely different way to traditional animation. They both require an understanding of the same principals of movement and composition, but the technical skill set is quite different for each task. As I mentioned before you had to be an amazing draftsman to be an animator, whereas with computer animation this is luckily not the case anymore. 3D animation is much more similar to playing with puppets than it is to drawing. An animator moves a character around in a 3D program with special controls that are connected to each of the characters body parts, such as hands, elbows, lips, etc. The animator then sets a keyframe once all the body parts are in the right position, they proceed to move forward in time and move all these controls again to create another keyframe. The animation software then calculates the journey the body parts will be taken between each of those keyframes.

A 3D animator will spend most of their time looking at curves which represent the movement of the character’s body parts over time. Another big difference with 3d animation is unlike traditional animation the characters body parts are always present and as such should be taken into consideration. Let me explain this in a bit more detail. When animating in 2D the character has to be drawn for every single frame. When the character is viewed from the side, half of its body isn’t shown and thus it isn’t drawn. So it technically doesn’t exist. It’s drawn on a flat page and there isn’t really more to the character other than what the animator draws, whereas with 3D the characters body parts always exist in the shot, even when one hand isn’t visible, it’s still there. That adds some work for the animator since they need to be aware of the entire character, at all times. This goes for the actual set design as well. For our Omniplex Pre-Show Trailer, we actually created an entire future city. In the end, I would say the viewer gets to see about 5% of the city that we designed. We had to choose the best flight path that would give the best visuals but also would fit into the allotted amount of time.


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The last major difference with 3D animation is the frame rate. Like I mentioned before traditional animators usually work on 2s, what this means is that they draw a new drawing every 2 frames, and thus having one drawing less to do for 2 frames. With 3D animation however, the motion is always smooth except for specifically stylized pieces that intentionally try to look different. In 3D animation having a character stop completely ultimately will look like a mistake. Even when the character is standing still there should always be some signs of life. This is something that we can get away with much easier within 2D animation.


Motion Graphics

Whilst motion graphics are still considered a form of animation, motion graphics is rather different from any of the other types of animation on the list, predominantly because unlike the other types of animation, it is not character or story driven. It is the art of creatively moving graphical elements or text, usually for commercial purposes. Think of all the various animated logos, explainer videos, app commercials, tv promos, or even film opening titles, you’ve seen. The skills needed for motion graphics don’t necessarily translate to the other types of animation since they don’t require knowledge of body mechanics or acting. However, they do have something in common in terms of needing to understand good composition and the all-important camera motion.


Stop Motion

Finally, from discussing all the different types of animation, we have stop motion. Stop motion is a special form of animation that combines live action film making principals with traditional character animation. Stop motion animation is done by taking a photo of an object and then moving it just a little bit and then taking another photo. The process is then repeated and when the photos are played back one after another it gives the illusion of movement. This is similar to traditional animation, but it uses real-life material instead of drawings. Let’s look at some different styles of stop motion.

One of the most popular forms of stop motion animation is Claymation, working with clay or playdoh characters that can easily be manipulated for animation. Advanced Claymation as seen in X uses metal skeletons on which the clay is then molded for a sturdier rig. Some animators would opt to use regular puppets instead of clay ones. Usually, these are also built on some type of skeleton rig, the faces of the characters can be replaced deepening on the desired expression or sometimes these expressions can be controlled from within the rig itself.

Another popular form of stop motion is cut out animation. This is where the animator uses construction paper or cardboard to create the characters. The paper characters are then placed on paper while shooting the animation from above. This was the method of animation chosen to animate the original South Park episodes before they made the switch to using computer-based programs. Similar to cut out animation, there is silhouette animation. This type of animation uses cardboard or any kind of flat material really, except the objects are all dark and the shot is depicted with only silhouettes. This is one of the oldest forms of stop motion animation is very rarely used today.

Some animators even choose to use toys or Lego characters for their stop motion animations, including my 5-year-old self. I swear you haven’t truly lived until you’ve seen Jurassic Park remade with a limited selection of dinosaur toys and directed through the eyes of a knee height child.  This genre is highly popular on YouTube. Robot Chicken is also another great example of that. They use famous and recognisable action figures to satirically make fun of popular culture.



The last type of animation is pixilation. This is a very interesting form of stop motion that uses real people and real environments to create surreal videos. It uses the stop motion method of taking a still photo moving things around and then taking another photo except in this case the subject matter usually involves real people instead of puppets.

Now you know all about the different types of animation that are out there. If you are interested in undertaking an animation project for your brand, regardless of the size, we want to hear from you. Whilst we do cater to the higher end animation productions, we are assisting with smaller scale animations like whiteboard videos and animated explainers on a weekly basis and can work with you and your budget to create something meaningful for your brand and engaging for your audience no matter the types of animation.


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