The Rising Power and History of Computer Animation in Films

The Rising Power and History of Computer Animation in Films

Film animation pioneers such as Walt Disney created a new film genre in the first half of the 20th century — technological advances in computer animation have continued the strong momentum by breathing “new life” into what was rapidly becoming a stagnant industry. In this article, Video Caddy describes the history and power of animated movies, flash animation and stop motion animation.

Computer Animation Definition

What is computer animation? It is an advanced digital display technology that uses computer graphics and software to create moving images. Computer animation consists of two distinct categories: (1) Computer-assisted animation that computerizes traditional animations; and (2) Computer-generated animation that uses a computer system to design animation with specialized 3D graphics software.

Early Devices Used for Creating Animations

The earliest animation devices include several examples such as the phenakistoscope, zoetrope and praxinoscope. The underlying strategy for these devices and a “flip book” is to create the illusion of motion by presenting multiple images rapidly and in succession.

The earliest examples of animated projections include those by Reynaud and Cohl. Reynaud’s effort is the first instance in which an animated film was made by drawing directly onto the transparent strip. Cohl’s well-known film (“Fantasmagorie”) featured one stick figure moving about and interacting with other objects. This film illustrates the time-consuming nature of non-computer animation — each frame was drawn individually on paper and then transferred to negative film by photographing it.

Short animated films known as cartoons became a new industry during the 1910s — cartoon shorts typically accompanied non-animated films in movie theaters. Cartoon versions of animated films were essentially the “opening act” of their day.

Helped along by war-related efforts to break cryptography codes during the Second World War, the development of computers allowed much ground-breaking advancement during the second half of the 20th century. One of these was to reduce many time-consuming animation tasks — the first feature-length example of a computer-animated film was “Toy Story” in 1995.

Historic Snapshot of Computer-Animated Movies

Here is a historical snapshot of computer animation techniques in movies:

  • 1906 — “Humorous Phases of Funny Faces” by J. Stuart Blackton. Only three minutes long, it shows Blackton’s hand in the process of animating against a blackboard.
  • 1908 — Emile Cohl’s “Fantasmagorie” premiered in Paris. Also during 1908, the first use of stop motion animation was seen in “Humpty Dumpty Circus.”
  • 1975 — George Lucas founded Industrial Light and Magic, a revolutionary special effects company.
  • 1976 — The sequel to the 1973 science fiction film “Westworld” included early attempts at computer animation. “Futureworld” used 3D wire-frame imagery that featured computer-animated hands and faces.
  • 1995 — Pixar’s “Toy Story” was the first full-length computer animated film. Pixar was originally owned by George Lucas, later sold to Steve Jobs and then purchased by Disney a few years ago.
  • 2004 — “The Polar Express” was the first fully-animated film to render all characters by using motion capture technology. This same process has been adapted in many films such as “Avatar” since then.

Understanding the Work Scope in Movie Animations

The work scope of an animated film project is mind-boggling when you consider what goes into the final film. Films are typically shot at 24 frames per second — a 90-minute film has about 130,000 frames.

Computer animation often includes hundreds of assets and control points in each frame. One film can easily involve 500 million digital files and 250 billion pixels. For example, the DreamWorks animated film of “How to Train Your Dragon 2” entailed 75 million computing hours and 10,000 simultaneous computing cores — and 250 TB of disk space to store and deliver the film to servers.

Computer Animation for Marketing Companies and Advertisers

The global animation and gaming market continues to show impressive growth — estimated to be just under 13 percent annually through 2016. Major markets include the United States, Canada, Britain, France, Germany and Japan. Animation series are no longer aimed only at children, and the new world of animation involves popular series for teenagers, adults and the entire family.

Entertaining the public in movie theaters is only one purpose of computer animation in the modern work and living environment. The ability of computer animation to entertain and persuade potential consumers has not gone unnoticed — and savvy advertisers and marketing companies are now using computer animation in almost everything they do.

How can your business improve its use of computer animation? Consider outsourcing all animation needs to an expert animation partner — Video Caddy.

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– Video Caddy