Though animation, as we understand it today, was initially introduced in the film industry, its present usage covers many different industries from film, television, and video games, to web design, marketing, architecture, and education.
As the animation industry continues to evolve, so do the tools used to create stunning animations. In this article, we will introduce you to some animation basics and showcase several of the top animation software that professionals and enthusiasts alike use to bring their ideas to life.
The human eye and brain can process around 10 images per second and perceive them individually. If the number of frames per second is increased to more than 12, then those same static images shown to our eyes will be perceived as motion.
A great example to illustrate this process in your mind are the flipbooks. Animations are created similarly but on a greater scale. In our age of technological advancement, often after watching a movie with stunning animations, the curiosity that teases our minds with the question “how did they do that?”
This is swiftly quenched by the obvious and easy answer - computers. But of course, the animation journey didn’t start like that. When we turn back to the beginnings of animation, the process of creating an animated video was more complicated and requested a lot of human effort.
What is known as traditional animation, required animators to draw on transparent celluloid paper each frame by hand in order to create an animated sequence. This was the dominant form of animation in cinemas until the advent of computer animation.
Of the first to create an animated film in America is James Stuart Blackton, who in the year 1900 created “The Enchanted Drawing” an animated sequence recorded for the first time on standard picture film, which later also got him the title as one of the fathers of animation.
Although animation is not known when in history did it start exactly, its concept of storytelling is way older and can be traced to different nations, such as Egyptians and their use of hieroglyphics.
What made it boom in our recent history was the invention of Phénakisticope by Joseph Plateau which was the first widespread animation device, and that later evolved and gave rise to more advanced means of animation.
On the other hand, the modern era of animation, also known as the renaissance age of American animation, started around the 1980s. This is the age when computer animation started becoming an essential tool in the film industry, with the first full-length animated film created entirely using computer animation being “Toy Story” produced by Pixar Animation Studios.
Computer animation is a digital successor of stop motion techniques, and nowadays despite the two-dimensional (2D) model animation, other modern techniques like 3D are used to create more advanced animations.
This is included under the general umbrella term for computer animation nowadays as CGI or computer-generated imagery and includes both static and dynamic (moving) images.
In web design, animation refers to the process of creating an illusion of motion through visual effects. The goals of its usage are numerous. They are used to attract attention to your website, keep the visitors engaged for a longer time and create emotional connections with them.
They also act as a guide and enhance the user experience overall by making the interface more interactive. When it comes to website template types, animation is commonly used in landing pages, portfolio templates, and one page template designs, though you can find it throughout the other template types as well.
Two real examples of web animation in a Portfolio template.
When it comes to specific modalities of animations on how and where they can be used, here are a few of them;
Adobe Animate is a robust software for creating animations and interactive content by Adobe Systems.
It offers a wide range of vector drawing tools and a variety of other features such as Timeline, ActionScript, HTML5 Canvas, support for WebGL and WebAssembly, symbols, bone tools, inverse kinematics, motion editor, and publish settings.
It also allows third-party plugins and extensions to expand its capabilities. Its user-friendly interface and wide range of tools make it easy to create animations and interactive content for different platforms including web, mobile, and gaming.
It's one of the best adobe software for animation popularly chosen among professionals and hobbyists for creating animations, games, e-learning content, and interactive designs.
Learning to use it might take some time. It is offered for 7 days as a free trial, and after that using it costs $20.99/mo.
Toon Boom Harmony is of the best 2D animation software, a standard in the field. With its ability to create hand-drawn and cut-out animations, multi plane camera support, and advanced compositing tools, Toon Boom Harmony offers a wide range of features for animators of all skill levels. Each animator can choose one of the three tiers or versions of the tool, based on their own skill level. Those versions are Essentials, Advanced, and Premium.
Its integration with other software such as Adobe Photoshop, and its robust rigging system, make it a go-to choice for professional animation projects, including TV series, feature films, and web series. Its downside is that no free trial is available with it. The purchasing cost is $25/month.
Maya a product of Autodesk, is a professional-grade 3D animation software used in film, TV, and video game industries. It offers a wide range of tools for modeling, texturing, lighting, and animation. It includes a material editor, an animation system, and built-in particle effects.
Maya has a large user community and is compatible with other industry-standard software, also it is supported by third-party plugins and scripts. The software is expensive at $225/month, but there is the possibility for a 30-day free trial.
Also a bonus for students and educators is that they can get a free one-year educational access to Maya and other Autodesk products, and can renew this service as long as they are eligible.
Blender is an open source 3D animation software built by a community of highly skilled developers and thus offered completely free. It supports the entire 3D pipeline, including modeling, rigging, animation, simulation, rendering, compositing, and motion tracking, as well as video editing and game creation.
It is customizable through Python scripting and is well-suited for individuals and small studios. The Blender community is actively involved in the development process, and the software is available for Linux, Windows, and Macintosh computers.
The great thing about Blender is using it without spending a dime. At last, who doesn't love free stuff? I mean, unless it's a free trip to the dentist.
Adobe After Effects is a powerful motion graphics and visual effects software. It is used for both 2D and 3D animation with vectors and rasterized art.
You can import photographs and other physical media into your animations, allowing you to create various titles and motion graphics. It has virtual reality capabilities and can do stuff from text rotating up to post-production editing. One of the key features of Adobe After Effects, and other Adobe apps in general, is their integration with other Adobe tools, making your designing process faster and easier.
It is offered as a free trial for 7 days and costs $20.99/month or you can access it by purchasing the Adobe Creative Cloud for $54.99 for a better price, which includes more than 20 other Adobe apps that you can utilize in your work. Some other notable options that are worth mentioning are also the Procreate editor app and Spline.
Procreate is a two-time Apple Design Awards winner, one of the best animation apps for iPad. Spline is also one of the go-to tools, especially for those who are beginners in animation since it features an easy interface to work with for any designer regardless of their 3D experience.
The process of animation requires a lot of work from your computer hardware, that’s why before choosing which laptop to buy, you need to have in mind a few things about your hardware specifications. CPU and GPU are the key components that do most of the “legwork” in the rendering process, and that is why you need to make sure that they have the required performance to handle your work fast and efficiently.
Despite hardware requirements varying from software to software, most of the high-end animation software, like the ones mentioned earlier, require in general at least these minimum specifications:
On the other hand, the recommended specifications commonly include:
Here are 3 of the best-performing laptops in 2023:
Even though any MacBook Pro from the M-chip series will give you excellent performance, the latest update of MacBook Pro is everything the other Macs included, just better. The new MacBook Pro comes with an M2 Pro or M2 Max chip, offering more processing cores and memory bandwidth, with the M2 Max processor being equipped with a total of 38 GPU cores.
This update includes an increase in battery life, with an astonishing cordless work capability of up to 22 hours. The Mac also features a Liquid Retina HDR display, a nearly 4k display resolution, giving you the best viewing experience. Additionally, the RAM performance now offers a bigger capacity from 16 to 96GB, and the storage capacity is increased up to 8TB.
Macs typically come with powerful processors, high-resolution displays, and long battery life, making them well-suited for demanding tasks such as 3d animation rendering, video editing, etc. With the help of easy-to-use UI animation tools and software for UX design, animating your designs has never been easier.
Asus Rog Zephyrus with its latest 2023 update, comes with some of the highest-end features on the market. The laptop features an i9 intel 13th generation processor with 14 cores and 20 threads, giving you some of the highest speeds and performance.
With its NVIDIA GeForce RTX 4090 GPU, it allows for smooth and efficient performance in animation work. It also supports up to 64GB of RAM allowing it to handle large projects and multitasking. The beautiful 16” QHD display, with its 240Hz refresh rate, makes a great choice for animation professionals who demand high-quality visuals and smooth motion.
Lenovo Legion 5 laptops are a great choice for animation students on a budget. This one offers a powerful performance with a top-tier Ryzen 7 CPU, 16GB of RAM, and a GTX 1660Ti GPU. It is also great for software like Krita, FireAlpaca, Adobe Animate, and reliable for 3D software like Blender, and Cinema 4D.
The Legion also features a 512GB SSD. The only downside is that it may not be as lightweight or slim as other options. Despite this, it still can power your work for up to 5 hours on battery life. It is an ideal choice for students or professionals on a budget who are looking for a powerful and reliable device.
If you're new to animation, there are plenty of resources available to help you get started. Here are a few tips for beginners:
If you are wondering how to start animation learning process, you first need to go and read various articles about animation for beginners and introduce yourself to the basics of animation techniques such as keyframe animation, motion graphics, stop-motion animation, etc.
There are many online courses available that can teach you the fundamentals of animation. Here are some courses you can check out:
Watch tutorials and videos from professional animators to learn more about animation techniques and best practices. Read books written by them as they provide valuable insights and understanding.
Furthermore, it is important to attend conferences and workshops or find a mentor who can provide a wealth of knowledge and guide you in the process through his experience in the field.
There are many popular animators in the industry that can inspire junior animators. Here are three of the top well-known and influential animators throughout time:
The founder of Walt Disney Productions, Disney, is considered the father of animation. He is best known for creating the iconic characters Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck and for founding Walt Disney Productions, which has become one of the largest and most successful motion picture studios in the world.
A Japanese film director and animator, Miyazaki is considered one of the most influential animators of all time. Some of his most famous works include "Spirited Away", "Princess Mononoke", "My Neighbor Totoro" and "Howl's Moving Castle". He was awarded an Honorary Academy Award in 2012 and the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival in 2019.
An American animator and character designer, he is best known for his work at Disney Animation Studios. Keane has created many iconic characters for Disney, including Ariel from The Little Mermaid.
He also was the lead animator on the character of the Beast in “Beauty and the Beast”, and contributed to a number of other films like Tarzan, Pocahontas, Aladdin, etc. In 2018, he won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film for his film "Dear Basketball" directed and written by him.
To sum up, we explained that animation is a method of creating the illusion of movement and change through the rapid display of a series of static images.
Over the years, the animation industry has undergone a significant evolution, from traditional animation methods such as hand-drawn illustrations on celluloid paper to modern computer animation techniques.
The animation industry continues to evolve and it is exciting to see what advancements the future holds for animators and audiences alike.
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