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The Evolution of Animation: A brief history

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Some of our fondest memories of our childhood belong to those lazy Sundays spent watching cartoons on TV. Perhaps it was our favorite house cat’s classic stories, attempting vainly to better match his adversary. Or the carrot-chewing rabbit, repeatedly humoring us with “Eh … What’s up, doc? “Our imagination has always been captivated by animated pictures. It’s because of this interest and passion, which, in such a short span of time, has contributed to so many drastic changes in the animation industry.

Delve more in-depth, and you can find that the art of animation is as old as storytelling and still captivates home and business audiences. In plain terms, animation refers to art-in-motion, something the human beings learned as early as the Paleolithic age. Animation today is defined by cartoon characters-in- motion, telling stories.

Throughout the years, the history of animation technology showing moving art pieces and images has changed – we are now in a world where the internet and computer technology help produce amazing animations enjoyed by diverse audiences. Let’s go back in time now, relive the history of animation and also discover some of the things that are yet to come.

The riveting roots

People realized very soon that in sequence, photographs taken of a moving object could be flipped around, creating an illusion of a motion picture. Were you aware that a piece of pottery, 5200 years old, portrayed a moving goat through a sequence of images?

In the 18th century France, another entrancing art form that closely resembled animation emerged popular – it was called shadowgraphy. People used hand-drawn shadows to tell stories – also called ‘silhouette cinema.’ Tales were also told using the magic lantern (developed by Christiaan Huygens in (1659), which was used to project moving pictures.

The Crude Beginning

The first true animation unit was the Phenakistoscope. The device was first discovered in 1832 by Joseph Plateau. It was the first device capable of creating a fluid animated illusion.

The change to celluloid (1888-1914)

The earliest animation films were crude, made from very basic and primitive equipment. The first such model was called The Theatre Optique (invented and patented in 1888 by Émile Reynaud). His motion picture series featured Pauvre Pierrot and Autour d’une cabine. Each of his films had 300-700 frames (painted images) that lasted for 10-15 minutes.

Traditional animation (1914-1967)

Hand-drawn animation was generated using Cel Animation within the traditional animation history. Cel was a transparent sheet made up of cellulose nitrate and camphor, used to develop objects drawn by hand. Features were drawn on Cels, and the standard background pictures were superimposed to reduce the number of frames and production times. Colonel Heeza Liar (1914) was the first series of animated cartoons produced using this technique. The production company was John Bray studios.

Another famous animated film made around this time was Gertie, The Dinosaur, which was created in 1914 by Winsor McCay. This film was created using keyframe techniques, registration points, and animation loops, and is often regarded as the oldest cartoon film.

It wasn’t until a youthful animator named Walt Disney arrived that we saw the next animation phenomenon after Gertie. Steamboat Willie was launched in 1928 and was the first to use sound in an animated film. Some believe this to be the first animated feature film, but even before this, there were seven films released. This was however, the first one made entirely using hand-drawn animation techniques.

The film also marked the introduction of the lovable Mickey Mouse. Animated films became a universal medium of entertainment after the release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs in 1937. Everybody, everywhere on the globe, began to notice and remember the stories and the characters.

The style of animation widely used in the conventional period was animation using stop-motion. The jerks in the motion of an object inside the era’s film sequences must have been observed. They are triggered by the technique used to create an object’s sense of motion.

The Digital Revolution – Motion Graphics (1967- 1984)

While the first several computer-animated films were very simple, to say the very least, the way animation was done nonetheless changed.

Hummingbird (1967) became the first computer-generated animated movie-produced using 30,000 pictures and 25 computer-generated motion loops. The frame by frame rendering of 2D characters could then be done exclusively on computers. Not only did that make the process less strenuous, but it also gave more flexibility to the graphic artists, and they could create content without using actors, expensive set pieces, or props.

Sword in The Stone, created by Disney, was among the first 2D animated films in the 2D animation era. Other famous period Disney movies included Mary Poppins, The Jungle Book, and The Aristocrats.

The golden age of CGI (1984-2018)

What we today call as computer animation, succeeded the stop-motion method. Modern digital animation involves both 2D and 3D animated graphics, which are then brought into motion using either frame-by-frame or rigging technique. This technique meant that films were produced and rendered quicker, as well as ensuring that animation was used not just for film and TV series creation, but also for brand communication and web series. Let’s first look at how CGI revolutionized film and entertainment and then learn how it influenced businesses:

Film & Entertainment

However, where computers have genuinely pushed the package is with 3D animation advancement. On a computer monitor, 3D models or characters were constructed using geometric shapes within a 3D coordinate system. After the character’s virtual skeleton was complete, eyes, body parts, and clothes were transferred onto the frames, and the animation was rendered. One of the first films made using 3D Animation Computer Graphics in the evolution of 3d animation was The Adventures of Andre and Wally B by Pixar. In 1995, Pixar introduced with Toy Story its pioneering form of entirely CGI-rendered animation. Pixar was able to build characters with depth, beauty, and personality, using a complicated structure of model articulation and motion-control coding.

It all culminated with the two-decade-in-the-making masterpiece of James Cameron, Avatar. It used sophisticated CGI and motion capture methods to render the movie, requiring 2,000 Hewlett-Packard servers, featuring 35,000 processor cores and 104 RAM terabytes. While animated films were created using computers, the advent of internet technology simplified and rendered the process of making 2D and 3D animated videos faster.

Videos animated for Branded Video Content.

Big brands such as Pepsi, Apple, Hubspot, and Dropbox have begun to use animated cartoon videos and motion graphics to tell the brand story. With the invention of the internet and new technology, animation entered into the mainstream brand narrative.

Model storytelling animation can also be divided into two-

  • Conventional frame – by – frame technique of stop motion.
  • Current animation techniques that include motion graphics and 3D animation on computers.

Each frame is put one after the other in conventional animation, and there are about 24-29 frames per second.

Modern animation uses the rigging method where you only need to construct two frames for each segment (the first frame and the last frame)-all the frames in between are created by the computer program.

Common Frame by Frame & Stop Motion

Customized video animation services help businesses stand out from their rivals, and communicate with their audience via visual stories. Once a company, Electric Monkey, wanted to create buzz for their brand. Electric Monkey is an energy drink and needed a short cartoon video ad to promote their drug. The company wanted to produce a fun, electrifying clip that helped spread awareness for their product and brand recall. In this case, using the frame-by-frame method, they created a 2D character animated clip. You can learn more about the process of creating the short and snappy video that helped attract viewer attention for electric monkey. Another artsy example of a Ford video animated in 2D format. This shows a beautiful friendship between Father and Daughter in a short story.

Modern 3D Animation and Visual Graphics

Take a look at the example of a Costa sunglasses 3D Animation video. The company shows a leafcutter’s tale to encourage the viewer to explore and live a more satisfying life-thereby bringing out the value of their sunglasses.

Winsupply is another prominent example of how to build recognition with a story-driven animated cartoon clip on a hardware company. The customer sells hardware products and created a platform to help buyers, companies, and contractors purchase and sell hardware online. Hardware is a category of low participation, so customers or business owners will not embrace an online marketplace. The primary challenge is to convey the advantages to both the B2B and a B2C audience using the digital platform.

They created an animated character, Buddy, who would benefit from the Winsupply services in the story-then they made sure their story spoke to both companies and the direct customer.  This clip was a 3D character animation video that was created using frame-by-frame combinations and rigging techniques.

Another very common approach to animation that companies use today is motion graphic animation. This uses computer-generated graphics to create sound- and voice-over animated clips. These videos can not be powered solely by cartoon characters and can use various styles of graphics.

Post-2018-What is to come.

AR / VR and 360 Degree Animation   

Brands and software creators are now making animated videos using the latest technologies, such as augmented reality, virtual reality, and 360-degree camera technology. Extremely experiential, the technologies help to construct immersive tales. For a brand, you shouldn’t skip developing your brand stories using these techniques if you want to catch customer eyeballs and be a trendsetter.

Web Animated Series

We are now living an age in which web series is by far the most-watched entertainment medium. The people are glued to live action shows like Game of Thrones, Jessica Jones and Queer Eye, and animated shows like Happy Tree Friends, Eddsworld, and Salad Fingers. Brands often support the phenomenon and produce entertaining animated series in order to attract their viewers and develop a relationship with them. Recently, Starbucks produced an animated Web series entitled 1st and Main. It’s a wholly animated series of videos telling stories set within a Starbucks outlet. The videos are adorable and short.

Over to You

Indeed, the story of animation is heartening-from a series of pictures etched in stone to cutting-edge VR software that provides mind-blowing immersion. Cartoon animation transports the viewer into a different universe-every second, triggering a thousand mixed emotions. From yesteryears hit movies and TV shows to branded informative videos and short format films, animation has taken quite a few interesting turns. It is genuinely unstoppable-the explanation is its deep roots in art and its innate beauty that attracts all kinds of audiences in every age.

Creative animation and graphics have attracted the attention of people throughout the ages, and hence, creators and artists are continually looking for various techniques, mediums, methods, etc., to create work that stands out and leaves a mark. Animation has progressed from means of entertainment via television and movies to means of advertising and marketing for brands, including new games, software, facilities, etc. It has also caused ripples around various industries and sectors by making work more accessible and facilitating the visualization of multiple processes, even in the service sector, from essential services to nursing homes, eventually becoming an essential part of human life.

Being a very fluid topic and art, there is no set way to approach it. One can learn from the very basics and develop their craft, or one can be good at one thing and find resources for the others. Nowadays, you will come across a lot of software and applications that can turn images or video clips into animations with the press of a button like ‘make me a cartoon online,’ or you can look for professionals who can fulfill your demands such as ‘cartoon image of me or ‘comic version of me,’ and supply you with the required animated material.

With the recent advancements in the world of animation, it is all the more riveting to look for what the future holds, especially with the increasing growth in technology.

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