Animation Productions

Animation provides boundless opportunities for creativity. Whatever students can think of, they can create in a way that can be difficult with live-action productions.

Animation can be very time consuming so it is important to look into what styles of animation are possible, and to be realistic about what can be achieved in the available timeframe. Animation is usually recorded at 25 frames per second so that a string of static images run together and look like they are moving images.

Different physical animation styles include:

Cel Animation

This is the traditional style of animation as used in classic television cartoons. Put simply: all the action seen on-screen is drawn on transparent cels, and one draw- ing is replaced by another in order to create the illusion of movement in the way a flipbook does. It requires a great deal of attention to detail and a considerable time commitment. On a series of clear plastic sheets (cels), the action is drawn over and over again, with each image showing a slight change in action, so that when they are placed on a background one by one and recorded on camera, the end result is smooth movement.

  • Draw, paint or photograph a scene or a background.
  • Draw your characters (and any other part of the story that will be moving in the final film) onto tracing paper.
  • You will need to keep positioning each image against the background to ensure each one is scaled correctly.
  • Place cels (overhead projector transparencies) over the sketch.
  • Using a film-ink pen, draw the outline and use oil-based paints for colouring in.
  • Place the dry cel onto the background image.
  • The camera will need to be set up directly overhead of the background and cel and take two photographs (capture two frames) of this cel.

If you would like an idea of how many cels you might need to make a 60 second film, it would be approximately 750!

Stop-Motion Animation

Also time consuming but a little easier to manage is stop-motion animation. You can create models and characters using clay, building blocks, cut-outs or any other materials. A camera is set up in one position in front of the scene and each time you make a small adjustment to the scene, you shoot a frame.

Cut-Out Animation

Similar to both cel and stop-motion animation, cut-outs are moved around on a background, which is static.
The sky is the limit in terms of creating a world and characters with animation but it does require patience.

Frame rates

While the standard animation requires 25 frames per second, animators can shoot each frame twice without making the final movements appear too bumpy. The more frames you shoot of the same scene, the slower the final on-screen activity will appear. Less frames shot means the action will appear faster.

When animating characters, move them as little as possible between recording each action so that the end result isn’t too jerky.

Try to limit movement. For example: If a character is walking, just move their feet in- stead of their whole body (swinging their arms, etc.), as the more movement you put in the scene, the longer it will take to film.

Animation software

All types of animation are easier than ever before with modern software. All you need is a camera (still, video, tablet or smartphone), a tripod, a computer that connects to your camera, and some simple animation software.
There are some terrific animation programs available:

Additional information

Just as with live action, students will need a script and a storyboard.

As a general guide for shooting animation:

Flat images such as cel images and cut-outs are filmed on flat surfaces with the camera positioned overhead looking down on the animation. 3D models can be shot from any angle, but for beginners it can be a good exercise to leave the camera stationary so that the focus is on moving the models.

As with live action, it is important to light the scenes properly: not too dark and not too bright. Be mindful of casting shadows and make sure you are judging the quality of lighting by what you can see through the viewfinder.

With animation, it is best to always leave the camera on the tripod or stationary on a stable surface. Mark the spot where the tripod is so that the exact same location can be used when filming resumes after a break – even the slightest change in camera angle or frame size can have a big impact when all the recorded images are pieced together in the final animation.

Follow the storyboard and take your time to move your pieces around, whether using models, cut-outs or drawings. The most important part is making slow and gradual changes between each shot in order to create smooth action.

If you have characters in your animation that speak, lip-syncing can be very difficult. It is important to record the dialogue lines for yourself before you start filming so you know how long each line takes to say, and so you can move the models’ mouths accordingly. Otherwise, consider using voice-over narration. Don’t get too stressed out about moving the characters’ mouths perfectly! Viewers are used to seeing animation where the characters simply move their mouths open and shut!

As with live action, you can add music and sound effects. You can record your own sound effects or use a sound-effects library. As always, refer to the copyright section for the responsible use of music, sound and images.