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Computer Animation

Stephen Hill | Monday July 13, 2009

Categories: Key Concepts, Other Topics, Animation

Fig 14: Eadweard Muybridge’s Horse in Motion and an Anime music video on YouTube.

Computer Animation

Though animation can be traced to the back to the 19th Century with flip books and zoetropes its history as an industry is entwined with the film industry. Georges Méliès’s accidental discovery of stop start animation, for example, lead to the development of many narrative devices that are now a standard part of post-production, including time lapses, dissolved and multipal exposure. Just as digital technology has revolutionised moving image cinematography, so too has the use of computers revolutionised animation.

For example, Nick Park’s clay animation films in the Wallace and Gromit series, which use stop start techniques, shoot at approximately one second of film per day. By contrast, the techniques used by Pixar on films such as Toy Story (1994) by-pass this process by scanning in three dimensional models, giving them ‘avars’ (hinges) to allow the image to move and speeding up production time considerable.

More recently, domestic packages like GIF Movie Gear allow audiences to produce their own animation for broadcast on YouTube. From a theoretical perspective it is clear that animation has been blurring the distinction between the real and the simulated for much longer than the term post-modernism has been in use. However, the proliferation of CGI and the convergence of animation with special effects in mainstream film have taken this to new levels in recent years.

In the US, for example, the ABC soaps All My Children and General Hospital routinely use CGI in the depiction of supposedly realist narratives. On a domestic level, CGI is a common form of audience creativity in the digital age. As with much web 2.0 content these amateur productions serve to reinforce many existing conventions.

However, curious hybrids have emerged: the Anime music video, for example, is a YouTube favourite. From Barthes point of...

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