Animated movies and TV series are huge collaborations that involve a lengthy process and a lot of work. To create the animation, animators must use a collection of equipment that helps process and create the content. This equipment varies depending on which type of animation is used, and can also cost a huge amount of money for independent animators.
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Animation can be split into two categories: traditional animation and CG Animation. Traditional animation relies on a hand-drawn animation process, but still may mix some CG elements in as well. CG animation is purely digital and created primarily on computers. Equipment for traditional animators are primarily art-based, and are created specifically for animation. This includes special drawing paper, pencils and erasers that can keep the lines clean. Equipment for CG animation is almost all software-based, but other tools like touch pads and movement-capture devices are also used.
Animation paper is a high-quality tracing paper that enables animators to view and trace over multiple layers of drawings. These drawings need to match the same section on pieces of paper, so traditional animators use a specially designed hole punch called a peg board that keeps paper in place. All of this paper is overlaid onto a backlight that provides clear view of the object underneath. A drawing disc takes the guesswork out of animating. It works by using moving pegs so you can trace and then slightly adjust a character so that it moves in a horizontal direction for walking.
CG animators require the use of high-powered computers to create 3D animations. In 1995, when the movie "Toy Story" was produced, it required a whole room full of servers and computers to process all of the scenes, but improvements in technology have made the processing hardware take up less space. Equipment continues to improve for CG animators, allowing more lifelike animation, as in the movie "Wall-E" and the amazing water effects in "Finding Nemo." Animation programs like After Effects, Maya and Swish allow home users to create their own animations on their personal computers.
Animation usually averages 30 frames a second, so animators must create 30 separate drawings to have 1 second of film. All of these drawings may be hard to keep track of, so animators rely on "X-Sheets" to write down and label information for every single scene. CG Animators rely on "key frame" technology to fill in animations. Animators set a starting point for an action and a finishing point. The key frames automatically fill in the rest of the material; this helps save a lot of time during the animation process.
Another form of animation, "stop motion" or "clay-mation," requires different equipment. These animations are shot using clay dolls and creations that come to life by shooting frame-by-frame movements. To create this type of animation, you will need a steady camera, tripod, multiple sets of characters for different reactions and possibly mix in some CG effects as well. Scenes can take months to create. This is one of the most difficult forms of animation, but it has created classic films like "Nightmare Before Christmas" and "Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer."
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