Animation: Activity 3

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Drawing Movement

Cel animation is the most familiar type of animation, but a good animator can bring clay models, sand, paper, puppets, or pins to life. Shapes or figures are cut out and photographed against a backlight for silhouette animation or arranged and shot from above to create collage animation. A more three-dimensional effect can be achieved by using stop-motion photography to animate movable figures made of clay, wood, or other materials.

In the two types of animation called "time-lapse photography" and "pixilation," a camera is set to snap one frame at regular intervals. Time-lapse compresses time, reducing the blooming of a flower, for instance, to a few seconds of screen time. Pixilation works in a similar manner, but with actors performing in real time.When the film is played back, the action appears jerky, something like an old silent movie when it is projected at the speed of sound movies.

Animated films can also be made by drawing or scratching directly on the film, painting scenes on glass, moving wire-thin black pins on a white pinboard or even by using the photocopying machine.

No matter what the material, each step of an animated film is worked out beforehand on storyboards, a representation of a film in outline form, using sketches, small drawings, and captions. Since every second of a typical animated film involves 12 to 24 changes (more than 50,000 visuals for a 70-minute film), it is too expensive and time-consuming to complete an entire animation sequence and then scrap it. Even if the animator is not telling a story but has an abstract design in mind, he or she plans in detail the progression of images and how they can be combined to achieve the desired effect. The storyboard is an indispensable tool for the animator and is revised often.

Comic strips, with their captions, close-ups, long shots, and other storytelling techniques, are similar to storyboards and can help your students understand the format. Encourage them to study comic strips or graphic novels to learn the components of visual storytelling. Discuss the way pacing, dialogue, color, line, shape, and composition create moods, convey emotion and move the story forward. Consider the way movement is depicted in a still drawing. Then have students storyboard the key moments in a sequence from one of their own stories or from a selected animated film, using some of the techniques they have studied.

Supplementary Activity:

Show students a sequence or short film made without the use of cels. Some suggestions from the list at the beginning of this teacher's guide are Crac (pastel-on-paper drawings), Closed Mondays, Creature Comforts, A Close Shave, and Wallace & Gromit in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit (all four done in clay), The Street (washes of watercolor and ink), The Sand Castle (sand), Mindscape (pinboard), Neighbours (pixilation), Pas de Deux (optical printing), and Coraline and Fantastic Mr.Fox (stopmotion puppets). Have students create a short animated film using an alternative medium like one of the above,or by using puppets, dolls, silhouettes, shadows, or construction paper.

Animation: Creating Movement Frame by Frame

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Complete Animation Activities Guide (PDF)

Activity 1: The Origins of Animation
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Activity 2: Drawing Movement
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Activity 3: Imagining Action
English Spanish

Activity 4: Learning from the Best
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