Animation is the display of two or three dimensional drawings or images in a rapid pace to give the illusion of movement. It used to be a long, labor intensive process of creating thousands of hand drawings (or cels). These cels are then viewed in a fast-paced sequence. Now, animation software is used to connect or link images into a single moving object. Most of the labor is done by the computer at a faster rate.
From animation cartooning, photo animation and even music animation, this art form found its way into films and advertisements. Character animation is also used in business, educational and personal applications.
There are two basic types of animation.
- Two Dimensional or 2D animation appears flat like a cartoon. The image is either drawn by hand then digitally scanned or using a computer program. Flash software is then used to manipulate and animate the image.
- Three Dimensional or 3D animation can be seen in films and video games and used together with live action shots and special effects. Objects are created in 3D form as wire frame models. Using a variety of tools that come with the animation software, the image is colored, given texture then manipulated to perform different movements.
Through the use of animation software, film makers and animators are no longer limited in coming up with huge crowd scenes, talking live action animals or massive armies of orcs and dwarves. Computer-generated images are now a staple in the entertainment and advertising industry. Before, viewers were content with simple stop animation. Now, moviegoers and game players are hungry for more sophisticated and visually stunning animated sequences.
There are many animation programs to choose from. Below are some of the more popular ones on the market.
- Alias’ MAYA, now owned by Autodesk, is one of, if not the leader in 3D computer graphics modeling and rendering. It is widely used in movies, television and computer games because it can handle complex forms of animation.
- Softimage XSI is considered Maya’s main competitor. A high-end 3D software, it has found its niche in the advertising, gaming and film industry. It creates phenomenal 3D characters, environments and scenes and integrates mental-ray rendering just like MAYA.
- Lightwave 3D by Newtek is a very powerful program that offers 3D modeling and rendering. From hobbyists to serious game developers and film makers, Lightwave offers many features similar to its rivals. Films like Ironman and 300, and television shows Babylon V and Star Trek have all used Lightwave 3D.
- 3D Max by Discreet is a very popular program in Europe, with applications in the video game industry. It perfectly creates cinema cut-scenes and 3D models. It is also used in architectural presentations and in films.
- Houdini by Side Effects Software is geared more towards visual effects rather than character animation. It provides a different level of flexibility compared to other applications. It uses a “node system” as its interface.
- Blender by Blender Foundation is one of the best FREE 3D animation packages offering modeling, rendering, and texturing just like its expensive counterparts.
- Cinema 4D by MAXON is artist-friendly and is for the less-technical animator. It comes in four separate packages depending on the user’s requirements.
Animation software has come a long way. There are many more animation programs in the market to choose from. No matter which software you use, the most sophisticated one or the least expensive program, what matters is how you use the capabilities of the software. Your creativity will fuel the stunning output from your chosen animation software.