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Animation Definition & Meaning

Animation is a simulation of movement created by a series of illustrations or photographs displayed in rapid succession. Whereas videography takes continuous motion and breaks it up into discrete frames, animation starts with independent pictures and puts them together to form the illusion of continuous motion. 

Video games are by definition an animated medium, and animation is considered a genre of film by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The first Oscar for Best Animated Feature was awarded in 2002 to the creators of Shrek (2001), a DreamWorks Animation production that rivaled Disney-Pixar’s Monster’s Inc. (2001). 

Types of animation

There are many subtypes of animation styles, but the main categories include:

  • Flipbook-style animation is thought to be the earliest form, with historians dating the phenakistoscope (a rotating disc with images that creates an animation loop when spun) back to the 1830s.
  • Stop motion animation uses a series of photographs (as opposed to illustrations) to generate the movement effect. Claymation—which uses clay figurines as the subject—is a type of stop motion animation that has created some popular feature length films, including the Wallace and Gromit franchise, The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), and Coraline (2009).
  • 2D animation is created using either traditional illustration tools like drawing pencils and paper or computer applications like Adobe Animate and Toon Boom Harmony. Although it is still sometimes used today, 2D animation is most commonly found in cartoons made before the 2000s, such as Aladdin (1992), Charlotte’s Web (1973), and Spongebob Squarepants (1999- ).
  • 3D animation adds depth to a 2D animation to make it appear as if it exists in the real world. A prominent form of 3D animation is computer-generated imagery (CGI), which uses chroma-key technology to apply 3D graphics to existing video footage.
  • Motion graphics are animations that don’t hold any narrative meaning. They do not tell a story independently, but they are commonly used in marketing materials as a way of presenting text information in a visually dynamic way. Examples of motion graphics include transitions between slides of a presentation, title sequences in film and television, or a logo that animates when opening a mobile app

Animation software vendors

Professional animators have used a range of different software programs for 2D, 3D, and motion graphics animation that have advanced over time:

  • Adobe After Effects
  • Adobe Animator
  • OpenToonz
  • Cinema 4D
  • Unity
  • Blender
  • Maya
  • Toon Boom Harmony
  • Filmora Pro









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