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3rd Year: Major Project, Animation in Films


Animation in film has been around for a long time, some films only use it as a minor part, or some films heavily depend on it. How animation is produced in film and media can be a lot more straightforward, but at the same time, it can have a lot of snags that can be a lot harder to work with.

Now the main difference between video-game animation and film animation is that whilst they both still need to inform the viewer of particular actions, a film usually has a single shot to animate rather than taking all dimensions into account. You see, a film is only experienced from one perspective whereas a game could be experienced from multiple. Films usually focus a large amount on compositing, post-production, and spectacle, because whilst the workload would be much larger with creating a film, the work that is produced is a lot more refined than game animation.

Game animation still requires a level of dedication and detail, but some games do lack either the technical know-how or the engine a game could be running on might not convey the detail in animation as well as film. Films, however, can showcase incredible detail in their films, take for example 'Moana' (2017).



A key point in these high budget films created by Disney is their details in animation, because these films being on a technical level are nearly flawless in animation, allows for this form of media to convey so much detail in the face and body, whilst still having a level of simplicity that the viewer can understand what is going on. This level of detail is something that is quite hard to achieve in a lot of animated media, but due to how much work needs to be done, its easy to see how one shot in a films can take so much time, just to get the details right.

A lot of story can be told through just a face, so when you think about how much detail goes into facial animation, it really has to be spot on. With other actions like a punch or a kick, its pretty easy to identify the action just by looking at the simplest blockout, but with a face there are a lot opf little things that can convay emotion and character. The way a character may wrinkle his/her face, can show whether they are happy or sad, and if that facial animation is done incorrectly it can kill the atmosphere of a scene.

Animation in film can be extremely detailed not in just the way animation is created, but the way it is presented through a final composite can really bring a whole scene together. So in that sense its important to present well to your audience through presentation, so to show this a little more in depth, lets look at the film, 'Finding Nemo' (2003).


Now 'Finding Nemo' (2003) is special for a lot of reasons, but for the sake of showing my understanding of animation, I want to use this film to showcase how compositing can really emphasize your animations. Now we meet Bruce, a massive great white shark who has pledged to never eat fish again. Now already his character, design, voice, and animation are pretty intimidating, but through the way his animations are conveyed through compositing and camera angles give him some serious scare factor with even anything being spoken.

There are a lot of close up shot or parts of bruce to show off his size compared to Dory and Marlin, so without even a lot of effort, we can emphasize a lot of the animations qualities. Bruce is meant to be scary, so having shots like bruces face/teeth, his scale, and his strength to be emphasized can help convey the information of the character without him really doing a whole lot.

Another key point is the fact is how sound and spectacle play a massive role of emphasizing animation as well. As already established Bruce as a character has a lot going for him, being a massive great white shark you would expect him to be aggressive, so the voice to go along with the character no only helps to convey the character in a literal sense in that he speaks, but the tone and use of his voice hinting towards distrust and a much darker hidden motive for the character, in this case, he misses eating fish.

All of these points, help to 'Emphasize' the information presented so that we as an audience can see what is happening, to a key point in film animation is its quality and how much time can be spent on it, having the camera at a certain angle or a sound playing at a specific moment can either make or break a scene, and overall, everything is meant to complement the animation.

The final point I want to emphasize is just how much time goes into the development of an animated sequence because the amount for a shot to be created is larger than you would think. Generally, in any production, you would have a creative vision, and then you would want to express your idea through that creative vision. But the more time you spend on it, the better your vision will be, which is why 'The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug' (2013), the main antagonist Smaug is probably the best example that comes to mind when you think of animation in film that has everything working for it to convey character.



Smaug's development specifically in this documentary gives us a very in-depth look at the creative pipeline that was taken in order to create Smaug. It starts from drawings to animation references, to animation, to final composite, its all well and true designing something that not only looks cool aesthetically and sounds cool, it's important to make it interesting in animation terms as well.

The development of the animation in regards to Smaug is an interesting process because when you see all of the little products that make this beast who he is, it's clear that a lot more time and care could have been put into his animation because of the kind of media that films are. As stated before, films not only show a spectacle, but they also can be much more detailed because only a single shot has to be taken into account rather than multiple.

So the two main animation influences would have been influences from animals like snakes bats and lizards, but the other big influence would have been the human performance from Benedict Cumberbatch.

Now the animal side of animation should be pretty easy to understand, you're animating a massive creature that has never existed, so you need to grab your animation influence from somewhere. So taking elements from animals like the way a snake slithers or the way a vampire bat walks, will help to ground this character in reality rather than going off no influence whatsoever.

Now the other half of this is so interesting because out of all of the elements in this character, the main part of this character is actually human. Facial motion capture is used so the dragon can speak, and because as humans, we can identify his mouth movements are that of human origin, giving us the relation to this character.

So the main pillars in film animation are:


  • Creating an incredible spectacle
  • Drawing in a lot of influence can result in the emphasis of your animation
  • The animation must work in perfect synchronization with the post-production, so that they may both compliment one another.

So much detail can be put into film animation, so having things like sounds, compositing, and narrative to compliment means the animation has such a high level of quality to live up to.

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