The Art of Computer Animation

By O'Connell, Kenneth R. | School Arts, November 1997 | Go to article overview

The Art of Computer Animation


O'Connell, Kenneth R., School Arts


As computers began to revolutionize the way we worked, it seemed that the area of animation would benefit tremendously, and save animators hours of work. After all, a computer could handle repetition and slight changes with a few keystrokes. Well, maybe! Judson Rosebush of Digital Effects, from New York, said that he could put together a high quality animation system in 1980 for $1,000,000. (one million) when asked the question by a woman at the Ottawa International Animation Festival in Canada. Now, sixteen years later, you can add animation to your computer system with the simple animation programs in Kid Pix Studio by Brederbund.

Modern Techniques

The basic problem has been that traditional animation requires many pictures (twenty-four frames) displayed each second. This takes considerable processing speed and memory. Now, computer systems are meeting this challenge and animation software has arrived. The market is filled with programs that use all types of animation, from simple two to three frame animation to the more common ten frames per second animation of many CD-ROM programs.

The use of animation as a main method of delivery of multimedia content has also made it a common language of computer graphics. Still, complex computer animation, like that in the Pixar/Disney film Toy Story, required so many powerful Sun Inc. computers linked together that it was referred to as a "Farm" of Sun computers. These machines did the equivalent of about thirty-six years of man hours of computing time.

About the Artist

Today, artists like Shang-Ing Liau use a well equipped Macintosh or Windows machine to produce animations. Shang-Ing, or"Sunny," is an animator and illustrator who grew up in Taiwan and came to Oregon to study computer graphics and animation. She loved comic books and cartoons as a child and studied them with great attention. She illustrated several children's books in Taiwan and taught elementary school before deciding to come to Oregon.

Multimedia Animation

While at the University of Oregon she worked with many software programs with animation features. For her best-known work, Out of My Mind, she chose to use Macromedia Director software. This is considered one of the best (although somewhat complex) programs for multimedia, animation, and interactive programs. Out of My Mind starts with a cartoon drawing of Sunny's head and ten multi-colored bugs running around her. The bugs are fast and go in and out of her ears, mouth, and nose. …

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