Incorporating Animation Concepts and Principles in STEM Education

By Harrison, Henry L., III "Hal"; Hummell, Laura J. | The Technology Teacher, May-June 2010 | Go to article overview

Incorporating Animation Concepts and Principles in STEM Education


Harrison, Henry L., III "Hal", Hummell, Laura J., The Technology Teacher


Introduction

Animation is the rapid display of a sequence of static images that creates the illusion of movement. This optical illusion is often called perception of motion, persistence of vision, illusion of motion, or short-range apparent motion (Anderson & Anderson, 1993). The phenomenon occurs when the eye is exposed to rapidly changing still images, with each image being changed slightly to mimic real motion. While the viewer's brain processes each of these slightly changed images, the images appear to the person to become motions that are fluid and consistent. For short-range apparent motion to occur, modern theatrical films and animations run at 24 frames per second.

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

Animation has a long and varied history beginning with Paleolithic cave art in which ancient humans drew paintings of animals with multiple sets of legs in dynamic positions that sought to convey animal movement (Thomas, 1958). Around 1510, Leonardo da Vinci was among the first to study body movement and other anatomical studies through the use of similar detailed drawings illustrating muscle extension and contraction. William George Horner constructed the first zoetrope in 1834, which was among the first devices to create an image of a moving picture (Freeman, 2005). The persistence of vision phenomena is easily understood by using a zoetrope. Figure 1 depicts an illustration of a zoetrope and its operation. Almost 50 years later, John Barns Linnet patented the flip book, which used a set of sequential pictures to create the illusion of motion in which people could use their hands to flip through the different images.

Since the early 1900s, animation has gained acceptance in the television and film industries. Animation techniques, such as celluloid and stop-motion, were among the first animation techniques incorporated into motion pictures. In stop-motion animation, physical objects are used instead of people, and objects are photographed, moved slightly, and then photographed again. This process is repeated throughout the entire scene to create an animation sequence with photographs instead of drawings (Johnston & Thomas, 1981). One of the first examples of stop-motion animation was used as a special effect in the 1933 film KingKong. Stop-motion is also the animation technique used in clay animations, better known as "claymations." Although stop-motion animation is still used today, traditional animation or celluloid (cel) animation was the process used for most animated films in the twentieth century. In cel animation, individual characters are hand drawn and then copied onto transparent plastic-type sheets made of celluloid or cellulose actetate called cels (Johnston & Thomas, 1981). Once the images are copied to the cels, the images are painted to further define the character, and the completed cels are photographed onto motion picture film against painted backgrounds. This animation technique gave rise to some of the most prominent animated characters in the twentieth century including Mickey Mouse, Pinocchio, Donald Duck, Mighty Mouse, and countless others.

The 1990s and early 2000s have seen the advent of computer graphic imagery (CGI), resulting in a new animation style and radical changes in techniques. The use of CGI has created opportunities for animation enthusiasts to produce their own animations without the need for the highly specialized equipment once required of traditional animation. Two-dimensional and three-dimensional computer animations have greatly impacted the animation industry. The flexibility and ease of use of the different animation software packages allow users of all experience levels to design and generate animations. Although computer-assisted animation had been used years before, when it was released in 1995, Toy Story was the first completely computer-generated movie. Since that time, animation studios such as Pixar, DreamWorks, Paramount, and many others have created famous characters like Shrek, Buzz Lightyear, Nemo, Sulley from Monsters, INC, and Manfred, Sid, and Diego from Ice Age, and many more (Lenburg, 2008). …

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