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Updated: Mar 12, 2021

This is an article “The Two Types of Animation” by Marc Primo Warren

Only a few are truly gifted with the trifecta of creativity, prowess, and passion for animation; but the appreciation for this type of art knows no bounds. Just imagine being able to simulate real life onto a television or movie screen using numerous elements and techniques that captivate audiences. With the way animation has evolved since Walt Disney released the full-length feature Snow White And The Seven Dwarfs in 1937, more studios are cashing in on this multi-billion dollar industry.

It isn’t surprising that many people are fascinated by the magic of animation, so why don’t we review its two main types: 2D and 3D.

2D Animation

This is, in a way, the simpler type of animation wherein artists draw animated environments and characters on a 2D space (like paper) and start the animation process.

While many make the mistake of crediting Disney’s Mickey Mouse for the birth of 2D, the first traditional production of a two-dimensional cartoon in film was way back in 1908 when French caricaturist Emile Cohl presented Fantasmagorie. That said, we can all agree that Disney gets the credit for bringing the technology into the mainstream via Steamboat Willie some 20 years later.

However, 2D has come a long way from the time when artists used to take photographs of drawings on paper and use acetate sheets or ‘cels’ to effect movement. Today’s supercomputers are now able to introduce new processes with the use of animation software that can easily simulate that effect, manipulate more visuals, and experiment with color.

The actual 2D digital animation revolution began in 1967 when the film Hummingbird was produced using over 30,000 images and 25 computer-generated motion sequences. And as computer technology became more refined over the years, so did 2D animation.

Since the mid 1980s, 2D has entered its golden age with hits like The Simpsons in 1989 which to this day continues to be appealing to older audiences, until it embraced the computer-generated imagery (CGI) technology in the ‘90s. That time, 2D was produced with such basic software as Adobe Flash, and more commonly today, Adobe After Effects.

One of the most enduring companies for 2D animation is the prolific Studio Ghibli, which has recently announced its first venture to 3D animation this year.

3D Animation

The very first examples of 3D were when artists used clay for stop-motion graphics in 1956’s Gumby and later on 1990’s Wallace and Gromit.

Today, 3D animation has taken on many forms and has become the main tool for big film production companies like Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks, and Industrial Light and Magic, among others.

The breakthrough technology that many saw as an improvement to how 2D appeals visually actually came around during the 1960s when a Boeing employee named William Fetter created a realistic image of the human body with a computer. And so, the term ‘computer graphics’ was born.

From then on, 3D animation took on many styles and forms aside from stop-motion graphics. Cel shading or ‘toon shading’ for example, is much like 2D but is done with a 3D animation process wherein additional ink is applied to outline shadows and simulate realistic lighting for more authentic 2D visuals.

However, the most recognizable type of 3D is undoubtedly CGI which was introduced in the early 1990s. CGI uses polygonal images via a mesh that’s connected by vertices to take on shape and form. Artists then use an armature which they can manipulate to make characters appear in various realistic, angled poses much like how it is with puppets on a string.

Of course, the difference still lies in the use of computer software that gives animators the freedom to model, simulate, and render however they wish. If you want to find out more about Marc Primo Warren our services or just say hi, please reach out here.

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