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Pros and Cons of The 4 Types of 2D Animation
As you know, there are different types of animation, and today I’m going to focus on the types of animation you can do in 2D. Frame by frame, rotoscoping, cropped animation and characters manipulated with inverse kinematics.
1. Frame by frame
This is also known as Classic Animation, Traditional Animation or Flip Animation. What you do here is very simple, draw each frame. Ha! Simple, right? i know But wait, there is a way to do it. First, you need to know your frame rate, which in the following example will be 12 fps (frames per second), and for this we will need to draw 12 drawings for one second.
How to do it: You can do this by timing the movement correctly. First, you need a sample (if you’re animating a jumping character, you need a video of someone jumping).
Once you have the video, there are many ways to calculate the time and convert it to frames. My favorite is: Stop Motion Works Stopwatch (link at the end of this article). In my example it will be a jump of 8 frames.
What you do is: You draw the keyframes of your character’s skeleton, and then continue to draw the frames in between. Let’s take an example of female jumping (only the action, ie no anticipation and no consequences, to keep it simple and friendly). Draw the starting pose (frame 1), then the character in the air (frame 5), and finally the landing pose (frame 9).
After you have those 3 drawings, draw the frames in between. A drawing between the initial pose (frame 1), the pose in the air (frame 5) and the landing (frame 9). In other words, draw frames 3 and 7. And finally, draw the missing frames. Easy enough? After the skeleton is animated for all frames, detail is added frame by frame, a bit of the body shape, then a more detailed head in each frame, then the right arm in all frames, and so on. You continue until you have a detailed character in each frame.
Pros: Your limit is your own imagination. Characters can do whatever you want, have any facial expression you want, and any pose you can.
Cons: It takes a long time. Animating 1 second can take a couple of hours.
Rotoscopy is another form of frame-by-frame animation. What you do is take an image and import it into your favorite 2D animation software. Now, all you do is draw the silhouette of each frame. Then you replace those drawings with some details that make up your character. Big nose? Long hair? Fats? Thin?
Pros: You work a little faster, because you don’t have to draw the keyframes and then the in-between, you just follow each frame; and the movement is very realistic, because you just follow the image frame by frame.
Cons: While it might be a bit faster than Traditional Animation, you still need a lot of time to do it, because you have to draw every frame, and you also start to have limitations: the character will only do what the person in the footage does.
If you need it to do something other than what’s pictured, you’ll need to switch to traditional animation, drawing the keyframes first and then the in-betweens.
3. Clip animation
This type of animation requires preparation. You take each angle of your character (front, sides and back) and “cut” the character into its parts (hence the name Cut Out Animation). For example, if you were to animate the front, you would have the head on one layer, the arms, right and hands for each side on a different layer, and so on. This takes time to prepare, but the good thing is that you don’t have to draw every frame, you just prepare once and then animate the character like a puppet.
Pros: Animating is much faster, because you don’t have to draw each frame, you just draw your character and each facial expression once, and after the “puppet” is ready, you can start animating.
Cons: It can take time to prepare and the character is limited by the platform. This means you can’t put it in any position you can imagine, only the ones you can get with the device. Another disadvantage is that it’s not the fastest way to animate, because if you want to move the hand, then you have to rotate the shoulder, then the arm, then the forearm until you get the hand to where you need it.
4. Manipulated characters (using reverse kinematics)
This type of animation is the fastest to achieve. Software such as Toon Boom or Animation Studio have many tools that help you manipulate a character with inverse kinematics and automate facial expressions.
Reverse kinematics is the opposite of forward kinematics (used in Cut Out animation). In the Cut Out animation, if you need the hand to be in a position, you have to rotate the shoulder, then the forearm, etc. Inverse kinematics allows you to click on the hand and move it to the position you want, and the positions and rotations of the shoulder, arm and forearm are automatically calculated using mathematical formulas.
Pros: You cheer at full speed. With just a few clicks and drags.
Cons: It takes more time to prepare than cut animation, but it reduces the work time exponentially. Another downside is that you are limited, you can only do what the Rig allows you to do. You can’t move the character to any position you can imagine, but only to those allowed by the platform.
You can’t have it all. Either you have unlimited movement, but a large investment of time, or you have limited movement with a small investment of time. These are the options you have. And for the record, Disney movies use frame by frame, but the shows you see on TV, because they’re within the show, use a combination of Rigged Characters and Frame by Frame, depending on what shot they’re working on.
My advice is to learn how to do frame by frame animation and rigged characters, you need both. But if time is a big issue, then you should definitely master manipulated character animation. You can find courses online.
Here is the link to Stop Motion Works Stopwatch
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