Before I begin, I should probably point out that this article is just some of my random thoughts about very basic types of animation rather than any kind of real animation tutorial.
This is mainly because the program that I use for all of my animations is an absolutely ancient program from 1999 called “Jasc Animation Shop (version 2.00)” which nobody else probably uses these days. Not only that, it’s a pretty basic animation program which probably only does a fraction of what more complex (and incomprehensible) modern animation programs probably do.
Anyway, although I’ve always been fascinated by animation, it wasn’t until a year or two ago that I started making animations on something close to an occasional basis. Of course, this was also when I discovered digital animation – before this , I actually used to draw every frame by hand:
Of course, the great thing about digital animation is that you can just alter parts of a previous frame and then save it as a new frame rather than drawing each frame from scratch. Not only that, it’s really easy to make basic alterations to an image digitally, so you can produce lots of frames in a relatively short amount of time.
So, although I’m something of a traditionalist when it comes to making art, animation is one of those few areas where I think that digital is better.
In addition to this, you don’t need as many frames as you might think that you do. Although I occasionally tried to make flick books when I was a kid, I always used to think that all “real” animations had to have something like 24 very slightly different frames for each second of footage.
I think that I’d read this fact in a book about professional animation and, well, the thought of spending ages drawing twenty four pictures for just one second of footage kind of put me off of animation for quite a while.
But, of course, unless you’re producing a major animated film the old fashioned way, you don’t actually need this many frames per second. In fact, you can get away with a shockingly low number of frames every second.
As long as the changes between each frame are slightly larger than they would be in a “traditional” animation (eg: if something moves 1mm per frame in a 24FPS animation, then it should move about 8mm per frame in a 3FPS animation), then your audience’s minds will automatically “fill in the gaps” and you can get away with a much lower framerate. Yes, this will make your animation look slightly “low budget”, but it’ll still be an animation.
For example, the looped animation at the beginning of this article is about four seconds long and it only contains a grand total of six frames, one of which is repeated at the end of the animation. So, the actual number of new frames in the animation is actually only five. Here they are:
And, since each of these frames was just a slightly altered version of the previous picture – the whole thing only took me about twenty minutes to make. So, animation doesn’t have to be as difficult as you might think.
Remember, it’s ok to repeat frames later in the animation if you’re showing something happening in reverse (eg: the flames in the background dying down after they’ve flared up).
But, despite what I’ve said earlier, you can get away with even lower framerates than this if you’ve got other interesting stuff in your animation.
For a great example of this, check out an absolutely hilarious (but NOT for the easily-offended!) animated Youtube videogame discussion series called “The CCS Video Podcast“.
The art looks fantastic, the discussions are really interesting and there’s a lot of really twisted humour in the videos – so it’s not really a big issue that the framerate ( in the older CCS videos at least, not so much with the more recent ones) can be anything between about 0.5 to 3 frames per second.
In fact, you probably won’t even really notice it unless you think about it because you’re distracted by all of the other interesting stuff in the videos.
So, if you’re making something really interesting and really great and you’ve got a fairly low budget, then the animation doesn’t have to be “perfect”.
Sorry that this article was so rambling and so basic, but I hope that it was interesting 🙂