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Traditional Animation Processes

Old School Animation

In the days prior to computers, animation was created using a series of images drawn by hand. This is usually referred to as cel animation. While many people think that traditional animation processes took a great deal more time, the reality is that modern computer animation is just as an involved a process -- you simply get results you can't get from hand-rendered graphics.

The Traditional Animation Process

The typical starting point for all animation is a storyboard. This lays out the basic script in a visual format, like an extra-large comic strip. From this point a rough track is created of the script to give the animators something with which to synchronize their drawings. The next step is called animatics. This is the creation of a very rough, very simple reel of the pictures synchronized to the soundtrack. This is used to test layout, composition, and to run through the script and edit scenes before investing more work. The next step in the traditional animation process is design and timing. This is where characters are fleshed out and, in a separate process, where the timing of the piece is laid out to the last detail. From here it goes to layout, where the scene angles and character poses are decided.

The next step is the meat of the project: the animation stage. This is where each picture is drawn frame-by-frame, one at a time, by hand. In big productions, teams of animators are assigned to individual characters. During the animation process another group of artists will work on the backgrounds for each scene. After animation comes the final stage of the project: ink and paint. This is where each frame is transferred to a clear film called a cel (once made of cellulose nitrate, now cellulose acetate is used). Here the pictures are colored and then photographed for the final animated product.


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