When it comes to video animation, you might be surprised at the number of processes animators can go through in order to create the video you see on the screen. There is sketch animation, computer generated animation, stop motion animation (which can include claymation) and more.
While each process requires animators to use a distinct technique or collection of techniques to create the end result, most will fall into one of two categories: 2D animation and 3D animation. The easiest way to explain the differences between the two categories is to use examples from familiar media.
How 2D Animation Looks Like & How It Is Done
2D animation is a traditional animation process that has been in existence for hundreds of years. Modern 2D animated videos can be created either by hand or via computer and requires one image to be followed by another in a slightly different position, followed by yet another image in another position and so on in order to create movement.
They produce a flat image that has movement and is represented in the height and width dimensions, but not depth. Before the use of computer technology became the primary vehicle for image creation and manipulation, these images were created by hand.
Artists drew pencil sketches of every frame which were then transferred in full color onto cels. Each cel was painstakingly drawn and painted and then photographed against a background image in order to create the film’s frames. The thousands of photographs are compiled and edited to run at the traditional 24 frames per second required of motion pictures.
Today, most 2D animated movies are created using computer animation software, though to varying degrees. Even if the animated images are hand drawn, they are often colorized and transferred to the cels using computers. Others are created entirely on computers.
How 3D Animation Looks Like & How It Is Done
3D animation differs significantly from 2D, both in terms of the process used to create it but the end result as well. 3D animation produces a more realistic character that is represented in all three dimensions (height, width and depth). All 3D animation with the exception of stop motion animation is created using computer software applications.
The main benefit of 3D animation over 2D animation, beyond the obvious ability to create a more lifelike character with realistic textures, is that 3D objects, once created, can be treated much like a physical object or an actor.
You can change the lighting or move the camera, much like you can in traditional motion picture filming, by simply dragging the object and moving it within the application. With 2D animation, everything is drawn including the camera angle and light source, making it much more difficult to change a scene during the editing process.