Programs - Non/Proprietary

Adobe Creative Cloud is a software which encompasses many different programs, many of which are of use to animators- such as After Effects, Animate, and Premiere Pro. As CC requires a monthly subscription, it is a proprietary software, meaning it is hidden behind a paywall. Another example of a proprietary program would be Clip Studio Paint, though where it differs from Adobe CC is the fact that it is a one-time payment software. Clip Studio Paint can be used to animate, though it does not have as big a range of abilities as CC due to the fact that it is not specifically made for animators. Most animation software such as ToonBoom or TVPaint require a hefty initial payment or a subscription. A non-proprietary software would be one which is free to use, or “open source”. An example of this is the animation tool Blender, which allows end users to create 3D or 2D animations, with many plug-ins and effects which can mimic alternate animation styles, such as claymation or stop-motion, all at no expense to the animator.

File Formats- Proprietary

Many programs have exclusive file types that can only be opened and altered with the corresponding software, such as .clip for Clip Studio Paint, .blend for Blender, or .aep for Adobe After Effects. Sometimes these file types can be accessed by different programs, such is the case for the .psd (Photoshop Document) file type- this can be opened by freeware like Medibang or FireAlpaca.

Colours and Numbers

RGB: The RGB colour system is a colour mode made up of Red, Green, and Blue. This mode mixes the three colours to create a striking white due to the fact that it is an additive colour system. Each colour is represented by a digit from 0-100, for example, “0 0 0” would be black, while “100 100 100” is white. Alternating between the numbers leaves the possibility for over 16,000,000 colours.
CMYK: CMYK is a subtractive colour system made up of cyan, magenta, yellow, and black. As it is subtractive, as opposed to RGB’s additive system, cyan, magenta, and yellow all combine to create black. This mode is usually reserved for print, and is also measured between 0-100.
HSB: HSB stands for Hue, Saturation, and Brightness, and it is an alternative to RGB. Hue represents the specific tone of a colour, Saturation the vibrancy of the colour, and Brightness the level of light or dark represented in the colour.
Hue is the shade of colour and is dictated by degrees between 0 to 360. Saturation is the percentage of apparent colour- at 100, it is more pronounced, whereas at 0 it becomes devoid of colour and appears monochromatic. Brightness is similar, ranging between 0 and 100, and is essentially just a case of making an image/tone appear brighter in colour value (100) or significantly blackened (0).

Screen Display/Output Systems

Output devices can benefit an animator as they are a means of which animated works can be viewed and experienced, such as on a computer monitor. Another example would be a projector, which are not just useful to animators in the obvious film screening sense, but also benefit all sorts of visual artists who are looking to exhibit their work in an unconventional way.

Network Technologies

Standard televised Broadcasting Networks have requirements that animation studios will have to abide by. This includes things such as aspect ratio, which is typically 16:9 for animated productions. In the past however, 4:3 was the standard, as television screens were smaller to match the physical film of a production, with each frame being 4 inches x 3 inches. Broadcasting Networks also have a set of regulations for the runtime of specific shows. The typical length of a TV series’ episodes has increased somewhat substantially, as it is now not uncommon to find a show with 50 minute long episodes. This is usually the case for live-action shows- to pull off something like that with an animated production would take copious amounts of effort and time. Animated TV episodes are typically limited to around 10 minutes, especially if it is a children’s show. One shorter episode is usually combined with another to make for a longer runtime that fits within a network’s given time slot. Sometimes networks will commission TV Specials based on an animated property, which typically run anywhere between 20-30 minutes.
Nowadays, animated shows and shorts are no longer limited to televised or cinematic releases- social media and video-sharing platforms are often a good way to spread the word of your own work and are less restrictive than TV regulations. Some animators will find success on Youtube after a video of theirs has gone viral. Joel G is a fine example of this, as his series ENA took off after the first episode spread quickly around the internet and became iconic even to those outside the Youtube animation sphere, resting at 4M views as of writing, with the next two episodes increasing in view count at 7M and 8M respectively.

Input Devices

MOne example of an Input Device is a touch-screen tablet. These days, many artists are producing works of art and animations with just a tablet and stylus pen. There are apps for devices such as the iPad which support animation, like Procreate or Animation Desk. An example of an animator who makes use of an iPad for all of their work is Zemyata, who blew up in popularity after the release of the music video they produced for Japanese singer-songwriter Eve’s song Faint at Night.
A digital artist’s drawing tablet can sometimes be found with an interactive monitor on it- the ones used specifically by animators that are used within studios are typically much larger and are a sort of modern equivalent to an animator’s table, which is used in hand-drawn animated productions.

Computational Processes

A computational process is when an action is executed with the assistance of a computer software. An example of this is auto-tweening, which is typically used in 3D animation. When using this method, a composition will be created for each keyframe by an animator and the 3D animation software will attempt to create in-between frames automatically. These will then be skimmed through and adjusted to alter aspects such as exaggeration that a computer wouldn’t recognise to do automatically. The word “tweening” is also commonly associated with Motion Tweening in 2D graphics, which involves a similar process to auto-tweening. Though this is perhaps with a lesser amount of finicky tweaking than a 3D animated scene, due to it being typically reserved for smaller and shorter animations that simply follow the automatic tweening process.

Historical Context

The Ancient Greeks would express their mythology and stories through the creation of vases which had what would now be recognised as animation frames around the circumference of the object. If one were to spin a vase such as this, it would play out a short loop of thematic animation.
18th-19th Century: The Magic Lantern was a more advanced version of the early Camera Obscura. Using different slides, one could project a “moving image” in two phases, similar to the minimal animation of a Thaumatrope.

Contemporary Context - 1980s-90s

Before Disney had ceased creating 2D Animated films, they were at the forefront of experimentation with the implementation of 3D environments and camera movement in otherwise entirely 2D films. The Great Mouse Detective was the first feature film of Disney’s to combine CGI animation with 2D character animation, in a high-tension chase scene. The animation team would first create the 3D background animation before generating frames and printing them out onto animation paper for them to use as a reference to animate on top of. One of the most famous and more advanced examples (for the time) of this technique is the ballroom scene from 1991’s Beauty and the Beast.


Most animated feature films that are released today are composed of majorly if not entirely CGI animation. This trend started off in the early 2000s and into the 2010s with the rapid development of 3D animation software. Now the inverse of the last few examples is an exciting change of pace- minimal 2D hand-drawn animation within a largely CGI movie. This technique can be found in the animation tests for the Dreamworks film Me and My Shadow, which was cancelled in 2012 when around 50% of it was completed. Supposedly half of the movie was actually made up of 2D animation, but with the production scrapped, a lot of the work on the project is unreleased or considered lost. The animation tests we do have access to give us an insight into the blending of the two animation methods.

Current Day

Animator Ian Worthington primarily works in the program Blender, but integrates old animation practices into his work and is clearly inspired by “primitive” technologies. A lot of his work mimics the stop motion work of Rankin/Bass Productions. While he does work in 2D on the program, such as with his short film WIRE, he often adds modifiers to 3D models to have them appear as if they’re hand drawn, a prime example of this being in his series Bigtop Burger.