Why Computer Animation is Important to the Film Industry?

August 17, 2012 - Animation, Art, Films, Personal Insights
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Cinema continues to develop better technologies to keep up with the rising demand for valuable and entertaining film content.

For more than 100 years since its birth, the movie industry has evolved much as an art form and a creative industry. Since then, it has provided major contributions in the arts, culture, politics and technology. And whether it’s in Hollywood, Bollywood or any other film industry center in the world, each one continues to develop better technologies to keep up with the rising demand for valuable and entertaining content. And this is where computer animation gets incorporated in the film’s special effects, which serves as a powerful tool to tell impressive stories in the film medium. Instead of the traditional way of drawing each movement frame by frame (24 hand-drawn frames with incremental changes in each drawing’s movement for a one second motion), the digital process allows for less drawings and utilizing computer software to enhance each image of the moving picture.

A Brief History of Computer Animation

Computer animation started way back in the 80’s with “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan” using computer techniques to generate the “Genesis Effect” scene. “Jurassic Park” also used computer-generated images for realistic living creatures in the film. The ’90s saw the significant impact of computer animation with “Toy Story,” the first full digital-animated feature that became a box office success and garnered many technical awards in top award-giving bodies including The Academy Awards. “Babe,” a combination of live and computer animated effects, became a huge hit as well. This animation timeline continued in the new millennium with “Shrek,” “The Lord of the Rings,” and many more.

Animation and Special Effects

Going beyond the realistic world allows the viewers to escape from their own lives towards out-of-this-world and hyper-realistic experiences in audio-visual form. There are even some cinematic works mainly relying on computer artists’ digital animation and special effects skills to make the film bankable with such visual flair and wow factor.

There are many aspects involved in the job — character design, digital painting (traditional painting techniques such as watercolor and oils are applied using digital tools through computer software), texture mapping (a method of adding detail and surface texture, a bitmap or raster image, or color to a computer-generated graphic or 3D model), in betweening (a process of generating intermediate frames between two images to give the appearance that the first image moves smoothly towards the second image where key frames help create the illusion of motion), lighting effects, camera movements, and other special effects and animation methods.

The full spectrum of animation in filmmaking is quite large. Animation jobs may include works for a film’s opening/closing billboard or credits (making the opening credits of “Spiderman” or the closing credits of “Alice in Wonderland”), a production outfit’s logo (making the Warner Bros. logo fit the mood and the applicable look for any specific film like in the case of “300”), special effects on scenes (like in the “Harry Potter” movies) and more. There are films requiring photorealistic and seamless 3D rendering and animation (like in “Avatar”). There are those requiring the use of motion capture technology where a real actor’s movements are captured into the computer through attached points on the actor’s body in order to recreate an entirely new character (the historical use of motion capture is best utilized in the character Gollum of “The Lord of the Rings” and “”The Hobbit” trilogies).

Fantasy, Epic and Adventure Movies

Fantasy and adventure movies like “The Chronicles of Narnia,” “King Kong,” “How to Train Your Dragon,” and “2012” offer spectators the chance to explore worlds beyond imagination.

Filming such thrilling creations of the mind requires much resources. To a certain point, it is impossible to shoot all required elements live — and this is where animation and digital art become parts of the overall special effects process of creating spectacular fantasy realms for the viewers to enjoy. From the digital backgrounds to the magical creatures, animators and special effects artists work hand-in-hand to realize every filmmaker’s vision for his or her film.

Action and Superhero Movies

For all those engaging stunts and chasing scenes for films like “Wanted,” “Transformers, “Iron Man,” and “Sin City,” the magic of recreating or enhancing live action shots has long become the source of adrenaline for many action movie fans. Animation and special effects can make a huge blast without the risk of getting people hurt with an actual blow-out scene. Martial arts and all sorts of fight scenes are also enhanced to make them look more cinematic and suspense-filled. The way blood gets shown during fights can be realistic or anything beyond real — depending on the director’s more detailed instructions.

Horror and Suspense Movies

Using digital magic through the concept of animation and computer graphics are very important in a number of horror movies requiring gore and goosebump-inducing sights of spirits (“The Ring”), monsters (“28 Weeks Later”), and possessed beings (“The Exorcism of Emily Rose”). With animation, special effects, sound effects, and music, a horror film becomes such a hit. Otherwise, if the audience doesn’t get to accept the movie’s make-believe offer, the motion picture loses the chance to tell a good story, then it fails to impress the viewers from getting those much-needed horrific chills.

Romance, Musical, Comedy, and Drama Movies

Even romance, musical, comedy, and dramas can utilize computer animation to make the storytelling more technically and thematically polished. It doesn’t always have to be a magical scene or a huge explosion. It can be a simple background change or a significant computer-generated image to enhance specific scenes. These are usually utilized to make things look as if they are part of any regular scene. Such effects are available in movies like “Australia,” “Mamma Mia,” “Shallow Hal,” and “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button.”

The Success of Walt Disney

Since Walt Disney’s release of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” in 1937, animated films aimed at family audiences have become the company’s niche. For decades, Disney has produced films using traditional animation, until computer graphics became a game-changing technology in the film industry starting the late 90’s.

The animation medium extends into the many formats becoming more available to filmmakers. Disney continues to explore the ever-changing playing field of cinema by also producing live action films within the same target market.Since late 2000’s,, showing 3D movies has become a viable trend for top movie studios.

The Impressive Track Record of Pixar Animation Studios

Pixar Animation Studios has a consistently impressive track record for quality feature and short films, complete with their trademark of having a short film before every main feature like in the case of their classic offerings “Finding Nemo,” “Wall-E,” and “Up”).

After a few films mainly pioneering in computer animation, Pixar films readily rose up the ladder during the 90’s to become in par with the works of top animation companies in Hollywood. Its box office successes back up the studios’ countless awards for both the technical and thematic brilliance of their films like in major award-giving bodies Academy of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and Horror Films for “The Incredibles,” BAFTA Awards for “Monsters, Inc.,” and Golden Globes for “Ratatouille.” The company proves that the right combination of proprietary technology and world-class creative talent is the key to the animation film industry’s success. With such memorable characters and heartwarming stories appealing to audiences of all ages, it is no surprise that Pixar teams up with the veteran Disney in creating many great films that are now mostly classics in world cinema history.

“Animation Career Information: Become an Animator,” A Digital Dreamer.

“The History of Animation: Advantages and Disadvantages of the Studio System in the Production of an Art Form,” Digital Media FX.

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