How does animation work?

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I’m high right now, watching an animated show. Can somebody help me understand how someone even thinks of doing this? Help!

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If you are asking about how videos work. It is a series of images that sequentially replace each other on screen to create an illusion of movement. Kind of like a flip book.

Animation works by showing a series of pictures right after each other at a high speed usually 24 pictures per second. In each of these pictures there is slight change, so when shown rapidly (24 pictures per second) the transition looks smooth to our brain

Animation basically works the same way that a motion picture does, only it’s drawings instead of pictures. It’s a series of drawings which thanks to the way human visions works gives the illusion of smooth motion when played back at a high enough frame rate.

I’ll try my best, first we need to understand that our eyes see a lot of information but our brain would be overwhelmed by it and therefore it naturally filters a ton of info, like for example you stop noticing your nose after a while, except this is for ocular information.

Imagine a graphics card, like a low quality, playing a high graphics game, high res ultra settings will cause the computer to work harder and slow down and drop in fps, but if you lower the graphics settings and resolution then the games fps would go up, that’s basically the brains fear.

So the brain filters things it does not want. So when you’re moving, fast moving objects are blurred so you can’t see them well. If you spin very fast, everything will be blurry. Similarily, we process information only so many times a millisecond, and when things have smooth transitions from one moment to another, the brain interprets it as moving slowly, you’ll notice that if you put a pencil in your hands and wave it, the pencil starts bending. It’s your brain putting a filter to lower the processing load of fast moving objects.

Now we noticed if you place images overlapping eachother, and brightly light a light behind the canvas, then the images would create a smooth transition. Picture something like this; | __ / |. If you draw each on a piece of paper and over lap them and quickly flip through them it will look like the line is 1 solid objects staying in place (do it with 30 pictures, 12 poses of the line rotated upon its center of mass by 30% ) your brain will filter it to perceive the line as 1 meta object which stays in place and turns a full circle.

Animation is just a collection of images of an object super imposed upon it self by layers, with slightly different poses to show a fluid or rigid movement based on the intention of the animator, and the effect that we observe by quickly flipping through a series of these images.

Both your brain and your eyes have a period of activity and a period of cooldown before the nerves can be activated again. That’s why you will see streaks of light if something bright passes through your vision quickly. The nerves that detected the light landing on one side of your retina are still active a the light crosses and continues activating other nerves. That’s also why you see a dark “pit” in your vision if you look at something bright for long enough – all of the nerves have fired and are still resetting, so they can’t fire even though light is still entering your eye.

Similarly, the nerves in your brain processing the visual information coming from your eyes take a small amount of time to actually process, and they take a small amount of time before they can fire again. There is a lot of overlap with many different nerves, but it still means that there are potential gaps in your vision as the nerves are “on cooldown”.

To compensate for that, your brain automatically fills in those gaps and connects all of the data coming from your retinal cells to create one persistent world. As long as the nerves are continuously firing fast enough you will never consciously notice when there are gaps – your eyes will still be sending signals and your brain will still be processing the signals by the time the new set of signals comes in, and your brain just rolls with it and say, “Yep, must be one persistent (but moving) image.”

Animation takes advantage of that by drawing a bunch of individual frames that are *similar* but not exactly the same, just like a [flip book](https://tenor.com/search/flip-book-gifs). The frames are shown in a sequence fast enough that your brain can’t see that they are individual, separate images. Instead, that *persistence of vision* makes your brain treat the images as persistence but moving world.

People discovered this a long time ago. Notably, people created [zeotropes](https://media2.giphy.com/media/nFpLvYuvOmzgYdrCtS/giphy.gif), which are spinning devices with pictures on the inside of the cylinder and slots so you can only see one image at a time. The effect is exactly like an animated show on a movie screen – a series of images that are similar and change fast enough that your brain treats it like a persistent world. Television was a progression of the idea as technology developed.

**TLDR: Eyes and brains don’t see the world instantaneously, nor continuously. It’s a constant flow of signals that get mixed up and overlap. That’s not a helpful way to consciously perceive the world, so your brain automatically fills in the gaps based on what you’ve already seen and what you know about how the world works, so that your conscious version is one seamless version.**

As for how animated shows are actually created: a studio does all the writing and planning and whatnot, and has animators draw *key frames*. These are pictures with the subjects put in important moments in their movement. Then, the key frames are sent to “animation farms” where many artists/animators carefully draw each frame that should come between the key frames – the “in-betweens”. It really is just “brute force” drawing – they look at the key frame and draw the character or object *almost* exactly like what’s in the key frame, but moved into a pose just barely “forward” of the key frame.

Thousands upon thousands of these images are stacked in order and sent back to the studio. Then, they are carefully photographed in order. Back in the day, that meant putting each image into one frame of film in a strip of film. The film would be played back in a theater or recorded live to be broadcast to home TVs. Today, they are scanned and digitized, but the end result is the same.

Often, back in the day, the main characters or objects that needed to be moved would be painted onto clear “cells” that could be placed on top of background images. That way, the backgrounds only had to be drawn and painted once for each scene and were then reused for every image. Long backgrounds could be painted and the moving parts shifted across the background. Multiple cells could be used and moved at different speeds to create a sense of distance and perspective. The whole process can be seen [in this ancient video](https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WVsw0rb5LpM). Today, the animation is probably done with digital art and the backgrounds can just be layers inside the program used to make the drawings.

Claymation is basically the exact same thing, except instead of drawings, the objects are made with clay models on wire skeletons. Each model is photographed and then moved or changed, and then photographed again – thousands of times. Each photograph is one frame of animation.

Computer animation is very similar, except instead of drawing everything, 3D artists create “assets” which are models of the objects to be used. The models are built with a sort of skeleton underneath that defines how the asset can move, and then a skin put over the skeleton to define how it looks. Animators carefully pose the assets and create lights and whatever other effects should be on screen and set where the camera is supposed to be to create the key frames. Different skins can be placed over the skeletons to change how the model appears without having to move the skeleton underneath. Once the key frames are defined, based on a given set of rules and how the skeleton is allowed to move and whatnot, the computer then automatically poses the model between the key frames to make all the in-betweens. Each frame is saved as an image, which becomes a frame of animation. Animators go back through and manually fix any issues.

**TLDR2: People or computers just straight up create thousands and thousands of images and put them in order, and then they are sent to your TV or computer or however you watch things.**