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Animation Glossary


2-D is a form of animation that used from images that run as 24 frames per second on film. This type of animation was originally done by hand drawings. Today 2D images are used as digital images on a computer. These images are put together to create the appearance of movement. 2-D animation consists of four different parts. The first two parts of 2-D animation are development and pre-production. The final two parts, production and post-production are where the product is produced and made complete. This form of animation is popular for advertising, games, computer programs and some animated movies and TV shows.


3-D is a type of animation of images that are generated on a computer and have the appearance of movement.  These images are different and more advance than 2-D animation in many ways. For instance, in three dimensional (3-D) animations the object is made more lifelike as its 3-D form that can be moved to any 360 degree view the animator chooses. The position, shape, surface and rotation are all movable properties in this type of animation. 3-D animation can be played at a rate of about 30 frames per second. Most 3-D animation begins with modeling and then requires rendering and editing in post-production. 3-D adds depth perception to animation.

3-D Printing

Also known as additive manufacturing (AM) is a form of printing by combining multiple layers together. 3-D printers can create prototype models as well as actual physical products. There are a few methods that are used in 3-D printing. Stereolithography (SLA) draws the model using a UV laser beam. Fused deposition modeling (FDM) is created from plastic material. Selective laser sintering (SLS) uses a variety of materials including glass, aluminum and nylon. These 3-D printing methods combine layers to produce 3-D and solid objects that started as a digital model. Many industries use 3-D printing to create unique objects.

Character Animation

The ability to create and manipulate animated characters is character animation. The way a character moves, looks and interacts is all designed in character animation. It is this art that gives characters their unique personalities, as thoughts and emotions appear on the animated character. Many programs are used in creating computer animated characters; some popular programs include Adobe Flash, Lightwave and Maya. Acting and performance techniques are used to understand how animated characters should move. Timing, dialogue and expression are all important parts of character animation. Having artistic training and technical knowledge is important for creating CG environments of the animated characters.

Computer Graphic Designer

Computer graphic designer creates images and concepts on the computer. This form of art takes a lot of attention to detail and involves working with both computer hardware and software. Computer drawing programs are used along with editing of graphics, text and scaling images. Computer graphic designers can do many types of jobs, including web design, media, public relations and freelance design services. Graphic design can be specialized to areas such as motion picture, print media or web design. Computer graphic designers are usually creative and organized. To become a computer graphic designer a bachelor’s degree from an accredited university is usually required.

Concept Artist

A concept artist is also known as a conceptual artist. They are the ones who create visual images for a proposed idea. Concept artists work with different departments to gain a perspective on what should be animated and created. These artists are creating designs for something that does not yet exist. By interpreting ideas and using artistic techniques and animation they can bring an idea to life. Concept artists may work on projects for movies, video games or animation. For this type of artist, the idea is more important than the art. In other words, knowing what you client wants and providing that to them initially is more important than the physical art they create.

Graphics Interchange Format (GIF)

GIF is a format file that has been compressed.  The program was first developed in 1987 under CompuServe. GIF compresses Lempel-Ziv-Welch (LZW) as a data compressing technique for file reduction. There are 256 colors that GIF is based on. GIF images are most commonly used for icons and animated images of small sizes. Their color range is not as good of quality for large files.  This type of file extension is very popular for internet use and can hold 8-bit color graphics. Solid color and plain images are best for GIF, as the larger and more complex images can become distorted.


Rotoscoping is the process of tracing and redrawing a strip of live action footage and transforming it into a cartoon.  This is done to create a live action look. The original linework is intended to be as accurate as possible to the original frames it was traced from. This copy/trace or rotoscope is then turned into an animation of its own. Many animated films use rotoscope techniques. Rotoscope can also be referred to as roto. Today, live actors are filmed and then their image is traced and computer generated through rotoscoping and motion capture in order to create a lifelike animated image.

Storyboard Artist 

Is a profession that includes drawing storyboards for films, television programs, music videos and animation. This type of artist can draw by hand or use graphics on a computer to create a storyboard. Originally, this work was done in black and white by hand. Their work is used as a guide for producers, directors and film crew so everyone can understand what happens in each scene. Doing so, they interoperate and communicate the script into images. Camera angles and dialogue can also be included in the storyboards. Many storyboard artists work in the film industry and video game industry, advertisement also uses a lot of storyboarding.

Vector Animation

Vector animation is also known as path based animation. It is a type of vector, line that is inserted by an animator. This type of animation is smooth as images are displayed using mathematical values and formulas as opposed to pixel values.  In vector animation, images and colors are stored as mathematical data. Information is stored as points, curves or colors. Vectors can store more colors and shapes in a smaller amount of space than other types of animation.  Vector animation is used most easily for smaller animations, such as small logos. Information is recorded per frame in vector animation.

Visual Effects

Also known as Visual FX or VFX are images that are manipulated and designed without using live action footage.  Computer Generated Images (CGI) aids in visual effects for the animation and compositing of images. Visual effects take place in post-production, but should still be considered during pre-production and production to save time in post-production. Image manipulation is a part of visual effects that is often used in motion pictures. Some techniques of visual effects include green screen, 3-D modeling, matte painting, physical simulators and rotoscoping. 3-D modeling is a popular VFX for computer animation. Art, design and computer generated images are the basic foundations for visual effects.