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Computer animation is the process used in digitally generating animated images. The focus of this guide is to provide information and resources about the software that is used in graphic animation.

Before computer-generated animation, moving images were created through stop motion techniques, in which objects were physically manipulated in small increments between individually photographed frames to give the appearance of motion. Clay figures or objects with movable joints were often used. Another early method of animation involved drawing each frame by hand so that, when they were displayed sequentially, the drawn figures appeared to move. This technique was used in early cartoons.

Animation software allows one person to complete work in less time than a team could accomplish the task using earlier methods of animation. The principles behind animation remain much the same, however. To create the appearance of movement, an image is displayed on the screen, then repeatedly replaced by a new image that is similar to it but advanced slightly in time.

Today, most computer animation involves 3D graphics, although 2D graphics are still used in some applications. In 3D animation, models are constructed on the computer monitor, using modeling software, and 3D figures are rigged with a virtual skeleton. In 2D animation, separate objects and transparent layers are used, without or without the use of a virtual skeleton. Then the arms, legs, eyes, mouth, and clothing of the figure are moved by the animater on keyframes, and the differences between keyframes are automatically calculated by the software through a process known as tweening or morphing. Finally, the animation is rendered.

In 3D animation, all of the frames are rendered after the modeling is complete. In 2D vector animation, the rendering process is the keyframe illustration process, while tweened frames are rendered when they are needed.

All of this, and many other steps required in animation, are created through the use of animation software. Some of these applications may be designed to accomplish on a portion of the animation process, while others are more comprehensive or sophisticated. The result may be a wide range of graphic animation, from professional animation software to simple GIF animation.

Some of the resources listed in our 3D Graphics & Modeling category include integrated animation facilities. The decision of whether to list a resource in the Computer Animation category or in the 3D Graphics & Modeling category depends on the primary function of the software. Generally, an application that supports 3D graphics and modeling should be listed in the 3D Graphics & Modeling category even if it also includes animation features, while this category is reserved for applications for computer graphic animation, although some of these, as well, may include other features. In some cases, an application may be listed in both.



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