A Brief Breakdown of Frame-by-Frame Animation

By Lesa Silvermore

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Non-digital animation has been done primarily through frame-by-frame animation for over a century. While not as popular nowadays, it’s a method that’s nonetheless beneficial for animators to know. Below, you will find a brief breakdown of frame-by-frame animation.

What Is Frame-by-Frame Animation?

Frame-by-frame animation is a method of creating the illusion of movement by making minor adjustments between each keyframe. It is a detailed process, as artists need to craft each frame individually. This method can generate video animation with hundreds or even thousands of frames.

Brief History

Photographer Eadweard Muybridge first used sequential photos to examine animal and human movement in the 1800s, long before the invention of the motion picture camera. This phenomenon is known as “persistence of vision,” which occurs when the brain interprets a rapid sequence of pictures as a continuous movement. Early animated films worked on the same concept, with each frame being distinct still images that you would expose separately.

Characteristics of Frame-by-Frame

You can create frame-by-frame animations in many modern digital tools, such as Adobe Animate and Unity, or do it by hand. In an animation, the artist must create 24 frames in one second. The more detailed you make each image, the smoother each movement will be.

Every frame will differ slightly from the one before it. Each frame should depict a different position and emotion on a character‘s face as well. Because it’s time-consuming, you will generally do the task with a team of artists.

Types of Frame-by-Frame Animations

You will find this technique used primarily in four distinct types of animation:

  • Flipbook animation is when you draw each image on a single page of a book. You then quickly flip through the pages to give the illusion of motion.
  • Traditional 2D animation involves drawing each frame by hand. Since you need to draw each frame from scratch, the process is time-intensive and requires an elevated skill level.
  • Stop motion animation is a method of giving inanimate objects the appearance of movement. This is accomplished by gradually shifting the objects in-between frames.
  • Rotoscope animation is a 2D animation technique in which artists trace over live-action video frame by frame.

Why Use This Technique Today?

Many animators still use this method for the following reasons:

  • Recreate hand-drawn animation‘s traditional characteristics and appeal.
  • Frame-by-frame animation, such as stop motion or rotoscope, is the only way to create some forms of animation.
  • Help make your characters feel alive and key in on facial expressions.
  • Frame-by-frame animation is supported by strong creative and artistic abilities, giving you considerably more artistic flexibility and freedom. You can add your style to your project, giving your animation a distinct look.

We hope this brief breakdown of frame-by-frame animation can help spark your creativity on your next animation project. You can further develop your skills with classes, such as our after-effects workshop taught by highly qualified professionals. Feel free to contact MoGraph Mentor with any questions you may have.


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