Computer Animation or Traditional Animation….again….

If you remember, I did a post a while back about Computer Animation vs. Traditional Hand Drawn Animation. My conclusion was that I enjoyed traditional animation much better that computer animation. I still stand by that, but a statement I always hear has brought me to continue the discussion. One statement that sends a surge of anger down my spine:

Computer Animation does not take as much effort as Traditional Animation.

This is one of the few things in film and animation that can get me angry, and I mean FURIOUS. As a computer animator (for the most part), I find this quite offensive. But I can at least get where they are coming from.

I have heard so many things about Computer Animation, these are the ones I hear the most:

“The computer’s doing all the work.”
“There’s no art or skill in computer animation.”
“Anyone can computer animate like PIXAR or Disney.”

Although I can see where they are coming from….no…just no.

Blaming the computer for doing all the work is like blaming the pencil for doing all the work in Hand-Drawn animation. It doesn’t make any sense. The computer animation is a means to an end, not an end within itself. It is no less a tool than the pencil. The only thing computers do for the animator in computer animation is fill in the inbetweens, but that brings me to my next point.

In the old days of animation (and even today but sort of different),  there was an animator, and there was the assistant. The animator was, obviously, the animator. He controlled the character. He brought out the emotion. The assistant was the inbetweener. He was a less skilled animator who filled in the gaps that didn’t serve much purpose to the shot…or maybe just because the animator was lazy.

When asked how much should an animator leave to the assistant, animator Milt Kahl responded, “I do enough to have iron clad control over the scene.” This is where I make my point.

As a computer animator, I never leave much to the computer. I only leave a couple frames empty for the “assistant” computer to do for me. I have all the control over the shot, and I don’t have to animate all the frames.

To quote Richard Williams’ The Animator’s Survival Kit (an amazing book to learn animation from), “The purpose of the assistant is to free the animator to get through more work by handling the less important bits – but as we’ve seen, he/she can’t be a a brainless drawing machine. The computer produces perfect inbetweens, but obviously has to be programmed to put in the eccentric bits that give it the life.”

My point exactly. The computer doesn’t do the work. More so it…aids it. Makes it, not exactly easier, but more doable, if that makes sense. Animation is evolving. New tools and new methods are coming in to make it more fun to do and easier to do. And as a computer animator myself, I believe we should give CG animation the same amount of respect we give Traditional. Computer animation has come a long way since Toy Story, and it’s only getting better.

Do you agree with me? If not, feel free to talk about it. I’d love to hear from you guys!

See you later, Animators!


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