Animation has come a long way since the days of the zoetrope and flipbook. We now see animated graphics in everything from television cartoons to commercials and televised sports games.
What has made animation so popular is the availability of technology that has made it easier to create not only more realistic animated images but also more fantastical ones, such as that seen in the movie ‘Avatar’.
Technology has also made animation more accessible to a wider range of potential animators and given a broader platform for animators to showcase their work. Animation has come into a new era with the advent of the Internet and there are many ways in which this has happened.
In the days of the silver screen, although you knew that what you saw in the movies was not real, you did know that real people played the characters and materials from the real world created the settings. Nowadays, you are more likely to watch a movie that may contain an entirely fictional character, created out of clay, drawings or computer graphics.
Settings may be computer generated, complete with their own fantasy creatures and physical laws. An early example of the inclusion of animation in movies is ‘Sinbad’, where the prince battles mythical monsters on the screen.
Comparing the almost crude quality of the monsters to today’s equivalents in movies like ‘Avatar’ and ‘Pirates of the Caribbean’ shows us just how sophisticated animation has become.
Of course, animation was given a huge boost with the rise of video games, which rely on high quality computer graphics and animation to engross the minds and motor skills of millions of young and not-so-young kids around the world.
Remember the first ‘Mario Brothers’ games on Nintendo and how pixelated and blocky the characters and settings were? Now, video games rival movies in the smoothness and realism of their animations.
Perhaps a weird but not surprising new development in the world of animation is animated news. The pioneer in this has got to be Next Media Animation (NMA), a Taiwanese media company that offers viewers a wacky take on the world’s breaking news through the use of computer generated animations.
If you’re wondering where Dick Cheney’s new heart came from or where his old one went, NMA has several theories, which they graphically illustrate in their animated coverage of the story.
Animation Programs in High Schools
Animation is becoming a huge industry in itself, and offers the aspiring student many career options. A Seattle high school has opened a Skills Centre that will offer students programs in animation and game programming, along with other programs like Aerospace Science.
They see it as “drop out prevention” and “dropout retrieval” by giving “advanced career and technical education that connects kids to higher education and great careers”. If you’re well past high school age but are interested in a career in the animation industry, you better get some computer skills because that is a must.
Graphic design is a key component to computer animation, so enrolling in Photoshop courses can be a good start if you haven’t got much of a background in it already. Other educational resources available to you are online animation schools such as AnimationMentor.com, and another good idea is to attend the many conferences and festivals that occur in the animation world.