Today, Technology is evolving every day and we are forced to
adapt to them as they make things work so much easier and smoother. It has changed the way we observe things, the way we observe our past or
our history. From the first cameras straight through to motion pictures and
television, we have become a much more visually oriented society. Now a days, we
read less, think less, and observe more. Earlier was a generation that carried
protest signs but now we post memes on Facebook. We want everything to be done with
a touch of click and we are so visually addicted to the screens. Now, we live
in a world where Photography is moving away from realism and the world of
animation (Moving Pictures) is moving towards realism.
No matter who invented the motion picture camera, the person had no idea
what it would become at the turn of the century. Motion pictures and
photography have become an entertainment medium like no other. The evolution of
moving pictures to a pure art form has been quite amazing. Different techniques
evolved in each age to make the things easier such as from Silent to sound, short
to long, black and white to colour and analog to Digital. All were important
marks in the history of Motion Pictures.
The motion picture is a remarkably effective medium in conveying a
message or narrative through visuals and emotions. The art of motion pictures
is exceedingly complex as it requires contributions from nearly all the other
arts as well as high technical skills.
Considering it as a commercial venture, offering various fictional
narratives to large audiences in theatres, the motion picture quickly has been recognized
as probably the first truly mass form of entertainment. Without losing its
broad appeal, the medium also developed as a means of artistic expression in
such areas as acting, directing, screenwriting, cinematography, costume and set
design, and music. With the help of artists from various fields, the medium of
motion pictures is approaching realism and the audiences are in awe as to how
these are made.
One of the best examples of motion pictures that has had a
rapid growth is the field of animation. ‘Animation’ is a term that is used to
define a broad range of practices in today’s world. It takes form in different
genres capturing imaginations and we can see that animation is present
everywhere from big screens to small screens (Mobile phones). The idea of
Illusion of motion created through the incremental movement of forms or
drawings displayed sequentially as a motion picture is where the world of
animation began to emerge and expand.
Animation began with 2D animation that typically employs a series of
hand-drawn images or painted images, Stop motion animation that consists of
pictures of puppets or other objects that are modified in position or form of
movement over time and 3D animation which is digitally produced with images
simulating deep space. It is a field that can give life to any being which
no other art form can.
For centuries, people have made many contributions and inventions to the
development of motion pictures. Some of these inventions or techniques survived
until the 20th century while the others had a relatively shorter
existence. Even though some of them are considered to be a failure at the
time, it is believed that these techniques were a part of forming a bridge to
what animation is today. Animation was developing its own aesthetic
language with each technique invented. With each development, however, Disney
moved further from the plasmatic flexibility and started to coerce the
animation form into a neo-realist practice. It now had the power to transport
the viewer to endless possibilities.
As animation began to grow as an art, the expectation of what animation
was began to increase. Even though there were many people and companies
producing animation in various fields, Disney was the one company that
established what animation is and raised the standards to a higher level with
each work they produced.
In olden days 100s of animators had to work on a single production with
expensive and bulky equipment. Studios had very little room for experimentation
and most of the animation productions did not make money. The definition of
what animation was capable of seemed to be unattainable without a good
All animated movies are built on and driven by
passion. It takes more than 4 years to create a 90-minute movie with around
130,000 frames. Played in over 45 languages, regardless of the country and
culture, the audience enjoy every bit of the movie and the theatre is filled
with the universal language of laughter and emotions. One such animation that
emerged out of comic books is The Adventures Of Tintin.
FROM INK ON PAPER TO REALITY
Comics contain series of drawings that express ideas often combined with
text or any other visual information. The birth of this beautiful combination
of ink and paper began in the 19th century as a small part of
newspapers and magazines and eventually led to having an own book or magazines
for that particular character for comics. However, the origin of comics is long
before that. Even before the invention of comics, stories were expressed
through sequential drawings too. In Scott McCloud’s Understanding comics, he
has explained about a pre-columbian manuscript that was 36-foot long and
contained brightly colored paintings which represented various characters and
also a story. This was during the 1500s. This is not the only example. Early man
also used to carve on stones or even ancient buildings sometimes contain a
series of sculptures that depict a story. Comics evolved from then to now being
able to achieve various things with the help of technology.
Tintin was and still is one of the most famous comics. The first
appearance of Tinitn was on 10th of January 1929 by Georges Remi, who wrote
under the pen name Herges. A Belgian newspaper named Le Vingtième Siècle published
comic strips of tinitn in French. Eventually, the series began to flourish and
it soon published in the leading newspaper of Belgium. This led to having a
separate magazine for tintin which allowed Herge to explore different cultures
and genres of stories. The comic series has been admired for its clean,
expressive drawings. Herges combines iconic characters with unusually realistic
backgrounds and the plots are well-researched with a variety of genres
which had the readers hooked to their books. No non-iconic abstractions.
The technique used to create this comic back in those days was famous.
Comic strips were drawn using brushes with ink on plain papers and printing
them as a series of images onto a paper. Initially, it started as a black and
white comic. With the development of technology, colours became a huge part of
visual ideas and the comics were redrawn with colour images. Tintin is an
abstract style of comic where the images drawn are drawn from reality and yet
are far from reality. But the readers accept them as real characters and
involve in the story. The mind has no trouble in accepting the characters and
the scenarios even though they look cartoony. The good thing about comic books
are that they let us explore the world of that specific story in our own ways.
We don’t just observe the cartoon, we become it.
Likewise, in the scene chosen above, the readers do not just see the
pictures, but feel it and hear it through their own ways. The combination of
the background and the characters allows the readers to mask themselves as the
characters and enter the magical world. When cartoons are used throughout
a story, the world of that story may seem to pulse with life.
This specific scene that I have chosen from this comic is where Tintin
and Captain Haddock escape from the ship by taking a boat and an aeroplane that
later crashes. This scenes takes up almost 9 pages of the comic book.
A basic application of Barthe’s theory to a comic panel:
An image may convey n number of meanings. But when there is story going
on as a comic, the artist should be sure to covey the right emotions to make
the reader feel and understand the story. Herges has been a great artist and
the readers had no difficulty in getting involved with the characters or the
stories of Tintin.
According to Roland Barthes, any image contains three different types of
Linguistic message: Barthe’s says ‘the linguistic image is present in every
image: as title, caption, accompanying press article, film dialogue, comic
strip balloon’. Linguistic message has two possible function. One is the
anchorage and the other is Relay.
In this comic
panel, we can notice a Relay linguistic message which means that both image and
text act together to convey some meaning. There is a question mark and an
exclamatory mark in bold inside a bubble which draws attention first. By this,
we can understand that Tintin is in shocked and confused and we are about to
find out why when we move our attention to the complete panel. If there
was no conversation balloon in this panel, we would not have understood the
reaction of tintin. This is because the angle or perspective of this panel does
not show Tintin’s face and hence we cannot decide on his reaction. Whereas with
the ‘?!’ in bold, we understand that tintin is confused as to what is happening
in front of him.
Literal or denoted message : On a literal level, we can identify all the
objects in the panel and we can understand what is going on in the panel. Here,
the signifier is the symbol in the bubble which is expressed by Tinitin and the
signified is the scene or the idea indicated by the signifier which happens to
be the fire.
Symbolic message: The literal and symbolic messages are not separated
easily. In this panel, we can see that the boat is in the water and it has
caught fire. The way the water is drawn, we can see that waves are rising
behind the boat and we know that the place is an ocean and not a small river or
lake. The lines around the heads of all the three characters show us the panic
and confusion as what is going on. The overall composition of this panel
signifies that they are stuck in the middle of the ocean and that it is a
THE TV SERIES – THE 20th CENTURY
The Tintin comics spread wide and sold 230 million copies soon and was
soon translated to over 70 different languages. People everywhere loved Tintin.
As the technology began to change, the medium of presenting a story also changed.
Visually capturing the audience was the goal and slowly the number of comic
readers decreased and people wanted to see stories visually rather than to
Very soon, Tintin started as a 2D TV series directed by Stephen
Bernasconi which adapted the stories from the comic and the series adhered
closely to the original books to such an extent that some of the frames were
taken directly from the original books to the screen. The series chose a
constant style of art unlike the books which have the artistic style eventually
changing over the course of 47 years, during which Herge’s style developed.
This technique, unlike the comic, requires many more people working on the same
story to produce the right output for visuals.
This was done through the technique of traditional animation. Traditional
animation which is also called as cel animation or hand-drawn animation, is a
process used for most animated films during the 20th century. Each frame
present in a traditionally animated film are nothing but the photographs of
drawings which are drawn on paper. Each drawing differs slightly from the one
before it such that it creates an illusion of movement. The drawings are then
photocopied or traced onto a transparent acetate sheets called cels. These were
filled in with paints with an assigned color or tone on the side opposite the
line drawings. Once that is completed, the character cels are photographed one
by one against a background that has already been painted by a rostrum camera
onto motion picture film. This is a labourious process of drawing each frame
and having background artists and artists to paint the frames, a person to work
on the camera angles and many more. The traditional animation process started
to become obsolete during the 21st century. With today’s technology, animators’
drawings and the backgrounds are either scanned into or drawn directly into a
computer system. There are various software programs that have come into existence
to color the drawings and simulate camera movement and effects and to do much
more work in a lesser time which is cost effective and also needs lesser labour. Animation
can now be created with just softwares instead of things like scanning papers,
scanners, ink, paint which were essential for the animation on olden
The comic scene that was just around 9 pages long, consumes 5 minutes
for the 2D video scene.
Audiences read media language to understand messages. this has color,
camera shots and angles, clothing, editing and the staging.
Saussure suggested that there are 3 different levels on which the viewer
read the media.
Syntatctic level – what they can see
representation level – representation of character or places
symbolic level – hidden cultural meaning
Barthes developed this theory further
A try to analyze the scene using Barthe’s theories:
THE 3D MOTION CAPTURE – THE 21st CENTURY
Illustrators back in those days were panicking when photography came
into existence because that was replacing the work of an illustrator and getting
replaced with this technology was easy as technology started evolving. In
animation, there is no pre-visualized set of rules and different kinds of
movies can be made with extraordinary visuals. Technology has now created
magical doors for the artists by providing a number of tools that allow the
artists to elicit emotions in a much more realistic way and they can now create
a stunning world in 3D with things like sparkling fire, splashing water,
flowing hair that was very difficult or almost impossible in the earlier days.
The Door to Mo-Cap
When animators were creating character movements through skethes or
softwares, they often use a reference video footage to study how someone is
acting out a scene or movement of a character’s body. They even look at
themselves in a mirror to create apt facial expressions. Animators have to
keyframe poses and fill the inbetweens to make the character move. To automate
this process, animators looked up to motion capture. Bio-kinetic researchers
like Simon Fraser University’s Tom Calvert were breaking new ground with
mechanical suits that captures body language. With the help of technology, this
process got better and better with every little betterment added by different
artists and technicians. An early animation exploiting that tech is the
infamous, creepy Dozo music video from pioneering firm Kleiser-Walczak. In the
early days, motion capture was a studio-only process where actors with tight
suits were alone in the sets surrounded by various special cameras and lights.
The movie ‘Avatar’ introduced a new technique of “performance
capture” which allowed multiple performers and read facial expressions and
lip movement of all those actors present on the sets. Also, games like L.A.
Noire also improved drastically with respect to the realism by combining the
facial features and the full-body capture.
Meanwhile, the making of the movie ‘The Lord of the Rings’ made by WETA
Company, brought motion capture out of the studio and onto the sets by allowing
pioneering motion capure actor Andy Serkis to interact with other actors as the
character ‘Gollum’. The on-set performance capture also included the face. This
had set the norm for creating feature films with digital characters and this
was the huge stepping stone for the WETA company towards motion capture.
Motion capture is a technique of recording actions of human actors and
using that information, animate a digital character model in 2D or 3D computer
animation. The amount of animation data that can be produced within a given
time is extremely high when compared to traditional animation techniques. This
contributes to cost effectiveness and also meeting production deadlines.
In this technique, movements of one or more actors are sampled
many times per second. The techniques used in early days used images from many
cameras to calculate the 3D positions. The purpose of motion capture is often
to record the movements of the actor and the visual appearance. The data is
then mapped to a 3D model such that the model performs the same actions as the
actor. Optical systems work by tracking the position markers or features in 3D
and it assembles the data into an approximation of the actor’s motion. Active
systems use markers that light up or blink distinctively, while passive systems
use inert objects like white balls or just painted dots (the latter is often
used for face capture). Marker less systems use algorithms from match-moving
software to track distinctive features, like an actor’s clothing or nose,
instead of markers. Once captured, motion is then mapped onto a virtual
“skeleton” of the animated character using software like Autodesk’s MotionBuilder.
The result of this was animated characters that move like real-life performers.
It’s difficult to predict how an actor’s movement will translate to an animated
character, so “virtual cinematography,” developed by James Cameron
for Avatar, is often used. In a nutshell, that shows the digital character
moving with the actor in real time — on a virtual set — so the director can
see a rough version of the “performance.” That involves plenty of
math, but computers and graphics cards are now fast enough to pull it off. The
video below from Weta Digital for The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug
illustrates the process.
This process may be contrasted with the older technique of rotoscoping
which consumed a lot of time.
The technology cannot yet accurately record the nuances of human behaviour
without the intervention of animators.
But Spielberg appears to have made animators a more integral part
of this process. Instead of demanding the animators to make the motion capture
data look realistic, he allowed them a degree of freedom. In LA Times
interview, he said, “I can underwrite or overwrite a performance and through
the animators put something into a performance that even the actors didn’t
bring to the bay.” This shows that the animators play a role in creating
the performance like as in traditional animation.
Steven Spielberg’s exemplary adaptation of the adventures of Tintin
enthralled the audience once again. This movie, unlike the 2D series has
adapted 3 of the comics and woven it creatively into a single piece of story.
This version of tintin has much more drama and a lot of action compared to the
previous versions of the same stories. It indeed is a delight to see Spielberg
play with the possibilities of the 3D technologies with amazingly impossible
camera movements, scene transitions and innovative ideas.
The same scene of escaping, occupies about 8 minutes of the movie. Here,
the story has changed the little bit with regard to the 2 pilots and the
His attempt to combine motion capture and animation was a huge stepping
stone towards success but I think it was not entirely successful. The
photorealism of the designs are amazing and realistic. But there is a
disturbing behaviour of the characters. Watching a flexible, squash-and-stretch
cartoon character like Tom or Jerry or even the characters from ‘Avatar’
wrapped up in a spinning plane propeller and spit out might be funny. But when watching
the photo real Captain Haddock perform the above scene in the Tintin movie looks
awkward and uncomfortable and is far from realism. This discordance between
design and performance will be ironed out when the technology is placed in the
hands of experienced animation directors who more fully understand how the
Visual Realism: The extent to which the animated environment and
characters are understood by the audience as looking like environments and
characters from the actual physical world.
Aural Realism: The extent to which the sounds of animated environment and
characters are understood by the audience as resembling the sounds of
environments and characters from the actual physical world.
Realism of Motion: The extent to which characters move in a fashion that
is understood by the audience as resembling the way characters move in the
actual physical world.
Narrative and Character Realism: The extent to which the fictitious
events and characters of the animated film are constructed to make the audience
believe they are viewing events and characters that actually exist.
Social Realism: The extent to which the animated film is constructed to
make the audience believe that the fictitious world in which the events take
place is as complex and varied as the real world.
Paul Wells, as already mentioned, describes hyper-realistic sound in
animation as sound that “will demonstrate diegetic appropriateness and
correspond directly to the context from which it emerges.”29 Generally,
classical models of live-action cinema follow a slightly less strict model,
where sounds are generally diegetically appropriate, but certain types of
non-diegetic sounds (such as a musical score, or voice-over narration) are
accepted by convention. Much of the Disney studio’s animation follows a
superficially similar model, especially if the films are compared with
live-action musicals, where generic conventions allow a looser approach to the
“appropriateness” of sound. However, the nature of the animated film
complicates the relationship between sound and image, and leads to some subtle
but important differences in notions of what is accepted as realistic.
Animation and film are now merging closer together after years of
separation and it is exciting to experience the blending of the mediums within
a fusion of skills that creates a thoroughly hybrid and spontaneous media.
Film and photography shifted the way people could perceive things. For
the first time, we knew how a horse’s feet fell when running, and could catch
almost imperceptible changes in body language. Benjamin refers to this as “the
optical unconscious.” Film can magnify the tiniest details, and can slow down
or rewind actions—kinds of perception and visualization that hadn’t been
available before. The invention of comic strips and books obviously wasn’t a
scientific endeavor, relying on printing technologies already in play. In
comparison, comics have given us a (perhaps) universal visual system to
communicate speech, thought, movement and impact, but it is a light-hearted
system, and outside of a comic narrative, unsuited to serious expression.
“Film is the first form whose artistic character is entirely determined
by its reproducibility… The finished film is the exact antithesis of a work
created in a single stroke. It is assembled from a very large number of images
and image sequences that offer an array of choices to the editor; these images,
moreover, can be improved in any desired way in the process leading from the
initial take to the final cut” (30).
With new softwares developing every day, animation is now seeing a new
age of accessibility and innovation. It can now be created and used by everyone
around the world. As a result of this, the big studios are forced to adapt and
innovate to compete with the new wave of creative freedom born with the age of
In today’s world, no matter who you are or where you are from, you have
access to the unlimited possibilities of storytelling. Technology will develop
further and further each day becoming more powerful and affordable. With
technology forever evolving, it appears that animation is at the best it has
ever been. It is now a golden age for animation with more possibilities to give
life to one’s imagination. Will there be a point when computers can no longer
cope up with the extreme details? The 21st century softwares introduced
something that revolutionized humanity forever and of course, animation.
Animation can now be created with just softwares instead of things like
scanning papers, scanners, ink, paint which were essential for the animation on