Animation Software: The Evolutions And The Options

Computers & TechnologyMultimedia

  • Author Alex Belsey
  • Published March 25, 2021
  • Word count 896

In recent years, all animations from film to games have started life on someone's computer. Over the last four decades, animation has moved from cartoon, to CGI, and beyond - creating some of the most memorable characters and gaming moments in history.

Over time, as animation techniques became more advanced, audiences wanted to see animated content which was bigger and better than anything which came before. This made it necessary for animators to develop new software which could overcome barriers that in the past would have been insurmountable.

Smashing Through Hurdles

In 2000, Peter Jackson, director of the Lord Of The Rings trilogy, needed software that would allow armies of thousands to fight realistically.

In response to this, Stephen Regelous created MASSIVE (Multiple Agent Simulation System In Virtual Environment), which gave Lord of The Rings their award winning visual effects - particularly in the battle scenes.

This revolutionary software gives the visual effects artist the ability to create millions of CGI agents that all act independently of each other. These agents can change their behaviour in response to their surroundings, which eliminates the need for content creators to animate or program each agent by hand. The MASSIVE software has since been used in film, television, and gaming, with credits including Game of Thrones, Planet of the Apes, and Infinity War.

Jump forward two years to 2002, when Pixar were faced with the problem of how to animate realistic hair and clothes. As a solution, when working on Monsters, Inc. they introduced the state-of-the-art animation software, Fizt (pronounced Fizz-Tee).

One of their main characters was a big, blue, hairy monster named Sulley, and using the newly created Fizt, they managed to successfully simulate each of the millions of hairs that cover him - creating realistic motions and behaviours.

It took 11 to 12 hours to render a single frame with Sulley in shot, but the time taken by the overall animation process was reduced.

From Studio To Study

Developers have risen to the challenge, creating software to combat the challenges that animators have come up against, and seeing their work showcased in film, television, and video games as a result.

And the best news is that due to all this new software, you no longer need to be part of a huge company to develop your own animations. By using one of the many CGI programs available, you can create animations from the comfort of your own home.

3D modelling programs are just a click away, many of which you don’t even need to pay for, and there are extensive instructional guides and videos online which take you through the animation process step by step – thereby allowing you to try your hand with minimal fuss.

Here are just a few of the options available to you:

Blender

Blender is a free 3D graphics software that allows you to animate films, art, visual effects, motion graphics, video editing and rigging, to name just a few. It is preferred by many users over similar software which can cost thousands of pounds.

Blender is best for professional animators, or beginners who want to be part of an animation community. Blender is community-based and allows community driven/designed updates. Some of the companies who use Blender include Roblox, Activision, and the Unity 3D development platform.

Animaker

Animaker allows you to make live-action and animated videos. It is designed to be easy for both novice and experienced animators to use, and provides specialist tools for people to create video infographics, 3D animations, and animated shorts.

Autodesk Maya

Although not free for everyone, students, educators, and educational institutions can benefit from this software, which has become an industry giant.

Credits include: the Harry Potter series, War Horse, Uncharted 4 - A Thief's End, and Call of Duty - Black Ops 3. This software is a fantastic option for animation students preparing for a career in animation.

Clara.io

Clara.io is a browser-based 3D modelling tool for those who don’t want to download their animation software. You can create your own animations, as well as access a library of models to use in your creations. Clara.io also supports 3D rendering.

Daz Studio

Daz Studio was created for artists to design ready-to-use models and 3D content.

Its aim was to provide human and non-human figures, clothing, and props for the models. Daz Studio can be used for videos and to create still images, while the character modelling and motion capture capabilities make this a favourite with those who want to create characters, but who may not have the skills to do it from scratch.

OpenToonz

As the chosen software of Studio Ghibli, OpenToonz is a popular choice for those interested in 2D animation. The OpenToonz software is best for people who are focused on 2D animation, or who want to expand their skillset.

So, What Are You Waiting For?

All of the software tools outlined in this article can be found for free, and are commonly used by industry professionals. However, you may still wish to seek out alternatives that charge a fee.

If this is the case, try searching for animation software on the TrustRadius website. This is a great resource where users can leave reviews and feedback about software programs, and it should give you a good idea about what the available options are.

Whatever your requirements, the right software for you is out there!

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