The Art of Animation. Animation aspects: color and texture | WebReference

The Art of Animation. Animation aspects: color and texture

  Animation aspects: color and texture

Disney movies, creative as they are in animating the shape of objects, are mostly static (although admittedly very colorful) in the aspects of color and texture. For example, if Mickey Mouse's breeches are designated red by the master animator, then the exact same shade of red will be used for this element throughout the entire movie. Shadings and halftones are virtually nonexistent in this animation style.

This feature of the traditional animations is rooted in both technical and creative limitations of the celluloid medium, and the relatively long history of the cartoon genre accustomed our perception to this flat drawing style. However, modern computer technologies have transformed the flat color animation cels with uniform black outline into a way of stylization rather then true technical necessity. Using computers, it is easy to algorithmically change not only the outline of the animated objects but the color and texture of their interior as well. With the overwhelming abundance of options, tools, and effects in graphic programs, once again the principle of referring to the physical world for guidance should be used.

As you will easily recall, real world objects rarely (if ever) exhibit any significant changes in the hue component of their visible color (chameleons being the most notable exceptions). However, during motion, they can vary the brightness and, to a lesser extent, saturation because of varying lighting conditions along the motion path. Imitating this effect (Fig. 2) is perhaps the second best method (after the shape twisting just discussed) to turn a monotonous linear motion into an eye catcher.


Figure 2

  Fig. 2:  A static light source can make a moving object more expressively dynamic  

  This example suggests that, so long as the texture aspect is concerned, photographic textures with their soft gradients are perhaps the only texture type easily interchangeable with the flat color prevailing in animations. This fact is widely used by 3D animations, for which the expressive dynamic flow of lighting gradients on the objects' surfaces is one of the staples of their appeal.

Outside of the flat color and photographic textures duality, animation involving textures is less common. Remember that any material or geometric textures are perceived as an essential feature of an object, not easy to be changed by any amount of motion or other transformations, and that object's motion must therefore be closely coordinated with its textural aspect. For instance, you cannot apply a linear motion to a cloudy amorphous shape because its natural pattern of motion is likely to include curling, whirling, or other connaturally amorphous motion types.


Created: Apr. 14, 1999
Revised: Apr. 14, 1999