Movies are very entertaining. They’ve been around since around 1900. From action to comedy, documentary to romance, most people find a bit of joy in sitting down with a bowl of popcorn and watching a good flick. However, what many people may not think about is, what happened before the movie was released? It’s not the same for every film. There are traditional animation, digital animation, and live-action productions. Something less people may think about is, which kind of film is the hardest to produce?
Traditional animation has plenty of supporting points to argue its case for being the most difficult. Traditional animation has been around since 1906. Back then, we did not have much technology. Traditional animation does not involve a great amount of technology, but that is why it is something to marvel at. Traditional or drawn animation is completely hand-drawn on paper. Each drawing is slightly different than the one before it, giving the illusion of movement, like stop-motion. Once a picture is drawn, it is redrawn, or in later years, photocopied, onto celluloid transparent paper called ‘cels’. Then paint is applied with a colour chart predetermined for each character or element. This type of animation is usually run at 24 frames per second. Frames are the slides or pictures that were mentioned before. With 24 frames shown a second, there would be hundreds of thousands of frames, about 129, 600, in a typical movie. This means that 129, 600 pictures or slides must be drawn and prepped in order to produce a typical traditional animation movie.
One astonishing example of drawn animation is the Walt Disney film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This blockbuster was the first feature-length full-colour cartoon ever made. It used over 1 500 000 individual pen-and-ink drawings and water-colour paintings. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs brought a new sense of perspective and distance into animated motion pictures with a special camera used to capture the cels that took Walt Disney three years to build. This camera was able to photograph the background and foreground of the scenes accurately. It used separate pictures coloured red, green, and blue that were layered on top of each other to create a full-colour spectacle.
Digital animation is a more recent form of filming. It got big when Toy Story came out in 1995, a technological wonder. In order to play apart in developing a digital animation movie, you need a great deal of technological training. With digital animation it is possible to do two-dimensional and three-dimensional animation, while with drawn animation you can only create 2D films. One type of digital animation is cut-out animation, where characters are created using separate drawing for each part of the body, including the head, neck, torso, arms, and legs. Then these drawings are digitally rigged together, like a puppet, using a computer. Another form of digital animation is paperless animation, where you hand-draw characters, frames, backgrounds, and layouts on a computer with an electronic pressure-sensitive drawing tablet. This is similar to traditional animation, but digital instead. That doesn’t mean it’s easier: skilled artistry is still needed. A third kind of digital animation is 3D animation, where characters are built and modeled with a three-dimensional software. The characters are rigged with a virtual skeleton. When you produce a 3D production, you need a fair amount of programming to make fully formed backgrounds and characters that move. The last type of digital animation I will mention is motion capture, in which the movement of a person, often the performance of an actor, is recorded, and using the recorded information, animating a 2D or 3D character.
Live-action movies are a worthy contestant for this competition. For live-action movies, you need to find actors to play each part, including the ‘extras’ for gatherings of people in stores or streets. Casting can take a long time, because the producers have to find the perfect actor or actress for each role. Make-up artists are also needed to define each character’s appearance. You also need to film in actual locations, which means that elaborate sets need to be constructed, and there may be quite a bit of worldwide travel, which can make live=action budgets quite a bit larger. While you’re filming, you need the cameras positioned correctly, and no other equipment can be visible in the recordings. Proper technology is required, and many takes, up to several hundred, may be acted to get each scene perfect. Live-action productions require a great deal of editing. Each scene needs proper light and audio, as well as impeccable acting. Visual effects may also have to be added digitally if the movie is fantasy or science fiction or action.
All movies, regardless of how they’re created, must capture emotion, produce audio effects such as soundtracks and scores, have elaborate character planning, a theme at its core, scripts for the dialogue, and a large crew for production. No matter what kind of film it is, it requires a great deal of work.
Yet which requires the most? Hand-drawn traditional animation, techy digital animation, and elaborate live-action films all have their difficulties. Hopefully by now you can develop an opinion of your own…
Traditional Animation: Toon Boom Learn. learn.toonboom.com/modules/animation-techniques/topic/traditional-animation.
The Making of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs – Popular Science (Jan, 1938). blog.modernmechanix.com/the-making-of-snow-white-and-the-seven-dwarfs/.
“Digital Animation: Toon Boom Learn.” Digital Animation | Toon Boom Learn, learn.toonboom.com/modules/animation-techniques/topic/digital-animation.
Page, Travis, and wikiHow. “How to Make a Movie.” WikiHow, WikiHow, 3 Mar. 2021, www.wikihow.com/Make-a-Movie.
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