Introduction To Animation
An animation is a sequence of photos or still images that are played in quick succession which creates the illusion of movement. The intention of animating something is to give it life, making it dynamic and more interesting to an audience. It can be used in many different types of media, such as logo animation for a brand or character rigging for a game. In the current day, animation is even used in films to enhance the visuals and viewing experience. Though it is much more advanced than traditional animation, special effects are still originate from the same technique.
History of Animation
Since 1603, when the first ever projected animation was made, the techniques and processes have changed hugely as to how they are known in the current day. The first ever example of animation was shown on the Magic Lantern, an image projector that worked by using sheets of glass that would be shown together to represent an image. In some cases the sheets of glass could be moved which would result in a basic animation. Since then, other contraptions have been invented with the purpose of creating an illusion of a moving image, or an animation. The Thaumatrope, Phenakitoscope, Zoetrope, Flipbook and Praxinoscope were all developed in the 19th century. Although these inventions are not the type of animations that are used today, they were still huge innovations for the people who lived in the 19th century as well as the progression of animation. Over time, more inventions were developed that increased the quality of animations being made. One of the most important was the Multiplane Camera. This was a machine that was developed by Ub Iwerks a colleague of Walt Disney. It allowed animators to split up their creations into different segments which made the entire process much less time consuming.
Pixel Art Animation
For the pixel art animation task we needed to create a sprite that could be used in a game. It needed to be 8 pixels tall in a canvas of 24×24 pixels. The overall objective of the task was to animate our characters to punch, jump and walk. These skills would then be used in our future projects in game and character animation. Once we had our sprites and had ensured that they were suitable for the task ahead, we needed to do some research. Although the three movements were very basic and could easily be done by everyone in the class, it was still important to analyse each one. This is because in every day life, these
basic movements aren’t actually analysed, not for a project of this nature anyway. I felt that the research we done was very effective as without I think that I would have struggled with the task.
To create the animation I changed the layout to show the essential work space. I then went to window>timeline so that I could add frames to the animation. This outlined with a red box in the screenshot below. To add new frames I selected the ‘duplicate selected frame button’ that is in the group outlined with the purple box. To add key frames I created new layers which would then be edited in each frame to suit what was needed. This is surrounded with the green box. The layers were added in by the ‘new layer’ button which is in the group surrounded by a blue box.
Below is what I came up with for the task. In my opinion I think I have completed the work to a good standard although I found the exporting process difficult in Photoshop. This is because the preview speed changes when put into the internet browser. Therefore you have to change the speed within Photoshop and guess how many frames need to be added or deleted.
In this section of my blog post I am going to be discussing the questions surrounding the use of pixel art and why they are effective and ineffective in some situations. For research I read the two articles that explain in great detail the process behind the animation and design of Super Time Force and Deathstalkers. The articles clearly show the intentions of the design within the games and gives a good representation as to how they were developed. I found them particularly interesting as it gives a huge insight on the thought processes that go into the design of the games and what the intentions of the developers may have been.
Why do you think the developers chose these art styles?
The Developers of both Deathstalkers and Super Time Force both chose the pixel art format for very different reasons. From what I have read in the two articles and other research that I have done, the production teams that were developing the games were in very different situations.
Deathstalkers was released in 1994, in a time when technology was very limited in the gaming industry. Therefore, pixel art was one of the main formats for a game. Pixel art wasn’t a very demanding format as it would be rendered in a low resolution, therefore had a low usage. This allowed the games to have more detail included, such as shadowing, dynamic backgrounds, and even sound effects/music. However, for the team behind Super Time Force it was a different scenario.
Super Time Force was released in 2014 so the technology was more than capable of sustaining a smooth, 3D simulated game. Animators and designers of the game, Mike and Vic Nguyen developed a glimpse of their work that would be shown to the rest of the developers and team in under three days. They needed to show that the idea could be a potential game and with limited time and vast skills and experience they chose to use pixel art. The game was then approved and put into production and the two brothers were told that they could use any design format they wanted. Despite having the opportunity to use any format and design for the game, the team stayed with pixel art. After working with pixel art for so long they realised the potential it could have as a game in that time period.
“We didn’t use it because we are minimalists; we used it because we are maximalists”
What creative problems do pixel artists face? What problems does pixel art present as an art style?
Pixel art can be a very difficult format to work with. As it is made on a smaller canvas it can be extremely hard to recreate a realistic image. Since you have less room to work with, you have to put in more thought as to how you can implement a good level of detail whilst still getting a good balance between proportion and enough features to make the image/subject recognisable. Another problem that an artist may encounter is that pixel art is used by many people in the gaming industry, particularly in the indie genre so it can be very difficult to gain popularity and get your work seen.
What problems do animators encounter whilst using pixel art face?
Since pixel art is made on a smaller scale, the image is made from much larger pixels than what would be on a normal image. Therefore animating something can be very difficult, especially when you are trying to give life and make the subject believable. For example, one of the main aspects of a believable and realistic animation is the use of stretch and squash. Therefore from an animators point of view, working with pixel art can be very time consuming since you can’t stretch or squash individual pixels, therefore you have to add pixels in different keyframes to create the effect.Another problem that an animator may face is that it can be very difficult to show overlapping which is an asset that is used often in animation.
What are the advantages of using pixel art for animation?
Although in some cases pixel art can be time consuming, in others it can be a faster than working with a different format. This is because pixel art is often very blocky and therefore easier to animate. Though it takes practice to gain a life like animation, some movements are much easier to replicate than what they would be in a different format. Another big advantage of pixel art animation is that it is less technology demanding. Although there aren’t any technological limitations in today’s gaming industry, 30 years ago suffered hugely from this problem so the low usage was definitely a benefit for game developers back then.
How do the requirements of game genre, technology and players affect creative decisions?
The creative decisions that are made to create a game are always decided on what the scenario is. For example, if there are no technological limitations the development team would consider several different formats for their game as they would want to explore different options to get the best result. Their resources for the project would determine how long they could spend researching in pre-production. Things like the genre and target audience would also determine key aspects of the game like difficulty, colour scheme and soundtrack.
What creative decisions did they make in tackling these problems?
Both games have been adapted to suit the criteria for the given scenarios. Super time force used the same colour scheme principles throughout in that the characters would be brighter/more saturated than the background. This made the characters stand out which would have been the intentions of the designers behind the game. Similarly, the in game effects were given highly saturated colours so that they would also stand out.
Another decision that would have been made in both games was how the animators were going to implement the main principles of animation and show a smooth, realistic feel within the game. For example in Deathstalkers, the animating team would have needed to put in a great amount of time to get the final result of each characters movement and overall aesthetic.
What were the alternative solutions?
The two development teams would have both had alternatives though due to the time the team behind Deathstalkers would have been a lot more limited as the technology had not been developed to handle some of the design formats that are used in today’s games. This meant that they would have only one option other than pixel art which would have been 3D rendering. However this was a more demanding graphics format so the characters would have been very similar. However the Super Time Force development team, would have been in a different situation. Since the technology was more advanced in 2013 when the game was being developed, other routes could have been considered like 3D rendering, raster art, hand drawn imaging, or even vector art. Although there are many more options, an indie game studio is often limited by time and money so formats like the Ubisoft Framework system would not have been suitable.
This week we began to start looking into the principles of animation and how it can be done to a good quality. We worked with pixel art to help apply the principles and practice to get the animation to a good standard. I found this very interesting as I had taught myself animation in a different software before, although I had taken all of the principles into consideration. We also looked into two separate games that both use pixel art. During the research I focused on the different reasons as to why that format was used.
1906 (no date) Available at: http://history-of-animation.webflow.io/ (Accessed: 18 January 2017).
Vader, D., Nguyen, M. and Nguyen, V. (2017) Beneath the pixels: The art direction of super time force. Available at: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/news/255187/Beneath_the_pixels_The_art_direction_of_Super_Time_Force.php (Accessed: 18 January 2017).
Richmond (2010) Darkstalkers and the Twelve principles of animation. Available at: https://web.archive.org/web/20161013140311/http://art-eater.com/2010/07/test-1-darkstalkers/ (Accessed: 18 January 2017).