An Introduction to Computer Animation

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Computer-generated imagery (CGI) or Computer Animation is imagery that is created by an animator using a computer program. These programs can be very expensive. Very expensive. These programs allow you to design very complex, intricate objects that are sometimes beyond what can actually exist. I would recommend the free and open source Blender (Blender.org) animation program if you would like to try working with animation yourself; it does everything you will probably need, unless you are working on the next Star Wars movie. Don’t get discouraged when you are not be able to get very impressive results the first time you try to design something. I was able to find some very, very good Blender tutorials on YouTube that can actually help you create some really good projects rather quickly.

The basics are that you have a virtual camera to catch the action, which acts just as a camera in real life. It captures what is going on and can be moved. You also have a light source that acts just as in real life. Whatever you are working on (say…for instance, the USS Enterprise, for the sake of argument 🙂 ) will have many properties that can be manipulated. Objects can be moved, scaled, or rotated to get the object into the right location. Many different objects can be selected or edited by extruding or moving individual points on the three-dimensional object. You can apply endless materials to an object to make it appear, when rendered, like said material, like stainless steel, plastic, or ceramic, etc. Innumerable other effects can be applied, but my favorite settings to work with are the physics settings. You can give objects force fields, make them have the properties of liquids or cloth, and control other reactions.

The “camera” is pointed at what will be seen when it is rendered. Rendering is the process of creating the frames from the camera. The light source makes it so that you can see or create special lighting effects, like a spotlight or the ability to illuminate objects. You can create different key frames by moving things around and setting it to a certain frame to create the illusion of movement when animated to create a video instead of a still image. The computer will fill in the gaps with enough movement between frames so that it will “get” to where it is supposed to be. Blender has so much functionality that this post only briefly describe what it can do. I find computer animation as a fun hobby with which to play and experiment in my free time.

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