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Archive-name: graphics/animation-faq
Last-modified: 6 March 1996
Version: 3.3
Posting-frequency: Monthly
Last-issue: FAQ v3.2 (7 Feb)

See reader questions & answers on this topic! - Help others by sharing your knowledge

	"Well, what else you got?"
	"...OK, red throbbing balls! Moving in unison before
	 your very eyes! Of course, with CHROME..."

                             -- Flying Logos, Inc.



Please read this FAQ before posting to `'.

Computer animation is a large and growing field, and people want different
things from it; this FAQ tries to cover all bases, and as a result is rather
thin on many of them! So feel free to contribute, or to offer suggestions --
the FAQ will NEVER be complete or free of errors, but your help will make it

 -- Contents --

* Introduction::                you're looking at it
* Related Resources::           where your enquiries may be better directed
* Miscellaneous Questions::     FAQ's that don't fit anywhere else...
* Using Animation::             from the end-user's pov
* Hobby Animation::             from the hobbyist's pov
* Animation Media::             animation not on your VDU
* Career Animation::            animation as a business
* Animation Theory::            technical / programming information
* Animation Software::          software you may want to use
* About Box::                   about the FAQ


Updated the entries for two software packages (Impulse Imagine and Renderize
Live / Visual Reality). Also added some information concerning the status of
Reboot's third season.

Should I post to

`' is a forum for discussion of all things relating to
computer animation. This includes, but is not limited to the following: (these
are general guidelines ONLY!)

   * computer animation research
   * implementation of animation systems
   * animation software packages
   * animation-related hardware
   * computer animation in film and tv
   * working in the animation industry
   * net-accessible animation

If you'd like to see the original charter for the group, as it first appeared
in the usenet Call For Votes, you can find it at: URL:

If your post is not of general interest (to `'), but you
think `c.g.anim' is the most specific, the most appropriate, or is likely to be
the most fruitful forum -- don't hesitate to post. But `c.g.anim' is not for
discussion of things for which there *are* more specific resources available
(ie newsgroups, mailing lists, etc) and which are not of *general* *interest*
to `c.g.anim' readers.

If you're not sure, you may as well post -- the group's not moderated, and is
frequented by mostly polite people -- you're not likely to get flamed, but
please do spare a moment's thought before you post.

The next chapter (see `Related Resources') lists some places you may find more
suited to your particular query. Some questions about posting specific types of
articles are also addressed in the `Miscellaneous Questions' chapter.

Availability / Distribution

The most current version of the FAQ in all its different formats is always
available by FTP in
and the latest HTML version is at URL:

The plain-text version of the FAQ is posted the first week of every month on, and the article (like all other `official' FAQs) is
archived on `rtfm'

All official FAQs, and then some, are available on the WWW (plaintext and/or
HTML-ized) at:


                               RELATED RESOURCES

...or, does my post really belong in `'?

Computer animation, like its progenitor computer graphics, abuts on a large
number of fields. There are a lot of crossover topics, and a lot of related
resources other than this newsgroup. Please try and direct your questions to
the most appropriate place!

Graphics/Animation Newsgroups
=============================                 - general image generation, modelling           - algorithms for graphics            - you're looking at the FAQ right now!           - bouncing light around        - scientific / data visualization       - CG software from Wavefront           - CG software from Alias Research       - CG software from NewTek       - CG software from Softimage       - Adobe Photoshop    - CG package from AutoDesk - Raytracing software (POV, etc)  - rendering via Renderman       - misc rendering discussions                \
  comp.sys.XXX                          \            } how do I do YYY on/under XXX*                  /*                       /
  comp.multimedia                    - sound and text and vision
  alt.3d                             - SIRDS, holograms, etc. 3d perception.
  alt.movies.visual-effects          - SFX for film and TV              - picture manipulation, conversion
  rec.arts.animation                 - discussion of traditional animation
  rec.arts.disney.animation          - discussion of Disney's animation
  rec.arts.anime*                    - discussion of Japanese animation
  alt.animation.warner-bros          - Chuck Jones and mates{desktop,production}     - video, desktop video
  sci.image.processing               - sophisticated image manipulation
  sci.virtual-worlds*                - anything about VR
  comp.compression                   - compression issues (JPEG, MPEG, etc)
  alt.ascii-art.animation            - yes, vt100 animation*            - posts of pictures, anims, utils, etc
  fj.rec.animation                   - discussion of anime (in japanese)
  *.test (misc.test, etc.)           - test postings (some people...)
  comp.*.advocacy                    - Mac vs PC vs SGI vs Amiga, etc...

Web Resources

These references are specific sources of information in various broad areas
relevant to this FAQ. If you don't understand the syntax used here to specify
where to reach these resources on the net, check out the 'About Box' section of
the FAQ for information on Resource Specifications.


     3DSite (URL: a great CGI/animation WWW
     site. Industry resumes (submit yours!) and job offers, information on CGI
     production houses. Literature, references, discussion for animation (not
     just computer animation). Information on relevant hardware and software
     firms, software packages. Pointers to CGI organizations, labs, projects,
     and some VR pointers. IRC panels on animation and more. Maintained by
     Daniele Colajacomo ( Thanks Daniele!


     GWEB (URL: An informal trade journal for
     the computer animation industry. Includes monthly interviews with industry
     luminaries, job postings, and information on production houses. Also
     information on relevant hardware and software. Maintained by Rob and
     Sharil ( Thanks!


     This FTP/Web site was created to be a 3D repository site for the 'net.
     It's primarily a stockpile of free 3D objects and models in various
     different formats, along with file format descriptions,
     conversion/display/plug-in utilities, and some textures and demo software.
     Although FTP access is still available, Viewpoint asks anyone with
     web-browsing capabilities to access the site thru their home page (URL: for a *much* better interface to the archive.

Comp.Graphics.Misc FAQ

     The `' FAQ: graphics references, groups, standards,
     various algorithms, etc. HTML version available at URL: Maintained by John T. Grieggs
     ( Thanks John!

Other graphics-related FAQs can be found at:


More Specific Resources

More specific resources are scattered throughout the FAQ in the sections
dealing with the specific topic, so for instance for resources concerning
animation file formats, see `Animation File Formats', and for resources
concerning individual software packages, see `Animation Software'.


                            MISCELLANEOUS QUESTIONS

Here are some of the FAQ's that are not answered elsewhere in this document. If
there are any questions that you feel belong here, or wish to add to any of the
answers, please don't hesitate to contact me.

001. Is it ok to post job offers to this newsgroup?

     Although not specifically mentioned in the charter, and there *is* a
     newsgroup for job offers (, the general concensus is
     that yes, they are welcome.

002. Is it ok to post advertisements for software, services, etc to the

     Gray area. For the most part, this is bad netiquette. However, posting a
     short message with a pointer (email address, web page, etc) so those who
     actually want more information can go and find it without flooding the
     group, is ok.

003. I want to study [CG] animation for a career. Are there any good schools?

     Craig Slagel ( has put together a "computer
     animation schools FAQ", which includes excerpts from many responses that
     have been posted to this question. It is posted to the newsgroup, and it's
     available via ftp at:

     Also, GWEB (URL: has a nice page of
     schools, indexed by general locations.

004. What should I put on a demo reel?

     Quick answer: your best stuff. Keep it short (3-10 minutes max). Show the
     kind of thing you want to get a job doing (ie., be careful about including
     flying logos unless that's what you want to do).

005. How much should I charge for my work?

     Quick answer: how much are you worth, and how much are your clients
     willing to pay you? If you just want experience, you can charge little (or
     nothing), but your client(s) *will* get used to it, and it will be harder
     for you to convince them to pay you later if you want to do it as a
     business. Since the amount of work varies from one animation job to
     another, there's no clear-cut figure to give. Variables to consider are
     time needed to do the job, and what resources are required.

006. What is the best system for CG/animation?

     Flammable topic! Don't ask. If you must ask, be more specific... what type
     of CG/animation work do you want to do, what quality, will you be doing
     work with any other H/W and/or specific S/W package, and how much are you
     willing to spend in both time and money. Even so, every system has
     strengths, weaknesses, and advocates. Don't expect a concensus. Your best
     bet is to try out as many different ones as you can firsthand, and make
     your own decision.

007. What is the best software package for CG/animation?

     See above.

008. How do I contact ILM (Industrial Light & Magic)? Is there an email

     You don't, they call you :-) ...actually, they do have a P.O. Box number
     (probably more than one, really): P.O. Box 2009, San Rafael, CA 94912.
     They also have a net connection, but it's not "advertised", and those who
     know it are not going to give details. They wish to remain as anonymous as
     possible on the net... *please* respect their privacy.

009. What about ILM/Lucasfilm internships for students?

     (from the rec.arts.movies.production FAQ): Both Lucasfilm and ILM run an
     intership program three times a year for several months. Only the summer
     program is available to those who reside outside the United States. For
     more information contact Lucasfilm at (415) 662-1800.

010. Has anyone seen or know anything about the cartoon "Reboot"?

     Reboot is produced by Alliance Communications and BLT Productions in
     Vancouver. They use SGI hardware and Softimage software (along with their
     own propietary stuff for facial animation and lip sync). They don't use
     motion capture. They started production in 1994 (though the show's
     copyright lists a 1991 date), and the show just finished its second
     season. An "Unofficial" Reboot home page is at: URL:

     NOTE: Word is that a third season of Reboot will be produced and shown in
     Canada (starting in September), but ABC has decided to drop it from its
     Saturday morning lineup. No information has surfaced yet on who might pick
     up the series for US distribution in the fall...

011. I need an object/model/mesh of...

     See the `Related Resources' section of the FAQ as well as the specific
     sections for each software package below for info on FTP sites for freely
     available models.

     Additionally, there are several companies which sell ready-made or
     custom-made models in most formats. They usually advertise in some of the
     magazines listed in the "Journals" section (below). Here are a few of the
     well-known ones and where to find them on the web:

          Viewpoint Datalabs - URL:
          In addition to having their catalog online, Viewpoint also hosts the
          Avalon archive for the largest collection of free 3D models on the
          net (now with a cool HTML interface!)

          Acuris - URL:

          3Name3D - URL:

     3DSite (URL: also has a "model market"
     service available from their web page, and another similar service is
     Richard Tilmann's "MeshMart" (URL:, and visit Harry H. Chang's
     home page at URL: for some cool Star Wars
     objects (3DStudio format).

012. I need an image/texture/picture of...

     There are a few textures at There is also a huge
     collection of pictures (though most are not tileable) at URL:

     There are numerous other ftp sites with clumps of pictures and textures
     out there... too many to list. Additionally, there are also several
     CD-ROM's out with tileable texturemaps and other images in most popular
     formats. If anyone has any good finds, please let me know and I'll list
     those here.

013. What is motion capture?

     Motion capture is a technique by which a performer's movements can be
     recorded digitally, and reproduced by a CG character either in real-time
     or after the data has been processed (depending on how the data is
     sampled). This allows for more realistic and natural motion in character
     animation. A variation of this technique uses an armature instead of a
     performer, and movements are made and keyframed the same way that
     stop-motion animators have been doing it for many years.

014. What resolution should I render my animations in?

     That depends greatly on what the final media will be. If it's going to
     remain on a computer screen (MPEG, Quicktime, etc), then factors to
     consider are disk space, playback speed, and memory requirements. If it
     will be transferred to video or film, best to ask whoever will be
     recording it for you, because it might depend on the recording device. See
     the section on `Animation Media' in this FAQ for a few more specifics.

015. So what do you know about Toy Story?

     The Pixar movie "Toy Story" is currently playing in theaters in the US.
     They have a deal with Disney to produce two more movies (and are
     reportedly already working on the next one). What the next one will be
     about is still a closely-guarded secret.

     There's a lot of inside jokes in the movie, mainly in the brands and
     company names seen, as well as references to several of the animators and
     Pixar's previous works in the titles of the books in Andy's room. For some
     more info on the movie, visit the web site HTTP:
     For information on the technical aspects of the film (resolution, number
     of objects, etc) see the August 1995 issue of Computer Graphics World.
     Another good article about the movie appears in the December 1995 issue of

     One last note: According to CNN, "Toy Story" came out as the #3 movie for
     US domestic box office performance in 1995 (behind "Batman Forever" and
     "Apollo 13", but ahead of Disney's "Pocahontas"). Congrats Pixar!

016. Where can I get the Pixar videos?

     Pixar reportedly sells them directly (in VHS format). Call 510-236-4000
     and follow the instructions, or you can try them at 1001 West Cutting
     Blvd., Richmond CA 94804. Fax: 510-236-0388. They are not currently
     available on Laserdisc except for a few bits here and there in general CG
     animation collections.

     Additionally, there are at least two (*unconfirmed*) sources for the video
     which includes "Red's Dream", "Luxo, Jr.", "Tin Toy", and "Knick-Knack":

        Expanded Entertainment
        1-800-996-TOON extension 125 (Mon-Fri 9am-6pm Pacific)
        $25 plus S&H

        Media Magic
        1-800-882-8284 (credit card orders)
        (order #v145) for $25

017. Is there a program to convert {MPEG,FLI,MOV,QT,AVI,single images, etc} to
     {single images,AVI,QT,MOV,FLI,MPEG, etc}?

     Stephane Woillez ( has put together a web page (URL: with several conversion
     utilities available for downloading. So far, this is the best single
     collection of such tools I know of.

     Mainactor (for Amiga) available on Aminet (in `gfx/edit', will read 14
     formats including GIF, IFF-ILBM, IFF-ANIM[5,7,8], MPEG, FL[CI], and write
     most of these (not GIF or MPEG) You can add sound effects and edit your
     animations too.

018. Is computer art "cheating"?

     The overwhelming opinion (of the informed public) is that no, it is not.
     Computer art is simply a new form, much like photography was when it was
     first introduced. Computers do little more than sit there and take up
     space unless a human uses them to create something. It is just a bad
     misconception when the media reports something was done "by" a computer,
     when it was a really a human being using a computer the way a painter uses
     a paintbrush. The computer is just a tool.


                                USING ANIMATION

This chapter's for those who simply want to see the results of others' hard
labour -- animation file formats and conversions, animation players and sites.
Much of the information here is presented much better in the graphics file
formats FAQ:

Animation File Formats

See also: Murray, Vanryper, "Encylopedia of Graphics File Formats", O'Reilly &
Assoc, 1994, ISBN 1565920589. It covers most 2-d and 3-d graphics file formats
out there today. Murray also maintains an FAQ (see above) which covers much of
the same material.

[text by mark podlipec and others]

For code that reads: DL, FLI, FLC, GIF, IFF, MovieSetter, PFX, Quicktime, and
RLE animation formats, see the `xanim' entry in `Players', below. Other
players' source may also be useful for these and other formats.

AVI (PC): Resources: URL: (RIFF AVI format. doesn't
include compression format).

DL: ??

FLI, FLC (Autodesk) (PC): FLI support is for 320x200 images, and is a series of
images and deltas. The colour map can be changed during the animation. FLC has
a few additional chunks and supports larger image sizes. Resources: FLC article
in DDJ'93 - `ftp://simtel20.../graphic/...' and URL:
(specification of format).

GIF (PC): A GIF file consists of a screen colour map and a series of images,
each with an optional colour map. The images don't have to be at the origin and
can be any size smaller than the screen size. This allows GIF animations to be
created that only update the part of the screen that changes. GIFs (including
transparent GIFs) are also discussed in the Comp.Graphics.Misc FAQ.

GL (PC): (not to be confused with SGI's GL programming language)

IFF ANIM (Amiga): The Amiga's IFF format was designed as a universal
(extensible) data format. Many different data types and chunks can be found in
IFF ANIMs. Many ANIMs include sound chunks or colour cycling. There are a
plethora of compression techniques (with different tradeoffs) used. Most IFF
ANIMs are meant to be double-buffered, with deltas applying to frames two
distant. A looping ANIM means the last two deltas produce images that are the
same as the first two. The Amiga has a large number of display modes (a couple
of them, EHB and HAM are unusual; HAM is the hardest to emulate). Resources:
(specification of format) URL:

MovieSetter (GoldDisk) (Amiga): A very flexible animation format. Animations
are stored as a bunch of backgrounds, sounds and sets. Sets are smaller images
that get placed on top of the background (with transparent pixels). A frame
list at the end describes each frame. Each frame specifies which background to
use (backgrounds can also scroll in different directions and speeds), and a
list of sets to put on that background with depth information so characters can
pass behind or in front of each other. Sound information is contained here as
well to sync it up to the action. There is also colour cycling and specialty
fades and wipes. Can come as one file or as three directories and a control

MPEG (lossy): Resources: `faq://graphics/mpeg-faq', also in germany' (covers
specification, future, software (players, &c), hardware, incl. pointers to
other information...); `post://"WHERE TO GET
MPEG UTILS"'; Luigi's MPEG FAQ (URL:; another WWW MPEG site (URL:; URL: (MPEG, and
other image compression techniques).

PFX (PageFlipper Plus F/X) (Amiga): A series of deltas with a play list at the
end. Supports colour map changes, nested loops and dynamic timing.

RLE (URT) (Unix): One or more runlength encoded images, viewable with an X11
viewing program. Tools for creating consistent colour maps and for many other
operations are part of the toolkit.


`display' v1.84 (PC) (Jih-Shin Ho). AVI, DL, FLC, GL, MPEG.

     `' (also on `simtel20')

MPEG players for IBM, Mac, Unix, VMS, Next.

     See `post://"WHERE TO GET MPEG UTILS"', or
     the MPEG FAQ at URL:

MPEG player for Atari, X11, IBM


`xanim' (X-Windows) (Mark Podlipec).

     DL, FLI, FLC, GIF, IFF, MovieSetter, PFX, Quicktime, RLE Official FTP
     site: `'. WWW page URL:


     From the same person who gave you DTA (Dave's Targa Animator), comes
     Dave's Flic Viewer (?). Available in URL:

For animation file format converters, see the 'Miscellaneous Questions'

Animation Sites

URL: -- Space anims

URL: -- Fractal anims

URL: -- Various MPEG anims

URL: (**DOWN**) -- Various
Amiga anims (also on other aminet sites)

URL: -- POV-anims (and all other things POV...)

URL: -- MPEG animations done using
hierarchical b-splines. For more on the modeller see `Dragon'.

URL: --
Mat Carr's animations

URL: -- Red's
Nightmare (a nice take on Red's Dream - 3.6MB)

URL: -- UCLA Animation Workshop

URL: --
Animation Gallery at the Alias|Wavefront Site (lots of cool stuff)

URL: -- WSU Computer Animations

"Grinning Evil Death" (featuring a cockroach and a breakfast cereal superhero)
and other computer animation is available in video stores as "The Computer
Animation Festival, Volume 1". See 3DSite (URL:
for more sites.


                                HOBBY ANIMATION

This chapter's for those who want to make their own animations for fun.

Animation Process

[by charles king and angus]

Things don't necessarily have to happen in this order (or at all), and there's
room for plenty of feedback between them, especially in computer animation, but
here's the basic flow. Although it's an advantage (both for the animator and
the software) to integrate as many stages as possible in the one package, and
most `animation' packages do so, in practice all packages have their relative
merits and work may be swapped from package to package to exploit their
strengths, especially in `high end' studios. This sequence assumes that the
animation has already been scripted.

*Model Design*


          making the models to be animated


*Animation Design*
          models, script

          Animation Package

          planning and tuning sequences of motion, action, interaction,
          lighting (very important!), etc...

          animation script

*Production / Rendering*
          models, animation script

          Renderer front-end, Renderer

          generating images from which the animation is to be


          images, script

          Editor, Compositor, Paint, Image Processing, other SFX

          modifying, compositing, sequencing the images

          final sequence of images

          sequence of images

          various media, media i/o hardware

          transferring the frames to the desired medium

          the product


Conferences and other Events


     ACM's Special Interest Group on Computer Graphics. Annual conference
     includes courses, vendor shows and demos, displays of the year's best
     animations, paper presentations, etc. SIGGRAPH '95 will be held in Los
     Angeles, California, August 6-11. There are numerous local chapters, and
     meetings held in each region. For more information, ftp to or check out their home page at URL:

Prix Ars Electronica: International Competition for the Computer Arts.

     This is an annual event. Information follows:
     ~$80k US in prizes for the animation category alone!
     General Info '94: (Peter Schoeber)
     mail: ORF-Prix Ars Electronica, Europaplatz 3, A-4010 Linz, Austria.
     phone: +43 (732) 6900-267, fax: -270, telex: +21616
     email: `'
     (if you have trouble reaching that address, try
     Animation Info '96: (Christine Schpf) phone: +43 (732) 6900-218
     For more info, check out their web page:

[note: I need more info on these...]
EG w'shop (eg)
CGI (cgs)
Computer Animation (cgs)
Graphics Interface

                                ANIMATION MEDIA

This chapter's about the various media an animation might end up on, and how to
get it there.

Both GWEB (URL: and 3DSite (URL: have information on animation hardware and

Media Properties

(NTSC PAL SECAM HDTV fields composite component synch RGB analog digital...)

Video Formats

-format-        -by-    -use-           -A/D-   -comp...-       -other-
VHS             JVC     home            analog  composite       1/2"
Video8/8mm      Sony    home            analog  ...             8mm
Betamax         Sony    home            analog  composite       1/2"
SVHS            JVC     prosumer        analog  ...             1/2"
Hi-8            Sony    prosumer        analog  ...             8mm
ED Beta         Sony    prosumer?       analog  component       ...
M (M1)?         Matsu   industrial?     analog  ...             ...
U-Matic 3/4"    Sony?   industrial      analog  composite       3/4"
Betacam         Sony    industrial?     analog  component       1/2"
Digital Betacam Sony    broadcast       digital component       compressed
M2              Matsu   broadcast?      analog  component       ...
U-Matic SP      Sony?   broadcast?      analog  ...             ...
Betacam SP      Sony    broadcast       analog  component       ...
D-3             Matsu   broadcast       digital composite       ...
DCT             Ampex   broadcast       digital component       compressed
D-2             Ampex   master on-air   digital composite       uncompressed?
D-1             Sony    master RGB      digital component       uncompressed

other formats?
other properties (image encoding techniques, sound quality, effective
number of `lines', ...)
notes:  D-1 endorsed by SMPTE committee
Matsu == Matsushita == Panasonic


(8mm super-8 16,32,72mm anamorphic stock ...)
normal film grain ~2500 lpi resolution.
slow film <-> higher resolution.
32mm: 0.875" x 1.3125" (2:3)

Media I/O

(VCRs genlocks frame-stores film-scanners)

*Film Recorders:* most film recorders have at least 2000 lpi resolution, 4000
is typical. For optimum quality, your image should be a little over twice the
resolution of the recording medium.

*Screen-To-Camera:* a cheap (but surprisingly effective) option for images that
can be displayed at full resolution on your monitor is to photograph the screen
directly using a single-framing camera. Film better than super-8 is likely to
be overkill. Any lights on your monitor should be taped over, and the whole lot
should be put under a black hood (made of cardboard or anything else handy). A
slow film (100 ASA or slower, the slower the better), f8 exposure, and loong
exposures should eliminate any scanline artifacts.

Resolution / Aspect

film recorders: 2000+ lpi (4000 typical).
35mm: ~2500 lpi at .875" x 1.3125" ~= 2200 x 3300 pixels. (2:3)
lpi == lines per inch.


                               CAREER ANIMATION

This chapter's for those who want to make a career of computer animation.

(See `Hobby Animation' for Animation Process, Software, Venues)

3DSite (URL: holds resumes, and has information
on job offers, CGI production houses, organizations, laboratories and projects.

GWEB (URL: has industry interviews, information
on production houses, and job listings.

Your Union

The Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists and Affiliated Optical Electronic and
Graphic Arts, Local 839 IATSE (California) has an ftp site with copies of their
negotiated awards, news, courses, etc: URL: (email `' for more info).


                               ANIMATION THEORY

This chapter covers the basics of what computer animation is about according to
graphics academics (well, it's meant to).

Types of Computer Animation


Most computer animation takes place in the 3-D world, as our world is itself
basically 3-D, and model interpolation becomes a problem in fewer dimensions,
due to a lack of context. 2-D animation packages mostly replicate the processes
of cel-based animation, where "key-frames" are used to plot the course of the
animation, and the "inbetweens" (interpolating the keys) are filled in later
(by an animator, not the computer). The main difference is that the images are
created using pixel-based, rather than oil-based techniques. "Morphing" is
probably the major 2-D animation technique in use today. Like most other
computer work used for SFX in film (wire-removal, compositing, other
retouching, etc), it is largely a matter of image manipulation (image
processing) rather than image creation (computer graphics), although morphing
*is* an animated technique, unlike many other SFX `graphics' techniques.

A good starter on morphing by Valerie Hall (1992) is at URL:
It references more detailed works for those interested, and she's also written
a morphing article in DDJ (1993).


Almost all `computer animation' done today is done within the "event-based" or,
interchangeably, "track-based" computer animation paradigm, which is based
loosely on the key-framing system used in cel-based animation. Most computer
animation systems today are built around time-varying parameters, known as
"tracks", which determine the state of the animation world at any time. Tracks
take the place of the variables which determine the state of a static scene:
they're `animation variables'. A track's value at a given time depends on the
"events" (<time, value> tuples) that define the track's state, and on the
interpolation technique being used [see `Interpolation']. Events are
conceptually similar to the key-frames of cel-based animation, but allow much
more flexibility due to their finer grain (state-variable, rather than
world-state). Although tracks may not be independant, they may usefully be
treated as such, leading to the "hierarchical animation" technique espoused by
Lasseter [see `References'], where the gross motion of a model is animated
first, followed by animation of progressively finer detail. The number of
tracks that need to be dealt with, and their often compicated
interdependencies, make animating anything of reasonable complexity a big job
both in terms of time and effort. Hence most of the subsequent research in
computer animation.

Particle System

A particle system is usually different than a track/keyframe-based animation
system, and more like a state machine. They are particularly good for
simulating and animating natural phenomena, such as rain, fire, smoke, etc.

Particle systems work by defining states and rules of behavior for each
particle or group of particles. A particle can usually be anything, from a
point to an object. Objects and particles can usually emit other particles, and
thus you can go to a new level of complexity that isn't feasible with
keyframing. Instead of exploding an object into five large pieces, a particle
system makes it simple to blow it up into hundreds or thousands of smaller
pieces, without having to define individual motion for each one. The pieces can
emit other particles, so they can have smoke trails, etc.

Particle systems are also a good way to animate groups of animals such as herds
and flocks of birds, by treating each individual member as a particle and
defining actions such as "follow the first particle" and having forces that
make each particle repel each other at a close distance. Throw in a little
randomness and other general rules and you start to get group motion that looks
realistic. If you want the group to move thru a specific path, you could just
keyframe the "leader" particle, as opposed to keyframing hundreds of individual

Inverse Kinematics

"Kinematics" is the science of movement: position, velocity, acceleration, and
their rotational equivalents. "Forward kinematics", used in the context of an
articulated structure (something with joints), is determining the positions of
the links given the joint angles between them -- ie starting at the `top' of
the hierarchy, we work our way along it, applying the relevant transformations,
until the end-positions are known -- it's easy for the programmer, and it's the
way things are normally done. However, it's quite difficult for an animator who
simply wants the hand of a model to be `here', or `there' -- what the animator
has to do is adjust each of the joints in the structure in order to arrive at
the desired position. "Inverse kinematics" reverses the situation, making
things easy for the animator by allowing an end-effector to be dragged wherever
desired, but hard for the programmer/computer because the problem is
underconstrained (many configurations of the joints may produce the desired
end-position, which one is used?) and ill-conditioned (small changes in the
end-position can mean large changes in the joints).


[NOTE: these are two replies to a question specifically asking about the
rotoscoping techniques used for the Lightsabers in the "Star Wars" movies and
don't go into detail about current digital methods, but the principles are
basically the same.

From Craig Good ( Rotoscoping is animating directly to live
action footage. One way to do it is to make blowup prints of each frame from a
shot and lay the animation cell over the top. It's then a matter of "tracing"
or matching your effect to the picture. It's essentially painting the light
saber into Luke's hand in every frame.

Sometimes the rotoscope animation effect isn't directly seen on the screen. In
"Return of the Jedi" it was impossible to use blue screen in the dark, glossy
Emperor's throne room, so mattes were hand drawn to hold out the windows where
stars and ships would be composited in. Look at it some time and think about
tracing all of those "dental tools" and googaws hanging from the ceiling which
pass in front of the windows during long tracking shots. I heard that the
animator who did that sequence nearly went insane.

Another technique which gets called Rotoscope these days is matching a 3D
computer graphics element to a live action plate, frame by frame by eye.
Generically it refers to just about any kind of animation effect being matched
to live action by direct reference to the image in the frame.

It has also been used in animated films since very nearly the beginning. Ralph
Bakshi relied on it heavily in "Lord of the Rings", and you can find examples
of it in Warner Brothers classic cartoons and in many others. It always looks
different than free-hand drawn animation, standing out as looking "too smooth"
and a little too life-like. It's a cheap way to produce certain kinds of
animation, but usually not a very good way.

From Hal Hickel ( The type of Rotoscoping referred to here is
done in the following way: A positive registered print is made from the
original negative for the scene that fx animation will be added to. The
registered print is loaded into the camera of an animtion stand (often an
Oxberry or Mechanical Concepts, or a dedicated roto stand). The camera has been
fitted with a light source and prism which make the camera function as a
projector, projecting the image from the print down onto the table top of the
stand. So basically you've got the equivalent of a really big darkroom
enlarger. The camera can be advanced one frame at a time in either direction.
The rotoscoper places a cel or piece of punched paper down on the pegs on the
table top, and can see the image of the first frame projected onto the paper.
He/she can then create artwork that matches exactly to that frame. Then he/she
advances the camera one frame and puts down a new cel. When the artwork is
complete, the print, prism, and lamp are removed from the camera, it is loaded
up with raw stock and the artwork is shot just like any other drawn animation.
What that artwork is depends on the effect that is desired and how it will be
added to the live action plates. It can be simple black on white (ink on paper)
drawings that will be reversed in optical and burned in with diffusion, or it
could be back-lit artwork that is colored and diffused right on the animation
stand. Of course much of what is described here is the old fashioned way.

To be done.

   * 1-d interpolation
   * 3-d rotation interpolation
   * euler angles and gimbal lock
   * quaternions


For general computer graphics references, check out the FAQ. In
particular, "Computer Graphics: Principles and Practice" and "Digital Image
Warping" both have relevance.

For information on animation (computer and general) books, try DeBry (URL: and 3DSite (URL:

A recently started collection of off-the-cuff reviews of animation books is at:

Information about a mailing list for animators (of all persuasions) and
wannabees is at URL:

A good place for information and papers on Collision Detection is at URL:

Books (Industry)

Morrison, Mike, "Becoming a Computer Animator", Prentice-Hall, 1994.

     covers computer animation history, technology (and how to keep up with
     it), techniques. with tutorials, interviews with industry luminaries,
     buyer's guide (s/w and h/w), how to find work, getting an education. a
     chapter ea. on: television, motion pictures, visualisation, forensic,
     games. incl. 600Mb CD-ROM of PC & Mac animation and software.

"International Directory of Computer Animation Producers", Pixel, 1994.

     800+ separate listings of producers in 44 countries. listings include
     company profiles. also lists animation schools. see Pixel, in
     `Organizations', below, for ordering info.

"The Roncarelli Report on the Computer Animation Industry", Pixel, 1993.

     market status and strategic analysis for the global computer animation
     industry. an annual.

Shaddock, Philip, "3d Modeling Lab", Waite Group, 1994.

     includes disk with v2.0 of Imagine (see `Impulse - Imagine').

Books (Computer Animation)

Leister, W, M\"uller, H, and St\"o\3er, "Fotorealistische Computeranimation",
Springer-Verlag, 1991. ISBN 3-540-53234-X.

     text in German. introductory text for both artists and computer
     scientists. covers: animation , modelling, rendering, video,
     post-production. includes 60-page glossary. [thanks Wolfgang Leister]

Vince, John, "3D Computer Animation", Addison-Wesley, 1992.

     introductory animation theory for programming.

Watt, Alan and Watt, Mark

     "Advanced Animation and Rendering Techniques", Addison-Wesley, 1992. an
     excellent text, covering important implementation theory and details.

Whitney, John, "Digital Harmony".

     ?. storyboarding.

Books (Animation)

Arijon, Daniel, "The Grammar of the Film Language".

     ?. storyboarding.

Culhane, Shamus, "Animation: from script to screen", St. Martin's Press, 1988.

     ex-disney animator describes the whole animation process. including
     production details, setting up a studio, storyboards, character animation,
     and more. culhane manages to fit a lot into relatively small book.

Halas, John, "Visual Scripting".

     ?. storyboarding.

Hoffer, Thomas, "Animation: a reference guide", Greenwood Press, 1993.


Muybridge, Eadweard, "The Human Figure in Motion", Dover Press.

     ISBN 0-486-20204-6

Muybride, Eadweard, "Animals in Motion", Dover Press. ISBN 0-486-20203-8

     muybridge spent years taking sequences of strobe photos of animal and
     human movement. the photos are a great help for anyone trying to make
     something move properly. some more good books for the coffee table

Russet, Robert, and Starr, Cecile, "Experimental Animation".

     ?. storyboarding.

Thomas, Frank and Johnston, Ollie "Disney Animation: The Illusion of Life",
Abbeville Press, NY, 1981.

     a look at many of the techniques and approaches used by the Disney
     studios. occasionally referred to as `The Animation Bible' (due to its
     size and the value of its contents). the Disney `rules of animation' and
     many other useful rules-of-thumb are included. lots of pretty piccies make
     it good for your coffee table, too!
     NOTE: A reprint this book is currently available, ISBN 0-786860-70-7

?, "The Cinema as a Graphic Art".

     ?. storyboarding.

Foley, Don and Melora "So you want to be an Animator" and "Animation and 3D
Modeling on the Mac".

     Macintosh-oriented. Excerpts can be found at:


"Cinefex", Cinefex.

     *The* special-effects industry magazine, with reviews of how the SFX in
     major films were done. Increasingly, this means computer animation.

"Computer Artist". "Computer Graphics", ACM/SIGGRAPH.

     SIGGRAPH's journal. Proc. SIGGRAPH is published in one issue. some special
     issues are also of note.

"Computer Graphics Forum", Eurographics (EG).

     Eurographics' journal. Proc. Eurographics is published in one issue.
     rarely contains anything of note for animation.

"Computer Graphics World", CGW.

     a graphics industry magazine. product reviews, industry news. Web page at

"The Journal of Visualization and Computer Animation", ?.

"Pixel -- the computer animation newsletter", Pixel.

     `inside' news on the computer animation industry.

Proc. "Computer Animation", Springer-Verlag / CGS.

     proceedings of CGS's computer animation conference

Proc. "Computer Graphics International", Springer-Verlag / CGS.

     proceedings of the second-largest graphics conference

Proc. "Eurographics", see "Computer Graphics Forum".
Proc. "Eurographics Workshop on Animation and Simulation", Eurographics.
Proc. "Graphics Interface".

     proceedings of an important graphics conference.

Proc. "SIGGRAPH", Addison-Wesley / ACM Press / ACM/SIGGRAPH,

     see "Computer Graphics". proceedings of the largest graphics conference

"3D Artist", Columbine, Inc.

     desktop 3d graphics for and by independent artists: tips and tricks, 3d
     news, reviews, classifieds. Web page at URL:

"The Visual Computer", Computer Graphics Society (CGS).

     a good graphics journal. Web page at URL:

An extensive list of computer graphics journals, including ordering and other
information is available from Ville Walveranta (


ACM/SIGGRAPH -- The ACM Special Interest Group on Graphics.

     Home page at URL:

Computer Graphics Society.


Pixel -- the computer animation news people, inc.

     109 Vanderhoof Ave, Suite 2, Toronto, ON, Canada M4G 2H7. (416) 424-4657.
     (Fax) 424-1812. PO Box 1674 5325 Sheridan Drive, Williamsville, NY, USA


Lasseter, John, "Principles of Traditional Animation Applied to 3D Computer

     Computer Graphics, July 1987, Proc. SIGGRAPH '87. Lasseter relates the
     disney principles of animation (see Thomas and Johnston, above) to
     computer animation, and introduces `hierarchical' animation while he's at

Course notes from "Animation Tricks" (course offered at SIGGRAPH '94).

     Lecturers were Chris Wedge, John Lasseter, Jim Blinn, and Ken Perlin.

Shoemake, Ken, "Animating Rotation with Quaternion Curves"

     Computer Graphics, July 1985, Proc. SIGGRAPH '85. an early quaternion
     paper. there are probably better ones, anyone?


                              ANIMATION SOFTWARE

GWEB (URL: and 3DSite (URL: both have information on animation software.
SGI's WWW site (URL: has pointers to applications that run
on their machines.

The following fields in the product listings have been excised in the posted
version for the sake of brevity: Platform, Company, Cost, Notes. A separate
post follows with the full software listings.

3-d Package Reviews

Reviews of the following six high-end UNIX animation packages are now available
by ftp from avalon:
Originally published in Computer Graphics World Oct-Nov 1993, internet
distribution thanks to Chris Williams Jan '94.

   * Alias Animator (see `Alias - Animator')
   * ElectroGIG 3DGO (see `ElectroGIG - 3DGO')
   * Softimage Creative Environment (see `Softimage - Creative Environment')
   * TDI Explore (see `TDI - Explore')
   * Vertigo Revolution (see `Vertigo - Revolution')
   * Wavefront Advanced Visualiser (see `Wavefront - Advanced Visualiser')

[note that the reviews are quitee a bit dated... for more current information
on each one of these packages, contact the developers and/or ask on the net]

3-D Packages

This listing is probably incomplete, due to the fact that new packages are
coming out almost every day it seems. Any additions or extra information on
currently listed packages will be appreciated.

This is an abridged version of the "Animation Software" chapter. Hopefully by
next month I'll have it updated with all the current information I have
available and split it off into a separate FAQ. If you have any relevant
information on any package listed (or not!) here, now's a good time to let me

Only the resources available for each package is listed in here. As such, I've
removed the "Resources" header, so on packages that have none only the name
will appear.

3D Choreographer

     Home page at URL:

3D/EYE *TriSpectives*

     Home page at URL:

     AERO web page.
     Available by FTP at URL:
Alias|Wavefront *PowerAnimator*

     The Alias|Wavefront Web site: URL:
     An independent Alias WWW site: (in German?)
     and associated ftp site
     The Alias FAQs at:
     The `' newsgroup.
     For a review, see `3-d Package Reviews'.
     To subscribe to the mailing list:
     `mailto://"subscribe alias-l Your_Name"'.

Alias|Wavefront *Advanced Visualiser*

     For a review, see `3-d Package Reviews'.
     The `' newsgroup.
     To subscribe to the mailing list:
     `mail://"subscribe wavefr-l <yournamehere>"'.
     There is a 2-way gateway between the mailing list and the
     A WWW site at URL:

Alias|Wavefront *Explore*

ex TDI *Explore* (see `TDI - Explore')

     For a review of TDI Explore see `3-d Package Reviews'.
     The `' newsgroup, which is predominantly
     concerned with the Advanced Visualiser.

Autodesk *3D Studio*

     To subscribe to the mailing list:
     `mailto://"subscribe 3dstudio-L <your-full-email-address> (Your Real Name)"'.
     `' newsgroup
     There's an occasional FAQ:
     `post://"3DS FAQ"'.
     You can find objects here:
     And utilities (IPAS plug-ins, etc) here:

Caligari *TrueSpace*

   ex Octree *Caligari* on the Amiga

     A home page under construction is at:
     There's a Compuserve forum.
     The mailing list: send SUBSCRIBE to `'
     Caligari is `<>'.
     Mike Morrison's `Becoming a Computer Animator' (see `Books
     (Industry)') includes a CD-ROM with the v2.0 demo version on it.
     There's a demo version and some other stuff available by FTP here:

ComputerEasy *3-D Design Plus*

Digital Creations *DCTV*

     To subscribe to the mailing list:


     Get the modeller (SGI binary only) and some models from
     Some animations using the modeller are here

EAI *Vislab*

     WWW page at URL: (**DOWN**) (still under construction?)


     WWW page at URL:

ElectroGIG *3DGO*

     For a review, see `3-d Package Reviews'.
     ElectroGIG's WWW page at URL:

Hash *Animation Master*

ex Playmation, ex Animation Journeyman (Playmation still sells)

     For direct help/information email `'.
     To subscribe to the mailing list:
     `mail://"subscribe animaster-l"'.
     A WWW URL:
     A more current Web page: URL:
     FTP some information
     Or simply FTP around at URL:
     There's also stuff here

Impulse *Imagine*

     To subscribe to the mailing list, send a message to:


     ...with the following body:

                SUBSCRIBE IMAGINE [First Name] [Last Name]
                                  (Do not include Brackets)

     Philip Shaddock's `3D Modeling Lab' (see `Books (Computer
     Animation)') includes a copy of v2.0 on disk.

     A demo of the current (4.0) version of Imagine is available for
     downloading from the Web site:

NatPix *Blizzard*

     A WWW site URL:
     Get the demo version by FTP

NewTeK *Lightwave 3D*

     A WWW site URL:
     An FTP site at URL:
     To subscribe to the mailing list:
     `mail://"subscribe lightwave-l <your-email-address> (<your-real-name>)"'.


     Get a Macintosh binary over the WWW

Radiance *Movieola*

RealSoft *Real 3D*

     Home page at:
     There is a demo and other goodies at

Renderize *Live / Visual Reality*

     PC Win (Visual Reality), UNIX (Renderize)
     Visual Software Inc
     21731 Ventura Blvd., Ste. 310
     Woodland Hills, CA 91364

     about $259 US for the PC version

     Compuserve GO VISSOFT

Side Effects *PRISMS*

SoftF/X for Windows

     Web page at URL:

Softimage *Creative Environment*

     For a review, see `3-d Package Reviews'.
     There are a number of softimage-related mailing lists at
     `'.  These are the lists: `2d, 3d, discussion,
     eddie, mental, particles, pfx'.  To subscribe, mail to the listname
     with `-request' added to it, with the subject `subscribe'.  For
     example, to subscribe to the `3d' list, use:
     There's also a Web site

Specular *Infini-D*

Strata *StudioPro*

Symbolics *S-Products*

S-Dynamics, S-Geometry, S-Render, S-Paint, S-Record, S-Colorize, ...

TripleI *ARKAttack*


Vertigo *Revolution*

     For a review, see `3-d Package Reviews'.

Vision Images *Revelation 3d*

Wavefront  (see Alias|Wavefront)

2-d Packages

   2-d packages included here are for 2-d animation, and multimedia and
video presentation and editing.

NOTE: There is reportedly a review/comparison of several 2-D packages
in the July 1995 issue of NewMedia magazine. Here's a short list forwarded
to me by (thanks!):

3D Choreographer - $149 - (919)967-2890
Animation Paintbox - $199 - (310)981-2771
Animator Pro - $595 - (800)879-4233
Animation Works - $495 - (408)982-0200
Animator Studio - $795 - (800)879-4233
AXA Animation Series - $4,280 - (714)757-1500

Autodesk *Animator Pro*

aka Animator Studio (?)


CAS *Animo*

     Contact CAS as `'.

Deluxe Paint

Disney *Animation Studio*


Gold Disk *Animation Works*

Hanna-Barbera *Animation Workshop*


Macromedia *Action!*

MetroLight *Annie*

MotionWorks *ProMotion*

Vision Images *Animator Broadcast*

Softimage *Toons*

Morph Packages


     Find it by FTP as this

Elastic Reality *Morph Plus*


     Order full version from Scott Pultz (
     Available by FTP from:


     Available by FTP from:


     Available by FTP in `' and also on
     `' and `'.


     Available from the X11R6 contrib applications directory.

Renderer Front & Back Ends

   `3DPATH.ZIP'.  Define several control points and the number of
frames between the points, and it would generate an animation based on
that info by changing the camera position.

   SIPP rendering library -> PPM frames.  [`ppm' toolkit] -> `GIF or
something'.  [`fbmtofli'] -> FLI animation.  Find them all with

   link GIF, TGA, PCX images together to make a FLI or FLC anim: Dave's
Targa Animator (DTA), available from:
and on other sites (find one near you with `archie').


                               THE ABOUT BOX...

This chapter is mostly about the FAQ itself.

Creating this FAQ

The FAQ is written and maintained in HTML as the source format. I use Netscape
for previewing it and to generate the ASCII and PostScript versions.

To Do

If you take use FAQ as a resource list, it will help answer a lot of those
Frequently Asked Questions. However, there are a few which I see pop up from
time to time which haven't made it to the FAQ yet. I hope to add them (with
answers!) under the Miscellaneous Questions section. Some I could use help

   * more info on flocking and behavioral animation
   * info on onionskinning

And these are a few things internal to the FAQ which I hope to do soon:

   * finish updating the full "Animation Software" chapter and post it as a
     separate FAQ.
   * add Subject: lines to allow "rn" navigating thru ^G
   * Add renderers to the Software chapter (Pixar's prman, BMRT, POV, etc)

Resource Specifications


A URL is a Uniform Resource Locator. URLs are an artifact of the World Wide Web
(WWW)... for more information on URLs and the Web, check out the WWW FAQ at

Hopefully in the HTML version of the FAQ, all the real URL's will be marked up
as such, while pseudo-URLs (see below) and other bogus ones will not (and
should appear as plain text). In the ASCII/PS versions, look for real URL's as:


...and fake, incomplete, or pseudo-URL's as:


If you find a reference in this document that is incorrect or simply
unreachable, please let me know!


   References to anonymously FTP-able files look like the following.
           ^ftp-site              ^path            ^document

`/pub' at the root of the path is often assumed. Some FTP references given in
this document are incomplete, indicating a directory to browse in or whose
whole contents are relevant, or some degree of uncertainty (these have a
trailing slash ('/'), ellipsis ('...'), or Unix-style wildcards) Many FTP-able
files are mirrored on other sites to reduce bandwidth; use `archie' to find a
copy near you.

Mailing List pseudo-URLs

References to mailing lists are pseudo-URLs, and look like the following:

     mail://"subscribe animaster-l"
            ^who to mail to       ^what to put in the message body

Note that the second (subject) field is often blank (as it is in this example),
as is the third (message body) field.


The really -BIG- thanks, of course, goes to Angus Montgomery
( He's the one who made the FAQ happen, and
it's his work I continue to build on.

Other thanks go to:

     Sean Brandenburg     Ken Baer             Matt Carpenter
     Mark Crawford        Kim Davidson         Marc Edgar
     Luigi Filippin       Andy Gough           Eric Haines
     Paul Hertz           Jih-Shin Ho          Dudley Hunkins
     Colin Jensen         Charles King         Ole Villumsen
     Jean-Marc Krattli    Alan Larson          Nadine Leenders
     Wolfgang Leister     Jeff Massie          Colin Millerchip
     Akira Mito           Mike Morrison        Jimmy Ning
     Mark Podlipec        Scott H. Pultz       Frank Roussel
     Wolfram Schwenzer    Steve Siegel         Harry Sokol
     Erik Timmerman       James Tizard         Chris Trimble
     Chris Williams       Rob Zimmelman        Craig Good
     Daniele Colajacomo   Hal Hickel

...and countless others who contribute daily to the "signal" portion of

  _____ _  _
 | ___/< \/ >  F.X. DeJesus  /SAIC/ -
 | __|  >  <  ---------------  ---------------
 |_|   <_/\_>    "Like the man says, there are no problems, only solutions!"

User Contributions:

Comment about this article, ask questions, or add new information about this topic:


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