What Even is Animation? There Are Many Different Types!
What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you think of animation? You’d probably think of kids’ cartoons like Spongebob Squarepants or Steven Universe right? But did you know that there are many more types of animation than that? In this article, let’s check out the many (often underrated) types of animation there are, as well as their uses!
So, what is Animation?
Animation refers to a method where movement is created through a series of pictures. These still images (including drawings, models, and even puppets) are photographed sequentially and quickly played one after the other. Our brains blend them together into a moving image, creating the illusion of life and movement.
Over the years, this method has evolved and diversified through the aid of more complex technology. Where traditional, 2D cartoons photographed hand-drawn images on transparent celluloid sheets, more modern techniques like computed-generation imagery (CGI) now exclusively use computer software to create movement.
As a visual medium, there are plenty of ways to make use of animation. Its most popular use would be for storytelling through movies or TV shows like cartoons, though this has expanded in more recent years to include advertisements and corporate videos as well. The reason is simple: animation is eye-catching. With every visual element under the control of animators, anything from colours to action sequences can be manipulated, which creates fantastic and even mind-blowing videos that live-action can’t always replicate.
Well, what are the main types of animation?
As one of the oldest types of animation, 2D animation perhaps the blueprint for all the other newer forms evolving over the years. Also known as traditional animation, each frame of the video is meticulously hand drawn on celluloid transparent sheets. This creates 2D characters and scenes for various uses like cartoons, explainer videos, public service announcements, and more. It’s a tedious video production process which has been streamlined over the years with digital software and techniques.
Because of its flexibility, 2D animation is magic for storytelling. Among its many plus points, its ability to use bright, eye-catching colours easily captures the attention of distracted children—which is probably why 2D animation has found its foothold in children’s cartoons!
For a deeper dive into the whole 2D animation pipeline, take a look at the video below where Sandi Smith, Senior Director of Animation Production of Nickelodeon, unpacks it all.
3D animation was a game changer when it was first introduced, and is now one of the most common types in use. Rather than hand-drawn frames, this form of animation relies on digital software to create and manipulate elements. Just like 2D animation though, movements still work frame by frame, albeit a digitalised process. This means that the process is still quite tedious. Though it’s created with the help of more computers and software, it’s still not fully automated – a common misconception!
Ironically, 3D animation is well-known for its potential for immersive realism Its uses go beyond entertainment like movies and gaming. 3D animation has also revolutionised architecture and medicine – 3D models can now help architects detect design flaws before going into construction, and medicine students can see how procedures work before the real deal (which is certainly a relief!). This showreel by Mechanisms in Medicine gives us a peek into 3D animation in medicine education!
Stop motion is no spring chicken when it comes to the world of animation. Dating back to over a century ago, this form of animation manipulates physical objects, rather than drawings or digital elements, to create each frame. Yes, it’s just as time consuming as you think—besides the unique aesthetic it creates, this is what stop motion animation is most known for.
Though it’s no quick process, stop motion animation is great for projects on a budget, since you don’t need fancy equipment – just your character puppets and backgrounds.Interestingly, stop motion animation has also found its niche in horror. Stop motion animation can sometimes accidentally create a creepy atmosphere since puppet manipulation is essentially zombification. This video explores the use of animation in the children’s horror picture Coraline!
Ah, motion graphics. This type of animation hones in on visuals and graphic design first and foremost. It lends itself well to abstraction and scenes of the fantastic. Because of this ability to visually entertain, it’s used more often in advertisements or opening sequences to films…rather than the films themselves. Corporations often make use of motion graphics to show off their progressive technologies or relay information with an air of sleekness. Take a look at –’s 29 Ways To Stay Creative using motion graphics below!
Animated infographics aim to visualise information in a visually palatable way. Many prefer infographics to text-only reports as a medium for learning, since the visual elements are easier for people to understand and digest. Animation takes this a step further, enhancing interpretation for viewers in a more engaging way. This is achieved through imagery, illustrations, charts, graphs, and more. Take a look at Yii’s video, Little Things of Internet, to see how all of these elements work together and bring the animated infographic to fruition!
That’s all, folks – now it’s your turn!
Now that you’re familiar with the many kinds of animation, we’re sure you’re itching to try at least one of them out yourself. Don’t be afraid to contact a Singapore animation studio to try something new for your next project!