On Animatography

Something is generated from the matrices and descriptions of objects and transformations, a virtuality is constructed where nothing is quite real but is understandably a Faustian pact with a virtual space.

This is very different to traditional animation techniques, where the malleability of clay or plasticine, the painting of cells, the manipulation of objects, provides a tangible link with the real, which is 'brought to life' by the animator.

In computer animation there is the simulation of the virtual camera. Because all traditional animation depends upon the use of the film camera, this is the reality the software mimics. In fact, the virtual camera is only one of a selection of projection systems available for use. Many computer games utilize isometric projection, in order to describe a mapped location more effectively.

The software synthesizes the processes of 'film making' with the processes of object descriptions and transformations, with the eventual destination of the animation sequence to the screen or the computer game console. As such, animatography is inextricably linked to the synthetic aspects of culture, and, especially in the case of games, to the spatiality of computing.

The use of a computer creates a virtual machine in which all the aspects of animation production take place. The computer effectively 'brings to life' the animation by calculating and executing the transformations conceptually implemented by the animatographer. The emphasis shifts to the manipulation of timing, in terms of editing mathematically calculated curves, as well as describing the model to be animated, so that the desired animation quality is possible.

The calculation and execution of transformations, or 'inbetweens' is exceeded in animatography by the power of the computer, to interpolate beyond that which the brain is capable of deducing. That this virtual space is generative, can lead to unexpected emergent qualities, which the animatographer can exploit.

All animation is by definition iconic, in that it 'brings into being' something that didn't exist before, and makes something significant of it. Computationally, the use of icons is important, as a way of navigating, as a way of embodying as avatars, or simply entertaining. That the icon can 'live' within computational space, and can cross platforms, media and cultures is significant. But it is also the 'use value' of the icon which is innovative. Icons that appear in networked games or spaces exist to represent the participant as an extension of the self.

Animatography is therefore essentially iconic, although it can address the indexical in terms of descriptions of objects or movement, as in the case of motion capture, and in the overlap with the filmic in terms of special effects.

There are many differences between traditional animation and animating with a computer. One example is the simulation of gravity, which in traditional terms would be 'portrayed' by the animator. This is still possible with a computer, but it is also possible to apply physics. This is an important quality of computer animation, particularly in its use in advertising and special effects. The ability to synthesize knowledge, from different disciplines, is significant, and is fundamentally characterised by the use of proprietary software, developed by a team of programmers and designers.

This collectivity is an important aspect of computing, so that the animatographer isn't working alone, with only a film camera and their kitchen table top. Most expect to work as part of a 'renaissance team' in the computer graphics industry.


Sarah Thompson 18.09.09.