Frame by frame animation (also called classic) is a set of frames stored as separate images and replacing each other at high speed. This is the oldest and most reliable way of storing a moving image on any medium (film, paper, magnetic tape, hard disk, CD, DVD).
Absolutely all films created to this point in time by hardworking humanity are frame-by-frame animation. Indeed, the very principle of a movie camera is based on fixing a plurality of still images on a light-sensitive film, each after a certain period of time. Twenty-four (the standard frame rate of a “big” movie) times per second the movie camera orders: “Stop, moment.” Any film consists of many thousands of such “frozen moments”.
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The camcorder works in the same way. However, in this case, the process of creating a sequence of frames is not so obvious: the information is recorded in electronic form on a magnetic carrier, and you cannot see it with the naked eye. But, believe me, everything here is exactly the same as in the case of a movie camera.
And if you take drawn and puppet animation films, then there frame-by-frame animation exists in its purest form. Each frame of the film is drawn or lined up on stage, after which a single frame is taken by the movie camera. Then the next shot is prepared – and so on, until the entire movie is ready. Hellish work … Of course, now there are many technical innovations that facilitate the work of the animator, including computers, but the principle remains the same.
How did humanity fall in love with frame-by-frame animation? Instead of answering, let’s consider all its advantages.
- Relative evidence of creation. In fact, in order to make an animated film, you just need to draw all the frames included in it and transfer them to some kind of information medium. Well, obviously, but by no means easy
- Ample opportunities for creativity. Well, there’s nothing to talk about
Unfortunately, this is where the benefits of time-lapse animation end. And the disadvantages begin.
- Great labor intensity of making films. If each frame is drawn by hand and no technical means are used to facilitate the work, the process of making a film can take many months, if not years. (Conventional films are created much faster, since they do not need to draw frames – the operator simply captures the real scene.) And the notorious technical means do not speed up this process much.
Big problems with saving time-lapse animation digitally
Here, let’s stop and talk about digitalizing ( digitizing ) films and storing them.
Each of the many frames that make up a movie takes up a certain amount of disk space when stored. Let’s assume that this space is 100 kilobytes, which is not enough to store a high-resolution, full-color image in JPEG format. Now suppose the number of images is 100,000 – such a long film. Multiplying 100 by 100,000, we get 10,000,000, that is, approximately 10 gigabytes (approximately, because a gigabyte is not 1,000,000,000, but 1,073,741,824 bytes). It turns out that we need a whole hard drive or about 2.5 DVD disks to store a movie, and how many ordinary CDs are needed for this, it’s just scary to think!
What to do? Of course, compress the movie harder! And at the same time compress the soundtrack, if any.
Lossy compression is almost always used to compress movies. As we already know, in this case, some part of the information that is not very necessary during playback is discarded, due to which the size of the movie file becomes noticeably smaller. Moreover, algorithms that implement compression of films specifically analyze each frame and store only the data on the differences between adjacent frames in the resulting file. This further reduces the size of the compressed movie.
wow-how.com/frame-by-frame-animation lists the most popular frame-by-frame animation compression algorithms currently in use.
- Intel Indeo. Developed by Intel in the early 90s, at the dawn of the multimedia era. Provides a fairly weak compression, but works without problems on older computers. Now it is used to compress very short, in a few seconds, videos, often used as elements of the interface of Windows programs.
- MPEG I. The very first of this family of algorithms, also developed in the early 90’s by the Motion Picture Encoding Group (MPEG) for VideoCD recordings. Provides an average compression ratio and a fairly high image quality. There is also a version of this algorithm designed for audio compression – MPEG I level 3 (MP3).
- MPEG II. It was developed in the second half of the 90s for recording DVD-Video discs. Provides higher image quality and compression ratio than MPEG I.
- MPEG IV. It was also developed in the second half of the 90s specifically for the distribution of films over the Internet. Provides a higher compression ratio than MPEG II, and also supports various additional features, such as protection against unauthorized copying and the creation of interactive elements.
- It was developed in the very late 90s by a group of independent programmers as a free alternative to the commercialized MPEG IV. It was used to distribute pirated copies of films, but then “embarked on an honest path” and is now rapidly commercializing itself.
- Modern compression algorithms, for example, MPEG IV and DivX, allow you to put a full-size film, compressed in good quality, on a regular CD, that is, the size of the video file compressed with their help is about 700 megabytes. In fact, it was these two algorithms that made the “computer-cinema” revolution, creating high-quality digital cinema “for the people.”
Compressing a movie is done using a special program called an encoder. Such an encoder implements any of the above compression algorithms.
A program playing a compressed video must be able to decompress it. To unpack the movie, a decoder program is used, which also implements one of the compression algorithms. When you open a file with a movie, the video player program determines from the information recorded in its header what algorithm the movie is compressed by and connects the appropriate decoder.
Very often, both the encoder and the decoder are combined into one program called a codec (coder-decoder). The codec is often called the compression algorithm it implements: for example, there are MPEG II and DivX codecs.
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But here another problem arises. Films compressed using the MPEG IV and DivX algorithms can be “mastered” only by powerful enough computers. If you try to watch a DivX movie on a computer released five years ago, you will see not a normal movie, but a kind of slideshow. This happens because a low-power processor, not having time to unpack the data and display it on the screen, is forced to skip whole frames. Fortunately, it never occurs to anyone to run digital cinema on older computers.