The world of entertainment has changed drastically in the last 100 years to so. Things that humanity never thought would be possible became reality with the advancement in technology. And animation has been a huge part of the process. 2D animation to be precise.
We’ve all experienced 2D animation and we still do it daily. Sometimes we’re aware of it and other times, we’re not. But what is the entire process like? What are the styles? What software are used?
In this post today, we’re going to try and answer all of your questions regarding 2D animation.
What is 2D Animation?
The ‘D’ in the name stands for dimensional. So, 2D animation means animated movements that take place in 2 planes. The X-axis and the Y-axis to be precise. You can’t touch the characters/objects on a 2D plane or hold them because they don’t have any depth.
2D animation is one of the building blocks of the CGI/VFX industry today. Everything that you see on the screen has a base layer of 2D animation incorporated.
It is believed the 2D animation became the traditional animation style way back in the 1800s! The primary process was pulling different frames one after the other, with slight changes in their forms. For 1 second of animated footage, the standard number of frames was 24.
All of the classic animated movies you can think of, i.e. Bambi, Dubmo, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, etc. are some prime examples of 2D animation.
Over time, technology has come a long time. The entire animation process has been shifted into the digital world. Multiple 2D animation software are in circulation around the world among the animation artist! It has fast-tracked the process dramatically without any compromise in quality.
How Does 2D Animation Work?
The process of animation starts with developing the story. It might be a written script or oral acclamation of the story. The artists then transfer the script or the story onto a storyboard. If you’re familiar with how old-school comic books look, you can think of storyboards as comic book pages.
It’s a shot-by-shot representation of how the final animation will look. The storyboard is then approved by the director or the project supervisor before illustration artists can move on to the next step.
Another interesting fact is that the voice-over or the soundtrack for the animation clip is developed before the principal animation begins. Because it’s always easier to animate a scene based on the soundtrack/VO than to sync it later.
Up until this point, the process for 2D animation and 3D animation is the same.
For 2D animation, the artists then dive into developing the scenes, frame by frame. The entire thing takes place in two dimensions. It means the artists can only manipulate the height and the width of the characters and the objects on paper/screen.
There are various 2D animation software that aid the artists in streamlining the process. However, it’s still one of the most time-consuming approaches toward mainstream animation.
As of now, there are hundreds of different animation styles that make the 2D animation space so dynamic and versatile. Let’s explore a few of them.
Most Popular Styles of 2D Animation
As we’re dealing with creative properties here, it’s only normal that every artist and every narrative are different. It has given birth to different styles over the years. Traditional animation, paperless animation, cut-outs, etc. are some of them.
This one is as basic as it gets. When someone refers to 2D animation in general, they are referring to traditional animation. It’s also known as cel animation, classical animation, or hand-drawn animation.
In traditional animation, the artists draw every frame by hand on transparent paper. Each frame is slightly different from the previous one. So, when all of the frames are pulled one after another, it creates the illusion of the characters or objects moving.
This is by far the most time-consuming style of 2D animation. There are movies and TV shows that took decades before they came out. The drawing process, the coloring process, the mistakes, the filming of hundreds of thousands of frames. Every bit of the process adds to the time.
Think of traditional animation. Now, think of doing it on your computer. There you have it. The Paperless Animation. There are dedicated devices and software that allow the artists to create the storyboard and the animations digitally without burning through reels of paper.
This is the go-to style for the majority of the new-age animation artists. It has streamlined their process because you can simply undo your mistakes or try different variations within the same frame without having to draw it completely from scratch every time.
When you’re dealing with a single character or a single object for 2D animation, the cut-out style comes into play. As the name suggests, the character/object of each frame is broken down into pieces and the animator moves the character using predetermined anchor points.
Cut-out 2D animation can be done both classically and digitally. It has allowed modern CGI to work flawlessly if given enough time. The end results are often jaw-droppingly good.
R.O. Blechman: The Man who Redefined 2D Animation
A member of the Art Directors Hall of Fame, R.O. Blechman is an American animator who reorganized the 2D animation space forever. From The New Yorker Magazine to the TV commercial for Alka Seltzer, Belchman’s work has been featured in all major mass media!
The animation style has a distinct vibe to it. No complex lines, no meticulous details. Just pure humane creativity. Pair it up with the voice Blechman gave to his characters, you have the perfect representation of animated comedy.
Some of Blechman’s iconic works would be the Stomachman interview for ‘Alka Seltzer’, the 1953 adaptation of ‘The Juggler of Our Lady’, the 1977 title ‘No Room at the Inn’, and the 1996 CBS broadcast titled ‘Christmas Message’.
Software Used for 2D Animation
As we’ve already said, the animation industry has moved to the digital space. There are a few studios in the world that still does traditional animation. For the rest of the world, it’s neither efficient nor economical to draw frames by hand anymore.
That’s where the computer software comes in. There are hundreds of software that animators use to bring their imagination into reality. You might be surprised with some of the software names because you might have used them for other purposes.
Let’s see what are the best mainstream software for 2D animation as of now!
Flash Animation by Adobe
We’ve all heard of Adobe Flash, right? But many of you may not know that it has 2D animation features. It’s incorporated in the Adobe Animate. The files are distributed mostly in the SWF format. If you hear Adobe Flash Animation somewhere, it’s referring to both the tool and the file type.
Believe it or not, Adobe Flash was a mainstream animation tool back in the early 2000s. Many TV series, online shorts, and commercials were made using the innovative tool from Adobe Inc.
While the majority of the Flash-based animations are based on vector drawings, the tool is capable of integrating bitmaps and videos into the file. Flash is still popular among animators who mostly work on web content. Hence, it’s also known as web cartoons/online cartoons.
After Effects by Adobe
When we think of CGI, the software that most commonly crosses our minds is Adobe After Effects. It has been a loyal friend to the CGI artists and animation artists since the inception of the software. It packs hundreds of tools that make the animating 2D scene a breeze for the creators.
In fact, After Effects lets you create multiple animation groups where you can include graphical elements and effects by stacking them on top of each other. It’s truly a multipurpose tool that CGI professionals, video editors, and motion graphics artists can equally benefit from.
Autodesk is another commonly used tool among 3D modeling artists, engineers, architects, and even animators. The tool that’s dedicated to 2D animation is known as the Autodesk Sketchbook.
Sketchbook is a raster-based drawing app that allows artists to express their creativity in a unique form. It’s mostly targeted toward beginners who don’t want to get into the complexity of animating vector-based drawings. It’s perfect for the storyboard before actual animation takes place.
Harmony by ToonBoom
If you’re looking for the pinnacle of 2D animation software, look no further than Harmony by ToonBoom. ToonBoom has truly redefined how 2D animation works in a digital world.
Harmony is exclusively designed for 2D animation artists. It includes features that can take your creativity to a whole different level without compromising on the efficiency of the process. In fact, it’s the most flexible tool with the highest rated efficiency in the industry!
The Current Trend in 2D Animation
You might think that this is the age of 3D animation. At least, the massive popularity of 3D animated movies by studios like Disney and Pixar indicates that. However, 2D animation has made a huge comeback. If you’ve seen Rick and Morty, a popular TV show, it’s completely 2D.
Also, various social media channels like Snapchat are coming up with 2D animated series to entertain the audience. Basically, 2D animation is a big part of the online content industry now. From advertisements to web series, everything uses 2D animation in one way or other.
With the increasing popularity of the animation style, the demand for animation artists is also increasing. Thanks to the amazing software in circulation, anyone with good storytelling abilities has the opportunity to pursue it as a career choice.
Career opportunities for 2D animation include positions as animators, animation supervisors, illustration artists, graphics designers, game developers, character designers, storyboard artists, and so on.
Also, stop motion is also making its way into the digital workspace. There was a time you could only achieve the stop motion effect by reducing frames manually. But with 2D animation now, you can come up with the same effect without the use of pen and paper!
As for the future of the industry, it’s safe to say that 2D animation has strong grounds. While 3D is the mainstream style of animation and it’ll most likely remain this way, 2D can offer a different perspective on the content that we consume. The huge popularity of the titles like Rick and Morty and Mary Poppins Returns say the same.
Areas Where 2D Animation Can Reign
Here at Janimation Studios, we’ve done plenty of work for our clients that involve classic 2D animation, character design, commercials, corporate advertisement, so on!
Let’s see a few areas where we think 2D animation is still the approach of choice.
How to Explainers
How-to content has been an all-time popular genre of online content. It all started with people searching for how to do something on search engines like Google. As of now, the audience has a limited attention span. So, video content almost always results in better engagement and better conversion rates.
Using the same principle, we have created various how-to content for our clients at Janimation Studios. Pilgrim’s Pride is one of the prime creations where we showcase the concept of motion graphics, puppeteering, and 2D animation!
With every good quality article on the internet, you’re most likely to find an explainer video attached. Visual aid is always going to help your audience to understand you better. That’s why explainer videos have become a massive industry of their own.
The most amazing thing is that the majority of the explainer videos you find on the internet are based on simple animation. A few simple characters and objects can bring an idea to life that written text just cannot.
Brand Reveal: State Fair of Texas is a very good example how an explainer video might look like. Janimation Studios has created it as a template for all its clients.
Animation is something that’ll always be a huge part of digital media. From advertisements to entertainment to education, every area in our life has room for more 2D animated content. And when it comes to raw animation quality, very few studios can come close to Janimation Studios.