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  • How Stop-Frame Animation Works

    Put the XYZ axis through some analogue servo-drives, and you’ll find out what I mean. We can mix these servos with 2D gradients, with each layer having gradients parallel to the other. Each layer is then blended with a single layer in a multilayer arrangement.

    The X-axis is held flat in front of the camera, so we want a coloured, stretched and undistorted vector on the Y axis that can help us measure the resulting interpolation on the XYZ. What about processing this data to make it look natural?

    Imagine a frame of video. With a modern digital camera you can put the XYZ axis through a horizontal strobe light and some software that pushes an average to the output. With a HDV or DV camera, all we can do is send the X-axis through the camera.

    Interpolation: Take a Straight Line For a Trip

    In stop-frame animation, we’ll take a straight line for our initial interpolation to help the designer figure out where the other colours are. A straight line is both visually strong and somewhat linear, so it’s likely to look like a straight line.

    Batch Processing: Play With Your Options

    With two layers of stripes, you can interpolate at different settings without worrying about continuity. Each line has a different colour and colour is shifted at different values in an animation. Each strip is wrapped in a different colour and we can use the same colours, with different colour layers in our buffers to create varied rhythms.

    Animated Strobe Video Demo

    After a few frames of stuttering, you can see an animation where the colour disappears as it moves into one of the other colours. Notice the jittering in the animation; this is an artefact of stop-frame animation processing in an analogue video card.

    We’ve done stop-frame animation for fun, so let’s make it more useful. Think of it this way, stop-frame animation is actually extremely useful in architecture and computer graphics because you can convert between camera angles. So if we only show one angle, we can basically move around through different positions to give a different perception of an object. And for a more practical application, we can run these video sequences through a computer without the stuttering and jitter.

    I’ve linked a video of a company that uses stop-frame animation to make realistic renditions of locations, using its own complex, multi-layer colour stacks. It’s a fun way to use stop-frame animation, to visualize all of the time and resources that go into creating realistic 3D renderings of various sites. The video is a couple years old, but I’ve linked a newer one that also does stop-frame animation, where the space station is converted into a stop-frame animation scene.

    Pretty much every new casino that comes online has gamers taking for granted just how effortlessly the machine handles what are actually pretty sophisticated technicalities that went into all animations interacted with. Perhaps even something like an animation or specifically a gaming animation engine might have been used, but the preceding technology still goes back to its origins as part of the development of stop-frame animation.

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