The Animators Dictionary

The Animators Dictionary.

Animation Production Words & Meanings

12 Principles of Animation
A set of principles of animation introduced by the Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas in their book The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation.

2D Animation
This is a traditional animation method that has existed since the late 1800s. It's one drawing followed by another in a slightly different pose, followed by another in a slightly different pose, on and on for 24 frames a second.

24 FPS (Frames Per Second)
The standard frame rate for films and some TV productions. Each frame is a still image; when shown in quick succession, the frames create the illusion of motion.

360-Degree Video
This is a video that is recorded in all directions at the same time with multiple cameras. The viewer has control of the viewing direction, creating a form of virtual reality.

3D Animation
Animation that gives the illusion of depth, providing a more realistic and immersive viewing experience.

4D Animation
This refers to a real or virtual construction of an animation that includes changes in the structure or appearance over time, which can be replayed with a time slider or experienced in real time.

Alpha Channel
In graphics, an aspect of each pixel that can change its color to create a transparent effect.

A sequence of images, often with some modifications for the storyboard, combined with the soundtrack to test the sound and picture before going into full production.

A traditional animation method that involves creating motion in a two-dimensional space. This includes characters, creatures, FX and backgrounds.

Animation Rigging
The process of creating a skeletal structure that can be used to animate a 3D model.

A style of animation originating from Japan, characterized by colorful artwork, fantastical themes, and vibrant characters.

A technique used in animation to prepare the viewer for an action, and to make the action appear more realistic.

Aspect Ratio
The ratio of the width to the height of an image or a screen.

Lighting that comes from behind the subject, often in order to create a silhouette effect.

A type of digital image that uses pixels, represented by bits of data, to create an image.

The process of determining the positioning and movement of characters and props within a scene.

Bouncing Ball
A basic exercise in animation, used to study timing and the effect of gravity on motion.

These are in-between frames that define how one keyframe transitions to the next.

Supplementary footage that is intercut with the main shot in a video or film.

Short for celluloid, this is a transparent sheet on which objects are drawn or painted for traditional hand-drawn animation.

Cel Animation
A traditional form of animation using transparent layers (cels) to layer characters and objects over backgrounds.

Cel Shading
A type of non-photorealistic rendering designed to make 3-D computer graphics appear to be flat by using less shading color instead of a shade gradient or tints and shades.

Character Animation
The art of creating an animated character that moves and behaves in a realistic manner.

Character Design
The process of creating a character for a film or animated series, including their physical features, clothing, and accessories.

Character Rigging
The process of creating the bone structure of a 3D model. This bone structure is used for manipulating the 3D model.

CGI (Computer Generated Imagery)
The use of computers for creating moving images in art, printed media, video games, films, television programs, commercials, and simulators.

A type of stop-motion animation that uses figures made of clay or a similar malleable material.

The process of refining the animation frames by removing the rough drawings and creating the final, clean drawings.

The process of combining different parts of animated scenes, including characters and backgrounds, into a single image.

Computer Animation
A digital successor to the stop motion techniques using 3D models, and traditional animation techniques using frame-by-frame animation of 2D illustrations.

Computer Generated Imagery (CGI)
The application of 3D computer graphics to special effects in films, television programs, commercials, simulators and simulation generally, and printed media.

Concept Art
Artwork that is created to give a visual representation of an idea before it is turned into a final product. It is used to suggest the look and feel of the final product.

Maintaining consistent action and self-consistency in the visual, storyline and dialogue details of a film.

These are sequences of animation that can be repeated as long as necessary. Examples include walk cycles or a bouncing ball.

Transition from one scene to another.

Depth of Field
The distance between the nearest and the furthest objects in a scene that appear acceptably sharp in an image.

A type of film transition where one image slowly dissolves into another. It can create a connection between images.

A piece of equipment that the camera is placed on to allow it to move smoothly throughout a scene.

Dolly Zoom
A technique in which the camera moves closer or further from the subject while simultaneously adjusting the zoom angle to keep the subject the same size in the frame.

Dope Sheet
A chart that an animator creates to synchronize animation and sound.

The post-production process of recording and replacing voices on a motion picture or television soundtrack subsequent to the original shooting.

Ease In/Out
A principle of animation involving the gradual acceleration or deceleration of an object.

In animation, it's the technique for slowing down or speeding up an animated camera or object.

Establishing Shot
A shot, usually from a distance, that shows a full view of the scene. It’s often used at the beginning of a scene to set the context.

A principle of animation that gives characters and actions more extreme and dramatic appearances for heightened comedic or dramatic effect.

Exposure Sheet (X-sheet)
A document that allows an animator to organize their thoughts and coordinate the timing of the animation.

In 3D computer graphics, a means of creating procedural animation and effects. Expressions can be used to create complex motion and effects without the need for extensive keyframing.

Fill Light
In video, film, and photography, fill light (often simply fill) is a light source used to control contrast in the shadows of a scene, reducing shadow density.

Flash Animation
Animation that is created using Adobe Flash or similar animation software.

Follow Through
In animation, follow through means the termination part of an action and the beginning of the reaction. It demonstrates inertia and the principle that separate parts of a body will continue moving at different speeds and different times.

Frame Rate
The speed at which image frames are displayed, typically measured in 'frames per second' (FPS).

Frame-by-Frame Animation
A method of animation in which every frame is created individually, either by hand or on a computer.

FPS (Frames Per Second)
The number of individual frames that display on the screen each second. Standard motion picture film is typically 24 FPS.

FX Animation
Short for "effects animation", it refers to the creation of natural phenomena such as rain, snow, fire, water, and smoke in animation.

A technique used in 2D animation to see multiple frames at once. This can be very helpful for getting a sense of motion when animating.

Hair Dynamics
A field of computer graphics that focuses on the realistic animation of hair and fur on animated characters.

High Key Lighting
A style of lighting that is bright, even, and produces little shadow. Used mostly in comedies, musicals, and light entertainment shows.

Hot Set
A set where a scene is being shot, or will be shot shortly. When a set is designated as "hot", it's off-limits to all crew members.

IK Solver
Inverse Kinematics solver. A feature of 3D software used in character rigging, making the character move more realistically with fewer controls for the animator.

The process of generating intermediate frames between two images, called keyframes, to give the appearance that the first image evolves smoothly into the second image.

Inverse Kinematics
A method of animating that reverses the direction of the chain manipulation of the figure from the parent hierarchy of linked segments, or bones.

This is where the sound of the next scene precedes the picture, and the viewer hears audio from the next scene before seeing it.

Jump Cut
A cut in film editing in which two sequential shots of the same subject are taken from camera positions that vary only slightly. This type of edit gives the effect of jumping forwards in time.

Key Frames
In animation, key frames are the frames that define the starting and ending points of any smooth transition.

Key Light
The first and usually most important light that a photographer, cinematographer, lighting cameraman, or other scene composer will use in a lighting setup.

A drawing or shot that defines the starting and ending points of any smooth transition in animation.

A process in animation where separate actions are broken down and worked on one at a time.

Lip Sync
The process of synchronizing a character's mouth movements with the soundtrack.

A type of animation that repeats indefinitely.

Low Key Lighting
A style of lighting that is dark and shadowy, creating stark contrasts between the brightest and darkest parts of an image. This style is often used in serious dramas and horror films.

Match Cut
A cut in film editing between either two different objects, two different spaces, or two different compositions in which objects in the two shots graphically match, often helping to establish a strong continuity of action.

Matte Painting
A painted representation of a landscape, set, or distant location that allows filmmakers to create the illusion of an environment.

A collection of vertices, edges, and faces that defines the shape of a polyhedral object in 3D computer graphics and solid modeling.

Motion Blur
The apparent streaking of rapidly moving objects in a still image or a sequence of images such as a movie or animation.

Motion Capture
A process that records the movement of objects or people to digitalize it for animations in movies, games, virtual reality and so on.

Motion Graphics
A digital technique that combines pictures, words, sound and video. Examples are television promos, end credits, web-based animations, and free-standing short films.

A seamless transformation from one image into another.

Noise Texture
A type of procedural texture used to increase the apparent complexity of a 3D model's surface by perturbing the surface normal and adding detail such as color variation, roughness, or other surface detail.

Non-Linear Editing (NLE)
Digital editing of film or video footage. It is called non-linear editing because it allows access to any frame in a digital video clip regardless of sequence in the clip.

An animation error that occurs when a character's design deviates noticeably from the original design model sheets.

Onion Skinning
A technique in creating animated cartoons and editing movies to see several frames at once. This way, the animator or editor can make decisions on how to create or change an image based on the previous image in the sequence.

The process of speeding the frame rate of a film camera, which when played at the normal frame rate will display slow motion.

Overhead Shot
A shot that is taken from directly above the scene.

Overlapping Action
A principle of animation that occurs when the movement of one part of an object or character does not come to a complete stop before the next part begins its movement.

A camera movement that scans a scene horizontally.

Parallax Scrolling
A technique in computer graphics and web design, where background images move slower than foreground images, creating an illusion of depth.

Persistence of Vision
A phenomenon of the eye by which an afterimage is thought to persist for approximately one twenty-fifth of a second on the retina.

Pixel Art
A form of digital art, created through the use of software, where images are edited on the pixel level.

The stage after filming or shooting, where editing of the visual and audio materials is done.

This stage involves all the processes and preparations before the actual filming begins. These processes include production design, casting, costume design, scripting, storyboard creation, etc.

Pre-visualisation (Previs)
A function to visualize complex scenes in a movie before filming.

Primary Action
The main action of an animation sequence.

Rack Focus
A filmmaking technique of changing the focus of the lens during a continuous shot. When a lens is racked, it shifts the plane of focus from one object to another.

The process of generating an image from a 2D or 3D model (or models in what collectively could be called a scene file) by means of computer programs.

The process of creating a skeleton for a 3D model so it can move.

A technique where animators trace over motion picture footage, frame by frame, to produce realistic action.

Rushes or Dailies
The first positive prints made by the laboratory from the negative photographed on the previous day. It's called "dailies" in the American film production system and "rushes" in the British system.

A transformation that adjusts the size of an object. In animation, this is often done to make objects grow or shrink.

A complete unit of film narration. A series of shots (or a single shot) that takes place in a single location and that deals with a single action.

The written text of a film or broadcast. It provides the dialogue, depicts the action, and gives instructions for sound, music, and camera shots.

Secondary Action
The smaller or less significant movements that a character makes, such as fidgeting or scratching an itch. Secondary actions help to make the character seem alive.

A single piece of film uninterrupted by cuts

An image of a person, animal, object, or scene represented as a solid shape of a single color, usually black, with its edges matching the outline of the subject.

Slow In and Slow Out
The principle in animation that lessens the number of frames used at the beginning and end of a sequence, creating the effect of acceleration and deceleration.

Squash and Stretch
An animation technique used to give flexibility and weight to drawn objects.

Stop Motion
A cinematographic technique that physically manipulates an object so that it appears to move on its own. The object is moved in small increments between individually photographed frames, creating the illusion of movement when the series of frames is played as a sequence.

Straight Ahead and Pose to Pose Animation
Two different approaches to animation. Straight Ahead Animation starts at the first frame and works frame by frame to the end of a scene. Pose to Pose Animation, on the other hand, begins with keyframes, and then the in-between frames are created.

Texture Mapping
A graphic design process in which a two-dimensional (2D) surface, called a texture map, is "wrapped around" a three-dimensional (3D) object.

Texture Mapping
A method for defining high frequency detail, surface texture, or color information on a computer-generated graphic or 3D model.

A technique whereby the frequency at which film frames are captured (the frame rate) is much lower than that used to view the sequence.

In animation, timing is an aspect that directly influences the mood, emotion, and interpretation of the character's performance by controlling the speed and rhythm of its movement.

The part of the animation software that represents the animation's progress over time.

Tracking Shot
A shot in which the camera moves parallel to its line of motion. This is often used to follow a character or to explore a space.

The moving of the film camera — on a dolly, hand-held, in a car, or on a crane — parallel to the movement of the action.

Traditional Animation (Cel Animation or Hand-Drawn Animation)
An animation technique in which each frame is drawn by hand. The technique was the dominant form of animation in cinema until the advent of computer animation.

Tween Frames
These are the frames that exist in-between keyframes. They create the illusion of motion in animation.

Short for "in-between". The frames that are drawn or created by the computer between keyframes.

In animation, the process of generating intermediate frames between two images to give the appearance that the first image evolves smoothly into the second image.

VFX (Visual Effects)
Processes by which imagery is created or manipulated outside the context of a live-action shot in filmmaking.

This term refers to a small, pleasing picture or view, but in animation and film, it often refers to a visual effect that lightens or darkens the corners and edges of an image, typically to draw focus to the center.

In the context of 3D graphics, a vertex is a data structure that describes certain attributes, like the position of a point in 2D or 3D space or multiple points on a surface.

A piece of narration in a movie or broadcast, not accompanied by an image of the speaker.

Voice Over
A production technique where a voice is used in radio, television production, filmmaking, theatre, or other presentations that is not part of the narrative.

Volume Lighting
This is a type of lighting that gives the effect of rays of light, such as sunlight through clouds. It's often used in 3D animation.

Walk Cycle
A series of frames or illustrations drawn in sequence that loop to create an animation of a walking character.

Wide Shot (WS)
A shot that shows a large portion of a scene, often used to show where the action is taking place.

A visual presentation of a three-dimensional (3D) or physical object used in 3D computer graphics. It is created by specifying each edge of the physical object where two mathematically continuous smooth surfaces meet, or by connecting an object's constituent vertices using straight lines or curves.

A type of film transition where one shot replaces another by travelling from one side of the frame to another or with a special shape.

X, Y, Z Axis
These represent the three dimensions in 3D space: horizontal (X), vertical (Y), and depth (Z).

X-Sheet (Exposure Sheet)
A tool used in traditional animation which allows the animator to organize their drawings, coordinate the timing, plan the animation, and much more.

Yaw, Pitch, Roll
These are the three rotational degrees of freedom: side-to-side (Yaw), up-and-down (Pitch), and tilting motion (Roll).

In 3D modeling, Z-depth is a channel that provides information about an object's placement in regard to the depth of the scene.

In film, a change of the viewing angle for a shot, effectively moving the viewer closer to or further from the object.

Zoom Lens
A lens that allows the focal length to be changed without moving the camera.

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