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Techniques

Animation techniques

Michèle Cournoyer drawing with China ink. Photo: Sophie Quévillon. © NFB

Michèle Cournoyer drawing with China ink. Photo: Sophie Quévillon. © NFB

Paul Morstad using the SANDDE™ system. © NFB

Paul Morstad using the SANDDE™ system. © NFB

Chris Hinton directed many films with traditional drawing. © NFB

Chris Hinton directed many films with traditional drawing. © NFB

Martine Chartrand animates her films with paint on glass. Photo: Sophie Quévillon. © NFB

Martine Chartrand animates her films with paint on glass. Photo: Sophie Quévillon. © NFB

By Marcel Jean
Animation Expert

Even today, film animation is still rather mysterious to most people. It is not uncommon for animators to be asked to explain their techniques to curious viewers, rather the way magicians are pressed to reveal their tricks.

This is partly because there are a wide variety of techniques for recreating movement on film and it can be hard to recognize them all. Some, like cel or puppet animation, are quite common; other techniques, such as etching on film or the Alexeïeff-Parker pinscreen process, are more rarely seen. In a quest for originality and out of a desire to create an aesthetic form that matches their content, animators are constantly innovating. That's why traditional techniques have evolved over the years, been adapted or even combined.

Each technique is described and the landmark NFB films using it are mentioned. Of course, this approach means that some films made using non-standard methods have been left out. For example, in Zea (1981), André and Jean-Jacques Leduc used high-speed macrophotography to shoot popcorn popping. The results are amazing, but this film has neither precursors nor followers. It not part of a trend in animation.

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