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What is animation?

Animation is the process by which we see still pictures move. Each picture is shot on film one at a time and is shown at the rate of 24 pictures per second making the pictures appear to move.  Some problem solving in numeracy will help children grasp this.

If 24 pictures (frames) are shown per second in an animated film, how many frames would be shown in one minute (60 seconds).  If a film lasts for approximately 90 minutes (an hour and a half), how many frames would be shown in the film altogether? Estimate the answers first, then work them out on a calculator.

The reason our eyes are tricked into seeing movement can be explained by the 'Persistence of Vision' theory.  Our brain holds onto an image for a fraction of a second after the image has passed. If the eye sees a series of still images very quickly one picture after another, then the images will appear to move because our eyes cannot cope with fast-moving images - our eyes have been tricked into thinking they have seen movement.

Get your pupils to test this by waving your hand in front of their eyes very fast. You will seem to see several hands at once. This is called 'The Moving Hand Theory'.  Try doing this in front of a television screen when it is switched on. You will see even more images of your hand because the television is actually flickering. By waving your hand in front of it you make your eyes very confused about what they are actually seeing.

In animation, you get moving images when the pictures change in some way. Here are some ways in which pictures can change:

  • Change in size – things can get bigger (grow) or get smaller (shrink). Try drawing a balloon. Now draw it again but a little bit bigger. Now draw it getting even bigger. Draw it so that it is so big that it bursts!
  • Change in position – imagine the spokes on a bike-wheel moving around as the wheel runs full circle. Draw the wheel five times - each time showing how the spokes on the wheel have moved.
  • Change in angle – draw the hands of a clock as time is passing. Each time the hands should show a different angle.
  • Change in speed – draw a car parked. Now draw the same car speeding down a road. How could you show the element of speed?
  • Change in colour – draw six circles and colour them in, each time showing how the colours are getting darker.
  • Change of shape – draw a face that is sad. Now draw three other faces changing the eyes and mouth to make, in four stages, a happy face.