A Movie Where Images Are Drawn Is An Animated Movie Cel-Shaded Animation in a Nutshell

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Cel-Shaded Animation in a Nutshell

Hand drawing will always be considered the start of the animation. This is why even with the advanced technologies now in the art of moving things from static images, computer graphics can still go back to looking like hand-drawn animation. A key animation style to get that look is cel shadow animation.

With the name of the animation style itself, it’s clear how it’s rooted in hand drawing. Cels are the clear acetate sheets on which the classic 2D animation style of Disney films of the past are drawn. In short, mobile shader animation aims to make computer graphics look like they were drawn by hand. This is accomplished through non-photorealistic lighting.

The results may seem simple, but the actual process is quite complex. Starting with a 3D model, mobile shader animation goes on to create discrete shades which would give a flat look typical of 2D animation. Similar to comic books, emphasis can be placed on drawings that highlight black ink outlines and contour lines.

Mobile shadow animation is, surprisingly, most associated with video games. Whenever a new game is about to be released, many gamers and game lovers often ask about the quality of the cel-shade. To summarize, the first successful application of cel-shaded animation in video games is with the Sega Dreamcast game Jet Set Radio. Not to be outdone, Sony PlayStation released the Fear Effect. Good times for sure.

However, the first criticisms then involved the quality of the character presentation. Although dramatic textures were achieved with these early games, it lacked source and dynamic light outlines.

Even with the technological limits of the first batch of cel-animated video games, a small trend began to form among game developers. Shadow Cell games started popping up like mushrooms: Sly Cooper, Thievius Raccoonus, Dark Chronicle, Cel Damage, Klonoa 2: Lunatea’s Veil, Viewtiful Joe and of course Jet Set Radio Future. What stood out among the pack, at least commercially, were The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Tales of Symphonia, and Sly 2: Band of Thieves.

A game that tried to capitalize on the popularity of mobile shadow animation unfortunately backfired. House of the Dead III, designed for the Microsoft Xbox, began production with shaded graphics – yes, an anime-like look for a zombie-based shooter. So with disaster brewing for this difficult recipe, SEGA decided to ditch the shadowy look and go for conventional animation styles. Perhaps the negative response was too overwhelming to ignore.

Although mobile shader animation hasn’t taken the video game industry by storm, it’s still an effective motif to use when implemented correctly. Dragon Quest VIII, Rogue Galaxy, Killer 7, No More Heroes, Metal Gear Acid 2, Okami, and the latest incarnation of Prince of Persia all have 3D animations that look like anime or hand-drawn. Furthermore, when handhelds weren’t as powerful as they are today, most games were in cel-shaded animation. Examples would be the Tony Hawk series and The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass on the Nintendo DS.

Mobile shadow animation can be somewhat compared to abstract painting. It doesn’t have to represent reality exactly, but when used skillfully and adequately, it can create stunning treatments for multimedia entertainment, such as video games and even animated movies.

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