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Chapter 4. 2-D Animation > 2-D Versus 3-D

2-D Versus 3-D

3-D isn't better than 2-D—just newer—and it seems to have grabbed the attention of many software developers who are lured by the glamour of Hollywood-style special effects. But there's no question that the art of 3-D has not fully evolved, and in the hands of far too many users, it is still a science more than an art. Cel animation is simpler to understand and in many ways simpler to do. The fact that it is more dependent on the talents of an artist with traditional drawing skills, and less on the computer, makes it attractive to anyone who would rather be behind the wheel of a No. 2 pencil than a Pentium II.

2-D animation is not, however, stuck in the Dark Ages, and it's not only for graduates of figure-drawing school. Although it includes the venerable and familiar art of hand-drawn cel animation, it also encompasses the modern and sometimes surreal domain of digital time-line compositing, rotoscoping, morphing, and special effects, which have become mainstays of television and movie animation and which certainly belong on the Web as well. Digital video-editing tools are powerful animation tools in their own right. 2-D computer animation techniques make it easy for anyone who has basic graphic-design skills to do animation.

Even in the old animation studios, such as Disney, computers are now very much part of the scene and are used in almost every step of production. Furthermore, 3-D artists invariably have to be masters of digital 2-D animation tools as well: Virtually every 3-D image on television or film is composited by artists using 2-D animation tools and techniques to form a finished scene. Take, for example, magical special-effects films such as Titanic— wherever 3-D animation exists, it has been composited with live-action 2-D film, using 2-D animation tools, to bring it to life.

In this respect, it makes sense to blend the art of cel animation and the science of digital compositing in this chapter. Cel animators may claim that they're not computer artists, and computer animators may argue they're not cel artists. But in the modern world, each group borrows liberally from the other. The best animators, like modems translating between digital and analog data, understand the techniques used at both ends and are able to communicate their pictures in both directions.

Although some of the tools that I mention in these chapters are high-end professional tools designed for doing animation and film, anything that works for video and film works for the Web. You may have to make adjustments and compromises in scale, timing, and picture quality, but the tools and techniques don't need to change.

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