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Chapter 4. 2-D Animation > Final Compositing

Final Compositing

In traditional cel animation, the finished cels are laid one at a time over the background, as many as eight layers deep, and filmed onto color film. This usually happens on a special camera stand that holds layers down with a vacuum and that allows layers of cels and the background to be separated by several inches of space. Sometimes, as many as eight cels are super imposed in multiple layers. The distance between the layers allows the animator to capture the blurring that occurs from the camera's natural depth of field. (Depth-of-field blur is normal in filming 3-D scenes, and it adds realism in 2-D animation as well.)

In professional animation studios, the film stand includes a device that allows the background to be moved a precise distance at every frame, so that it appears to pan smoothly behind characters who are running or rolling in place. These stands also allow the camera to truck up and down.

When all the frames of animation are photographed, the final step is combining the soundtrack with the finished animation.

Digital Compositing

Animation and compositing programs allow you to combine multiple layers of animation, to animate layers within a composition, and to let you to animate the backgrounds. After Effects, Premiere, Animation Stand, and Director all provide this functionality. Unlike traditional animation, which requires you to move a background once for every frame of animation, these programs allow you to use a static background and to move the foreground objects, to move the background behind static background objects, or even to use a combination of movements. You can animate layers or backgrounds by setting keyframes, thereby eliminating the need for sophisticated mechanical camera stands.

The Screening

The final step in the traditional cel animation process is the screening, when everyone gathers in a dark room and watches the finished movie.

On a computer, you can play your finished animation back at full speed with audio, but this isn't the end for the Web animator. At that point, you've got to prepare the animation for Web delivery, which may mean optimizing compression, saving in one or more of many possible file formats, or incorporating your animation into a larger project (such as an interactive multi media title).

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