Traditional and CGI animation – a Best of Both?

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The Process


I feel with all the technology readily available today to almost anyone with a computer and a little seed money – the technical limitations of say, 15-20 years ago – even on studio/big-budget level productions, are effectively gone.

A person could sit at home, with the door shut and the curtains pulled and bash out a media product on their own with a very high production value –  all using off-the-shelf software and their personal computer. In essence, most Traditional and CGI animation developments are at your finger tips.

With that in mind, I’ve been very interested in bringing the best of both worlds to an animated piece that utilized the advancements and pros of both mediums – Traditional and CGI animation.

In theory, the warmth and vitality that is often found in Traditional (so called ‘2D’) animation and the versatility and “world-building” capabilities of CGI (so called ‘3D) animation brought together, so Traditional and CGI animation are working as one for the best outcome.

For example, I would love to achieve a world/environment/background in an animated piece that contained the line quality, texture and feel of a traditional animated background – but have the camera be completely dynamic  so that from a storytelling POV we could be completely  cinematic and versatile in compositions and cinematography – just like in CGI animation.

Well, we can. It’s been done in propriety environments at Disney’s (Deep-Canvas) – and that accomplishment is what I am striving to create in something I’m working on, at home. Through research on Deep Canvas, I found out how they achieved this, and also discovered it was a quite costly process  when rolled out on a lot of the shots in a feature film (see Treasure Planet), rather than more selectively (see Tarzan)*

Now, with a combination of some Adobe software, plugins and CG software (all off-the-shelf) I’ve been able to unlock that.

Traditional and CGI animation Background Test - (c) Richard Tuft

(c) Richard Tuft - WIP Background Test Tradtional/CGI

These are backgrounds from an animation I’m currently working on that uses both Traditional and CGI animation. Keep your eyes peeled for more news on this project in the not-to-distant future 😉

The above image shows a full 3D environment. In other words, I can place the camera anywhere. The lighting is 3D and all the background objects are crafted in 3D geometry. But I have been able to take that foundation and apply a painted finish with line-art in a way that means that when the camera is still – you could perhaps think you were looking at a traditional/flat animated background.

It’s early doors and I’m building this up day by day. But in time, this little environment will serve as the proverbial playground for a couple of interesting traditionally animated characters. And they won’t be restricted by a flat playing surface.

All made at home, with the door shut and the curtains drawn. What an age we live in, Traditional and CGI animation together as one!  –

Richard Tuft, Over and Out :)


**Check It Out – Useful Links to other Traditional and CGI Animation Techniques

See a breakdown of the Deep Canvas process, taken from the Tarzan DVD Behind-the-scenes:-

(Deep Canvas Demo)

There are also recent developments in the arena of Traditional and CGI animation working together with tests being done by Sergio Pablos (and his team) on “Klaus”:-

(check the Klaus Test out here)

Although this is (from what I have been able to ascertain as it hasn’t been released yet) using minimal CGI – it certainly has developed an intriguing aesthetic development allowing textured rendering on Traditionally animated characters and backgrounds detailed on the level of a CGI animation. 

Listen to Sergio talk about it here at the Bancroft Bros. Podcast:- Animation Podcast #27 – Sergio Pablos – Making Animation at Large and Small Studios

Also in the past few years we have seen some experimentation at the bigger studios on similar aesthetics, albeit from a slightly different approach. For instance…

Disney’s “Paperman”:-

(check the Oscar winning short out here)

….and Disney’s”Feast”:-

(check the Oscar winning short out here)

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(c) Richard Tuft. All rights reserved.