Animation on the Web by Melissa Bouwman

Animation on the web has seen some amazing developments over the past few years. I remember when I first explored the World Wide Web (which I am ashamed to say was only one and a half years ago) I was excited to come across a web page that had nice graphics that didn't take an eon to download. I saw very little animation and the ones I did come across were simple gif animations that were no longer than a few frames.

Now animation is everywhere on the web, from the vast amount of gif animations, to fully interactive web pages loaded with sound and animation. What I intend to cover is a few of the most common types of animation formats for the web, a brief description of some of the programs used to create animation, and list some of the resources and sites of interest for animators.

Types of Web animation
Obviously the most common format of animation on the web is Gif Animation. Some of the reasons for their popularity are that Gif animations are usually small files, with minimal download time, and they can be seen by everyone...no plug- ins are necessary to view them. Gif animations require no special program for their creation, however, if you are not familiar with HTML programming there are a number of programs out there that can assist you in the creation of your animation. One such program is GifBuilder, a freeware program on the web which assembles graphics that you create in another program into gif animation sequences. To see a demo or to download this software, go to the GifBuilder site at http://iawww.epfl.ch/Staff/Yves.Piguet/clip2gif-home/GifBuilder.html. Another common web animation format is Java script. Creating a Java animation requires knowledge of writing Java script code. Again, there are programs that assist with the creation of animations to be exported in the Java format, but according to the software reviews I've read, the best results are achieved if you can write Java script code. Java is also capable of producing interactive stacks with sound. I have seen a number of different Java applets that allow you to play simulations of old video games such as Pong, Asteroids, Space Invaders, and even Pac Man, right on your browser.

To view Java script animations and applets, one must have a browser that supports Java--most current versions of web browsers have that capability. Quicktime or AVI movies allow you to see examples of longer animations on the web, but, you will have to download the movie in order to see the animation. The only problems that exist with this option is of course the download time, which can be extremely long depending on the size of the file, and that viewers will need to have the proper plug-in installed in order to download it in the first place. A nice feature about quicktime clips is that users can save the quicktime or AVI movie to their hard drive and view it again later without having to suffer through a second download.

Among the many types of animation formats that require their own software and viewer plug-in to be seen are the Macromedia formats of Shockwave and Shockwave Flash animation. Shockwave files can be created by Macromedia Director, Macromedia Authorware, or Macromedia Flash. Shockwave allows you to either create entirely interactive web pages, or place a shockwave document to be downloaded like a quicktime movie. The shockwave file will usually be of higher quality than a quicktime file and they aren't available to be saved to your hard drive. Macromedia Flash creates vector based animations and multimedia stacks that load very quickly. The animation and sound is streaming, so it plays as it loads. Also, because graphics are vector based one can zoom into graphics indefinitely with no quality loss (examples of zoom capabilities can be seen on WebTrips pages at http://www.webtrips.com. To see some examples of work created with Macromedia's Shockwave and Flash, go to their site at http:// www.macromedia.com/shockzone.

Another site that has a number of fun activities created with Shockwave, such as pumpkin carving (my personal favorite) and a spook show, is the Colossal Pictures home page at http:www.colossal.com.

Great Animation Web Sites

If you've ever typed the word "animation" into search engine on the web, I'm sure you've come up with an unmanageable amount of sites listed. Excites search engine lists 228,912 sites that supposedly contain something to do with animation, which is far too many to weed through. Unless you have a specific company, person, or site in mind, it is very difficult to find great animation sites on the web via a search engine. So how do you find some of the best animation sites out there? Luck, word of mouth, and a few animation resource pages with tons of links to fabulous sites have been my most successful methods.

There is obviously incredible amounts of information on the web for animators, from schools with programs in animation, to job connections, to pages about your favorite animators, the possibilities are endless. The following are a few of the sites that I've found to be particularly interesting and useful. A great place to start your web journey would be the Animation World Network (http:// www.awn.com). The Animation World Network posts an on-line magazine every month with fun and informative articles, software reviews, and even a Dirty Birdie comic strip by John Dilworth. In addition to the magazine the site hosts the Virtual Village, the Gallery, the Vault, a chat room, and Career Connection. The Virtual Village has links to web sites for a number of animation companies, galleries, festivals, schools, nonprofit organizations, unions and individuals.

The Gallery features work done by a new animator, independent or professional, every month. The Vault contains archives of past issues of Animation World Magazine, as well as a couple of searchable databases of companies, films, events, awards, people, and downloadable items. Career Connections is an on-line Job fair that posts jobs in the industry, and allows you to post a resume in the database for employers to explore. All in all, it is a wonderful site...I've spent hours there.

Along the same lines as AWN's career connections, the Interactive Talent Network (http://www.talnet.com) allows animators to register free for one year in the Toonscouts database. In the database, an animator can list the various job experiences he/she has had like Character Animation or Special Effects as well as post a resume and work samples. The database is used by animation companies (Hanna Barbara being on of the key users) and searched under the various categories to find the people that meet their needs. I spoke with the primary caretaker of the network, Jess Wall, and he told me that the network hopes to expand so that employers will list jobs available and that animators looking for work will be able to browse the jobs database. In addition to Career Connection and Toonscout, companies like Pixar, PDI, and ILM, post current job openings and internship opportunities on their sites along with information on how to apply to their company.

Finally, a site that should not be missed by anyone who loves animation, is the Absolute Panushka site, (http://www.absolutvodka.com) a comprehensive site of experimental animation. When you enter into the site you are presented with an animated Absolut bottle, clicking on it will get you to the animated map of the site (an example of gif animation). The map can bring you to a number of areas in the site including the on-line animation festival, history of experimental animation, a Question and Answer section, and a tool for creating virtual scratch on film animations (a Java applet). Since the animated map changes every week, you can also access the previous maps along with information on the animator. The Absolut Panushka online festival was commissioned by Absolut Vodka and curated by Christine Panushka. It showcases 24 experimental animations featuring the Absolut bottle. Be prepared for long download times to view the animations with either quicktime or shockwave, but the animation is worth the wait. You can also access a bio on all of the animators featured in the festival.

I hope you've found this article of some use in understanding the various types of animation on the web, and I hope you enjoy the sites listed. If anyone has any additional information on Web animation or knows of any other wonderful sites that I've missed (and I'm sure there is many) please e-mail me at mbouwman@remc7.k12.mi.us.
-Melissa Bouwman

Web Sites of Interest compiled by Melissa Bouwman

ASIFA/Central- http://www.asifa.org/animate
Absolut Panushka- http://www.absolutvodka.com
Animation World Network- http://www.awn.com
Internet Talent Network- http://www.talnet.com
The Haunted House- http://www.hauntedhome.com
QUEST- http://www.uni-kassel.de/fb22/quest/questhtml
Macromdia's Shockzone- http://www.macromedia.com/shockzone
Bill Plympton- http://www.awn.com/plympton/
Caroline Leaf- http://www.awn.com/leaf/
Ruth Hayes- http://www.halcyon.com/rhayes/html/ref.html
Leandro Krukowski- http://web.starlinx.com/soda
Kenneth Feldman- http://www.missouri.edu/~c512881
Joanna Priestly- http://www.easystreet.com/~joanna

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