The word animation deals with the generation, sequencing, and display (at a specified rate) of a set of images (called frames) to create an effect of visual change or motion, similar to a movie film. Animation is an important component of multimedia, because just as a picture is a powerful way to illustrate information, a small animation clip is even more powerful and useful for illustrating concepts, which involve movement. For example, in the multimedia application meant for educating small children. Without animation, it will be very difficult to explain such concepts by using only still images or text.
Animation is often confused with video may because both deals with the display of a sequence of images to generate an effect of motion. However, it is commonly used in those instances where videography is not possible, or animation can better illustrate the concept than video. For example, collision between two stars, or movement of planets around sun, cannot be video graphed, and hence can be illustrated with the help of an animation clip. Flow of blood in our arteries and veins, and pumping of blood by our heart can be best illustrated with the help of an animation clip.
Animation is also very commonly used advertisements, cartoon films, video games and virtual reality applications. Virtual reality is a relatively new computer technology, using which, the user can put on a pair of goggles and a glove and tour a three-dimensional world that exists only in the computer, but appears realistic to the user. Animation deals with displaying a sequence of images at a reasonable speed to create an impression of movement. Computer animation generally involves the hardware devices which are as follows:
1) Image generation tools and devices, such as scanners, digital camera, and video capture board interfaced to some standard video source, like video camera or video cassette recorder (i.e. VCR), are used to generate images to be used in animation.
2) Computer monitors with Image display capability is the minimum requirement for outputting (displaying) animation. In addition, multimedia computer systems capable of handling animation also require a graphics accelerator board, which not only controls the resolution and number of colors of display, but also speeds up the refresh rate. Refresh rate is the time taken to paint the computer screen with a new image frame, replacing the previous image frame. Increased speed due to the use of graphics accelerator board, smoothes out the movement because subsequent frames, which make up the animation can be displayed quicker.
Software capabilities are highly desirable in a multimedia computer system with animation facility which are as follows:
• Animation creation software - It allows the user to create animation sequence from scratch by using a mouse and various simple objects, such as lines, circles and polygons, with various supporting colors.
• Screen capture software - It is used to capture the displays of a computer screen as graphic images, which can be used in animation.
• Animation clips - This is a library of animation clips from which one can select and directly import an animation clip and use it in a multimedia application, saving the time and effort, which might otherwise be required to create a similar animation clip. This is also useful, if one does not have animation creation software. An animation clips library often provides the facility to add a new animation clip or delete an existing animation clip from the library.
• Animation file importing - The task of creating a multimedia application incorporating animation can often be greatly simplified, if the application software can import animation files in some standard formats.
• Software support for high resolution - If the animation sequences of a multimedia application are made up of very high quality images, it is important to have not only the necessary hardware, but also software support for displaying high resolution images, which have many colors to maintain the high quality of animation display.
• Recording and playback capability - It allows the user to control the recording and display of an animation sequence.
• Transition effects - Animation can be even more interesting, if it is enhanced with transition effects, such as fade-in and fade-out, layering, zooming, and rotation of objects.
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