WebRef Update: Featured Article: Web Animation - More Than Software
Web Animation - More Than Software
If Walt Disney had made Snow White and the Seven Blinking, Fading, Rotating Circles, his empire wouldn't have gotten very far.
Animation, done well, draws visitors to your site. It can enhance the Web visit. It can provide humor. You can demonstrate a point, give a presentation, or tell a story. The animation can be interactive, and can be manipulated by site guests. Your site will benefit from attention, awards, and the added warmth that a character can provide. But, just as drawings don't draw themselves, animation doesn't simply occur. It has to be created.
Every Web developer knows that animation brings Web pages to life. And every developer has been annoyed by poor quality animation on the Web. I'm happy to report that those days may be over. There is no excuse for anything less than stunning animated pages. The tools have evolved, the technology has improved, and the Web is speeding up. The time for Web animation has come.
There are many tools out there to help you. The most important part of choosing an animation tool is understanding its limits, and designing your animation to work within them. A current favorite of mine is Macromedia's Flash, which takes advantage of every trick in the book to make file sizes small while providing the maximum in functionality and crispness in the final results. Unfortunately, it is still in the process of gaining universal acceptance. I also like GIF Builder, a great little freeware Mac program for building animations out of pre-made images. GIF animations have some limitations, but are viewable in almost every browser without a plug-in.
The bottom line is that your choice of animation tool may have some technical impact on the animation you create. By the same token, if you need to create a universally viewable site, you may want to avoid Flash and other plug-in dependent formats.
Unfortunately, no matter how good the tools, none of them will animate for you, nor will they make you an animator. To go beyond the tutorial-level animation that is so common, web developers need to develop (or outsource) animation skills like character development, timing, nuance, and style. These are skills learned primarily from keen observation and study of the world around us.
Professional animators are professional artists who understand the bone structure of animals and how things move. They understand aspects of theater, of costume design, and acting. They dive into reference materials and become what they are animating. And all of this goes into each line of each frame they produce. In short, animation is more than moving pictures.
Revised: May 16, 2000