Computer animation
This paper on computer animation is based on a presentation by the author to the Royal Television Society in September 1 970. The history of the use of computers by the animation industry is traced and examples given of programs used for various processes in making animated films.

For thirty years nothing much happened in animation technology until the beginning of 1964, when Dr. Edward Zajac and Ken Knowlton, together with their assistants at Bell Telephone Laboratories in New Jersey, U.S.A., developed a technique to produce computer made animated films. The spread of the technique is reminiscent of three periods in the history of visual communication. The first the rapid development throughout the world of motion picture production in the middle twenties - the second the rapid development of television technology after the war. The third - the invention of the 16 and 8 ram. cameras after the war which opened up the field to specialised and amateur cinematography. By the nineteen sixties the computer proved to be a highly adaptable tool for industry, commerce, education and science. Its versatility allows it to be used in many ways, to solve a varied range of tasks at a speed and precision no human being is able to achieve. Among these tasks is the computer's ability to create moving images. The system, which demands a complete departure from the conventional form of film making has so far depended on a numerical breakdown of the visual images in mathematical terms in order to define the precise shape, size, time, direction and velocity of any movement. In spite of the fact that the computer has proved to be the most intelligent machine ever thought of, it still must be told what to do, and since the F O R T R A N language was already in existence, it was the most obvious language which could be adapted for animation. While in the United States several langu~,ges have been evolved to a highly sophisticated level, in this country there was a necessity to pioneer, in many cases right from the beginning. During the last few years the National Computing Centre has kindly undertaken to carry out some experiments in animation, and so has the Department of Computer Sciences at the Computer-Aided Design Project, University of Edinburgh. Both organisations carried out this work in association with Halas & Batchelor Animation Ltd. In addition to these, the Atlas Computer Laboratory in Chilton, Didcot, backed by the Science Research Council, has produced animation devised by Mr. Paul Nelson for B.B.C.-tv.

National Computing Centre
Dr. F. E. Taylor and Mr. Maurice Russoff have produced an experimental film as a part of Halas & Batchelor's educational geometry series entitled Pole and Polar. Dr. Taylor and Mr. Russoff describe the application of the technique as follows: "Films can be produced using computer assistance in one of two ways: (a) by using a pen type plotter to draw the required diagram, and subsequently filming this, or (b) using a special purpose device - in particular the Stromberg Carlson 4020 or 4060 plotter, or its equivalent, available from other companies, producing records on film directly. Further, the computer can be used in three ways to produce 'animated' films: (a) simply as a drawing aid for the production of diagrams built up from regular geometrical figures, or figures capable of mathematical description. Only a small number of 'strategic' drawings need to be programmed - these sub-programs can then be called at will to produce combinations of such figures. (b) this scheme can be extended by allowing the production of films which are animated in three dimensions - i.e. the sub-programs already mentioned above, corresponding to particular figures have an added facility which allows them to be rotated and thrown into perspective, to give the effect of a third dimension. (c) films representing given mathematical functions, normally time-dependent functions such as the dam collapse, can be produced using the mathematical equations describing such a phenomenon as a basis.

Action Taken
So far as the U.K. is concerned, it was decided to concentrate on the educational area for the time being, and to undertake experimental work combining techniques (b) and (c) above - i.e. producing a film for educational use which involves handling two-dimensional figures which are rotated - i.e. effectively have three dimensions, the figures themselves being mathematically definable curves. Programming work was undertaken at the National

The objective is to produce films for screening on small back-projection monitor units. one of which will expose 35 mm.. so that the system software already existing at that establishment for the SC plotter could be used as a basis.. The Storyboard Chosen The conventional way of producing animated films is to draw and then expose the film frame by frame. As shown in the diagram of the optical system of such a recorder. that the actual co-ordinate positioning information of the figures in the film need be specified. This report details in turn: . aimed at production of a film suitable for teaching the mathematical concepts associated with the pole and polar of a conic section . but also involves sufficient mathematical calculation to render it suitable for computerised animation. In connection with economic considerations.in this case an ellipse. . Using conventional methods.operational aspects of the experiment. to illustrate the general nature of the construction. the ellipse is gradually changed into a circle and then back to an ellipse again. The programs to produce the film are written in a general form and it is only at 'run time'. form and is made up as a ~5 This line is the with of the point " pole V 1 respect to V Circle growsto full size t~6 /i /I I Linestangentsto circle~ v /i S" ii ~U V 7" V Moves~U~j "4 w s.. This means that after producing one 'take' if the size or shape of an item is to be altered. The basic construction illustrated by the film is shown in the storyboard diagram (Fig. once the techniques are established. The calculating power of the computer can be used to determine the state of a particular motion sequence frame by frame. there are other subjects with little or no mathematical content which are better animated using conventional techniques. The sequence is first constructed for a circle and then repeated for an ellipse. In this case.hardware and software. Commercial Exploitation of this Technique continuous loop mounted in a cartridge which may be placed into a slot. the program can be simply run again with new co-ordinate data to produce the next 'take'. 1. There is another benefit from using computerised techniques. The sequences are interspersed with titling. when the magnetic tape for driving the microfilm recorder is being written.g. thus enabling a direct comparison to be made between the effort and costs involved in both manual and computer production methods. keeping the lines VU. available to teacher and pupils in a classroom. . moving lines of force fields around magnetic poles. it was decided to produce a short film titled Pole and Polar. Again. In this case. 30 Repeat for ellipse Techniques Used Hardware The method makes use of a MICROFILM RECORDER. it was decided to attempt to ascertain just how much faster films could be prepared. On occasion. 2 and 3. a precision cathode ray tube is situated optically in front of two cameras.the techniques used . One can envisage other subjects. No complicated threading of the film or rewinding is required. and using the microfilm and recorder described above. . resembling a television receiver. The incremental cost of producing further films. but all programs generated were run on the Atlas II/SC4060 system at Aldermaston. The final film is to be in 8 mm. e. If the film content is mathematical. details of which are shown in Figs. The storyboard of the film produced during this feasibility study (see Fig. eliminates even the necessity to draw up and then film these frames.'-' Fig. the whole film would have to be recast or redrawn frame by frame to incorporate such changes.t h e economics resulting. which has also been produced automatically on the microfilm recorder. It is in this situation that computerised animated techniques score over conventional methods. Finally. computerised animation would be the better and possibly only method of producing the film. VS fixed. 1). whereas precise positions can be specified very quickly using computer techniques. COMPUTER AIDED DESIGN . using computer assistance. which involve a lot of calculation to describe them and which are not precisely defined geometric shapes that are easily drawn using a compass and ruler. and how much manpower requirements were reduced.Computing Centre. l) is of a precise geometrical nature that would enable it to be produced fairly easily by conventional techniques. by eliminating a great deal of tedious manual drafting.the 'storyboard' chosen. in conjunction with Halas & Batchelor Animation Ltd. This report describes the pilot study undertaken by the National Computing Centre Ltd. is discussed later. the necessary calculation may be so long and laborious as to preclude attempting to produce such a film using conventional techniques. with a comment on future economics and future plans. then elaborate calculations must be performed before any particular frame can be drawn.

The positioning of this information on the face of the tube is defined by a 1024 x 1024 matrix of addressable points and the electron beam can be deflected The software used consists of a MAIN program. 3. to produce a few frames of paper output first of all and then if all is well. The function of these names is as follows: 1. The microfilm recorder is driven by information read from a magnetic tape. The equipment used was that at A. 4 Control electronics Tope Fig. In this case programs are written in a dialect of FORTRAN 2 for running on an ICT Atlas 2 computer.2 oor. has been written. M O D E . another 'frame advance' command is given and the next frame will be brought into position ready to be exposed. The latter is an earlier model for which the necessary program package is available. Such tape contains 'frame advance' commands as well as co-ordinate information associated with 'expose' commands. which calls several system and user-generated SUB-PROGRAMS. When the complete picture has been built up. Aldermaston.R. SPRING 1971 31 .i i r I 2. on the face of the cathode ray tube. Fig. In this way. pictures can be built up from such vectors. It is prepared by using a computer for which a program package capable of generating commands to drive the microfilm recorder. the hard copy camera will be similarly activated. b. 4. ~ ~i ¸!!!iii!!ji~i~i Read and set 'Mod~/Frames" and any coordinate data J Set 'Count' = 1 ~ Advance frame on c a m e r a specified by "Mode' ca. the control electronics then expose that frame by displaying graphic information serially.W.oo.E. It is useful when program testing and debugging. and as each vector is displayed it will be recorded on the frame of film or paper currently in position. ardcopy camera Cathode roy tube MICROFILM RECORDER Over I million oCldressoblepoints Face of cothoOe roy tube PLOT FORMAT Fig. o ri .this will appear in a F O R T R A N statement at stage 3 as CALL ADVFLM (MODE) If MODE is set : (a) equal to 1 (at stage 1) the microfilm camera will be selected and advance. whilst the other produces hard copy output on photographic paper. The complete optical system is housed in a light proof enclosure and the camera shutter mechanisms are held open all the time. The microfilm recorder is a Stromberg-Carlson SC 4060 operated as a SC 4020. (a) Main Program The structure of the main program of a film is shown in the flowchart . where three 'names' are mentioned. Either or both cameras can be chosen automatically by program commands.i"ates for current frame using "Count" I as a variable parameter / J frame J to 'draw' straight line vectors between any two of these points.. 4. The film or photographic paper is advanced by program commands. Software ~ext sceneJ I Add 1 to-Count t microfilm. once only. during which time the face of the cathode ray tube is automatically blanked off. When the new frame of film or paper is in position.Mf c ~~ ~ c 0~ m m.o.Fig. run the program again with the microfilm camera selected. or (b) if set equal to 2.

5. image area (see Fig.0 X1.o r d i n a t e system on the film when the basic V E C T O R s u b r o u t i n e is used is with the positive X axes a l o n g the film.885 a n d X I will be assigned the real value 241. The area o n the film over which the microfilm recorder can expose graphic i n f o r m a t i o n . F o r 35 mm. then the value inside the bracket will be 241. M o r N ) but since the fractional values have no meaning. 6). X2. This re-orientation is o b t a i n e d by writing V E C T O R statements as: C A L L V E C T O R ( YI. XI a n d n o t X C O R D 1 a p p e a r i n g in the V E C T O R s u b r o u t i n e statement. J. the e n d of a line C is to swing between two points A a n d B. say.o r d i n a t e values of figures t h a t are ' m o v i n g ' d u r i n g the scene. 5. if X C O R D I is a variable within the user's p r o g r a m . T h u s the m a i n p r o g r a m flowchart in general will represent the filming of one of these scenes. T h e o r i e n t a t i o n o f the axes with respect to the film is given later. then this s t a t e m e n t causes the electron b e a m to Face of tube be m o m e n t a r i l y deflected bet w e e n t h e points (X1. If X C O R D 1 = 241'385. COUNT i Direction of travel In projector •~ 35rnm procket hole ~ o~Origin X= 1023~. a n d also since it is m o r e c o n v e n i e n t to t h i n k of the X a x i s as horizontal a n d the Yaxis as vertical. ----~X W h e n C O U N T = F R A M E S . C O U N T = F R A M E S ) . then the X c o . If. Y2). In order to expose only that part of the microfilm recorder frame t h a t corresCOMPUTER AIDED DESIGN 32 . does n o t c o r r e s p o n d to the s t a n d a r d 35 ram. C O U N T is also used in Stage 4 to calculate the intermediate c o . .2. L. 4) T h e interface between the user's F O R T R A N p r o g r a m a n d microfilm recorder is a p r o g r a m package w h i c h includes s u b r o u t i n e s t h a t can be i n c o r p o r a t e d in the user's p r o g r a m s a n d will. It is possible to film successive scenes by linking together a n u m b e r of main p r o g r a m segments. a statement such as: X = INTF(XCORDI s h o u l d appear. K. so t h a t a frame is p r o d u c e d every fifth sprocket hole. 1023. In the 'microfilm' m a d e it is usual to p r o d u c e a frame every seventh hole. Y2) --Stripchort orientotion~ Y=102 - - Fig. Since for a n i m a t i o n .0 ( I N T F is a s t a n d a r d F O R T R A N s u b r o u t i n e which takes the integer value of the c o n t e n t s of the brackets which follow it). F o r example. As s h o w n in Fig. This will a p p e a r in a F O R T R A N p r o g r a m as: CALL VECTOR(XI. the o r i e n t a t i o n of the c o . a n d F R A M E S will d e t e r m i n e how long the scene will last when projected.this variable is i n c r e m e n t e d every time a frame is p r o d u c e d (Stage 6) a n d is used to d e t e r m i n e when the scene has been c o m p l e t e d (e. the pictures o n successive frames must a p p e a r one b e n e a t h the o t h e r o n the film (and not o n e next to the other). p r o d u c e a magnetic tape o u t p u t written in a f o r m a t suitable for driving the recorder. 1023. a n d the variable F R A M E S will d e t e r m i n e the n u m b e r o f frames of film p r o d u c e d for t h a t scene. should not begin with the letters 1. Y1) a n d (X2. film.0 These p a r a m e t e r s in F O R T R A N s h o u l d be real variables (i. Y2. C O U N T is initialised at Stage 2.g. Stage 5 Details (see Flowchart . it is as well to t r u n c a t e the fractional part.0 % ( y ) ~-~. as a result. YI.Y ) given by: X = XA + (XB XA) B *COUNT/FRAMES 3.o r d i n a t e t r a n s f o r m a t i o n is m a d e to re-orientate the axes suitable for stripchart or movie film. a c o . the projection rate is 24 frames per second. As explained earlier.o r d i n a t e system is assumed on the face of the c a t h o d e ray tube. F R A M E S .e. the addressable points a r e a r r a n g e d as a 1024 x 1024 matrix so t h a t the variable p a r a m e t e r s specified with the V E C T O R s u b r o u t i n e should be restricted to : (X) 0.0 X2) + 0"5) It may also be necessary to ask the o p e r a t o r to set the microfilm recorder to 'strip c h a r t ' mode.Fig. If an imaginary Cartesian c o . X = XB. thus p r o d u c i n g the line on film or paper. T h e basic s u b r o u t i n e p r o v i d e d in this way is V E C T O R .in general a s t o r y b o a r d will consist of a sequence of 'scenes' each of which can be described at Stage 4.1023.o r d i n a t e of the end of the line d u r i n g the scene is (X .

film. and the timing of the various sequencies. F' 41 . These are: (a) choice of suitable storyboard subjects. (See Fig. eotod 35ram Fig. (d) computer runs with suitable data to produce the final film. 7 D o not plot in this ore°. outpL y~) y----8 y~lo -I-. The main subroutines written for the film described in this report are JOIN. (Is it is not projected on the screen.0 This ore° is projected on the screen.ponds to the standard 35 ram.0 818. This restriction is: 0. The only other difficulty with JOIN is to ensure that all possible cases of the positioning of the two 33 . the central point of the projected area does not correspond to the central point of the working area. Some of these have already been detailed. 7.this subroutine was written to ensure that only co-ordinate values that lie within the 1024 x 1024 matrix of addressable points are specified with the systems subroutine VECTOR. a further restriction is placed on the co-ordinate values allowed. (b) detailed specification of the storyboard so that the general programs can be written. Fig. but no plotting con occur within it This area is known as the working area. Liaison There are five main stages in the commercial production of films. ELLIPS and ELLCUT.) +Y Operational A s p e c t s General This summarises some of the problems encountered in producing the film. the film maker must appreciate the criteria for choosing suitable storyboards and must then be able to hand over a detailed storyboard. be split between the film maker and the systems analyst/programmer. is not needed until Stage d. these pictures should be centred about the point: X = 579"0 Y = 384-0 Y=818 A drafting template is shown which can be used to plan out the graphic information and to determine any coordinated data that is required. Also due to the presence of a sound track on standard 35 mm. Software Difficulties Each category of storyboard subject will require a number of special subroutines to be written. (e) final processing and editing of the film. The effect of using VECTOR with co-ordinate values outside this matrix is undefined and in any case will vary with different plotting systems. This work will. 6.0 0-0 X Y 1023. and as in all other computing activities it is important that each appreciates the other's needs and has sufficient information to correctly carry out his part of the work. The difficulties met in writing these subroutines were as follows: (a) JOIN . With X=1023 i i Direction of trovel in projector Light being projected Spurio. To obtain pictures centrally on the screen. SPRING 1971 the system software supplied for the SC 4060 spurious outputs of the part of the line outside the addressable region can be obtained. pursuing the techniques described in this report. Information such as image positioning and size. when this information can be read in at computer 'run-time'. in general. (c) writing the programs and debugging by computer runs using the hard copy camera.mo0e oreo pro. In particular. image area.

as described in the next section. However.XI -. and in any case the solution of a quadratic may involve the subtraction of quantities which unless they can be specified with high precision. that can vary in size. gives an accurate answer.points with respect to the working area.YI - Elimination of either variable leaves a quadratic m the other to be solved. Factors limiting the repeatability performance of a plotter will include the following: 1. Each vector drawn by the plotter will not quite mate up with the end of the previous one. The program must test for such conditions and take appropriate action (in this case. because the numbers involved quickly overflow the range of numbers permitted by the computer. Also as shown in diagram (c). Drifting of the optical system due to temperature variations. The individual vectors become most prominent in the areas of high curvature which will occur at the possible apices of the ellipse depending on its (d) The numerical method of solution. . MAIN P R O G R A M . Drifting of the electronics due to temperature and voltage variations. In the latter case the line joining the two points may not. For this reason. Accuracy is particularly important in this case. will result in errors in the answer.the function of this subroutine is basically the solution of the two simultaneous equations describing the ellipse and straight line. the point W will move out of the right hand side of the picture and reappear from the left. and this effect is most marked the greater the vector density. . For example. in fact. but even so there is a limit to how small a figure the subroutine can be used to draw.S . 4. possibly by missing out the frame altogether). are catered for. E L L C U T . V Regions where smaller v e c t o r lengths used (c) orientation. These are: (a) I U (b) (c) 4 Fig. 2. The positional accuracy of the cathode ray tube. it should be noted that attempts to improve the quality of the figure (by reducing the vector length in this way may be thwarted by the repeatability properties of the plotter itself). a smaller vector length is used in the regions indicated in the diagram. cut across the working area. (1) X XI Y Yl Y2 .E M ~ ~' + '~ SEMMIN I = 1 . 9 C M U E AIDEDDESIGN O PTR 34 . This subroutine is written so that the length of these vectors will change according to the size of the figure.the major difficulty in writing the main program is to ensure that the coding written produces the required graphical output for all possible variations in co-ordinate positioning. (b) ELLIPS . the length of the individual vectors that make up the figure is important.X~2. one point outside the area and both outside the area. . . Distortion introduced by the optical system. 8 D (d) Ellipse ix XCENTI2 ir YCENTI 2 ~ .with a close figure such as an ellipse or circle. (2) (a) ~ W (b) Line . ( (c) T: S (d) Fig. This method of solution to obtain the points of intersection of the line and ellipse was abandoned in favour of another method. the line VU may lie on top of the line VS so that the points A and B and the points C and D coincide.. if the construction shown in diagram (a) of Fig. 5. . 3. These include both points inside the area. as in the other method. Any movement of the film caused by mechanical instabilities. and also that any peculiar situations that may occur through such a sequence are appreciated and allowed for in the program. 8 is made to move by rotating the line VU in the direction indicated. .

High-contrast processing (development in a bath intended for positive prints) is used.W. These facilities are now available and constitute an important educational source for many colleges and universities throughout the United States. camera produces the final film. S. A computer controlled 16 mm. or similar for movie work (in contrast to normal microfilm work). Modifications to the software are in hand to remove this information. since it would be impracticable to produce too many frames at this stage. The importance of accuracy is illustrated in Fig. although not used during the production of the film. U. Means are provided for changing the size of characters and fading items in and out. higher contrast than other films. it would be possible to obtain longer sequences without increasing the costs. of course. curves and characters and the various constraints governing them. i. From these comments it is apparent that extra care must be taken when using an SC 4020.R. in a letter reproduced in the 1967 year end report of the Computer Animation Committee of U A I D E mentions the following experiences which they have had whilst producing films on an SC 4020. Dr. Thicker lines could also be obtained by repeating the lines slightly displaced. Frank Sinden of Bell Telephone Laboratories. Barfield. (b) on the Atlas 2 computer at Aldermaston a program will be rejected if it overruns the time allotted to it. The SC 4020 camera is not a movie camera. U. and that the operators of the equipment must be made 'movie conscious' to ensure consistently good quality results". which are then used to calculate the points 7"1 and T2 [diagram (c)]. 9. They now use a modified 35 ram. Thus it is seen that the errors are accumulated from stage to stage and the final construction [diagram (d)] may be distorted if such errors are allowed to creep in. and a maximum of 480 frames produced by each run. B. Oldfield describes here briefly the process employed in the production of our other film in the mathematical series.Note that such peculiarities may not become apparent even after the program has been run with hardcopy output. This information appears as 'blobs' down the right hand edge of the screen when the film is projected. Taylor and Mr. Kodak 5498 RAR film is used because it gives denser lines without image spreading. the brightness of a line is reduced as it gets further away from the viewer". was given the task of writing a program to simplify the process. SPRING 1971 The method described here by Dr. if we make a triangle of threevertex points and the lines joining them. The brightness of the tube is measured and the camera adjusted before filming is commenced. to obtain good quality film. New Jersey. the co-ordinate values of the points A. Bell and Howell studio camera. increase the computer time required to produce the figure. Department of Computer Sciences. and also to be numbered. With the most basic SPINDLE graphics system each line would have been programmed separately. and so several summers ago an undergraduate student. Martin of Joseph Kaye and Company Inc. More recently a new program has been written so that the animator may describe picture parts and manipulation in three dimensions. For a given position of the lines VU and VS. lines. A programming system called SPINDLE has been developed so that an image may be composed of points. entitled Calculus: "For some time now we have had a computer system fitted with a cathode ray tube display. without using up extra computer time. R. lines and characters. J. Lorinda Cherry of the Bell Telephone Laboratories. Kenneth Knowlton. allows one to form and control dynamic images. the essential details are recorded in digital form on magnetic tape so that the animator may later control frame-by-frame editing without resorting to the more elaborate initial method. professor of electronic engineering at the Polytechnic. This is normally the case with film used in a projector at several frames/second. With the film described in this report. (c) Again.e. as part of their bureau operations. Also. who have revised 35 . but this method will. For instance we may specify that a point must always lie on the line joining two other points. the program allows us to move a single vertex and automatically force the lines to follow it. Here. software facilities are available to repeat frames (up to a maximum of 31 times). Edward Zajac.S. has produced over 30 computer-made films with Dr. called AUTO HALAB after its sponsors. 3. The run time required to produce a given number of frames depends on the complexity of the output in terms of the mathematical calculation involved to produce each frame as well as the graphical complexity itself. But it would be very tedious to generate an animation sequence by this means.S. For instance. software facilities are available for increasing the density of the lines. The following points should be noted: (a) the system software produced by A. By repeating each frame say four times in this way. V. The computer automatically works out the positions of the other picture parts. The program. although not used to produce the film. 1. University of Edinburgh Dr. 4. To form a single image involves writing only an elementary program specifying the individual picture parts and where they are to be located. F. As each image is generated.A. Bell Telephone Laboratories Dr. at Aldermaston causes each frame to be identified by a job number and date. C and D are calculated [diagram (a)]. Dr.. The latter are then used to calculated points W and X [diagram (b)]. To give the illusion of 3-D. An example of how flexible F O R T R A N can be is shown in the work of Ken Knowlton and Mrs. under the direction of Professor Ludwig Braun. fifteen minutes maximum computer time was requested. Mr. AUTO HALAB was developed specifically for a series of films on geometry normally made by conventional animation. This is the other unit we were privileged to work with. 2. We can then control the developments of the animation sequence by means of invisible 'movers' which cause a specified point to be moved in small steps along a line or curve as successive frames are generated. With reference to the quality of the film images.E. Oldfield and Mr. I t allows images to be composed of points.. Murray Hill. Ken Knowlton and Mr.A. Russoff is not dissimilar to the method which is in use at the Polytechnic Institute of Technology in Brooklyn. Barfield.

as artists.necessarily machine dependent is left entirely for each installation's implementer to provide for his own configuration of computer and display hardware. S. Cherry describe their system as follows : " F O R T R A N IV BEFLIX is a programming language for the internal creation and/or manipulation of two-dimensional packed arrays . all of them promising Utopia for animators.a release from enslaving tedium. One of the leading American experimental film makers. frame by frame process. and each relying on the mystique of the word 'computer'. The main advantage of the digital computer lies in its flexibility and an allowance for diverse approach.r.C. Neither is the copying of the photo recorded paper from the SC 4020 plotter. Citron. The earlier techniques of film making with computers with the aid of a pen type plotter. The individual installation need only provide four short machine-language subroutines for packing. not unlike a tapestry. for example one where array elements represent numerical values in a relaxation or other iterative calculation. has produced a film with this system. first of all. anJ a few for other miscellaneous purposes. construction of geomet. New uses of BEFLIX itself are also possible. Citron who designed his language in an attempt to avoid dependence upon the user's knowledge of mathematics.. with parameters. Thus all of the mathematics of FORTRAN normally used for graphics . A Programmer's Description of the Language The BEFLIX programmer imagines a large two-dimensional grid within the machine. No computer can think or create. Where most computer processes have saved in time in one area or process. But what has occurred is a great deal of misapprehension about what a computer can do.ic bodies. Once implemented. These operations.t. which is a slight revision in F O R T R A N IV to permit easy combination of normal methods and line drawing capabilities of F O R T R A N with the area filling and grey scale facilities of BEFLIX. which can draw a diagram directly on to paper is no longer adequate. what transformation the artist input must undergo in order to produce computer animation. and higher level commands for performing 'drafting' type operations and for manipulating the contents of rectangular subareas. The outputting of pictures . mistrusted automation of mechanisation. Los Angeles Scientific Center has constructed a control box which acts as an interface between function keyboard and the camera. systems.e. languages and processes. the language seen by the user must afford control over the technical flexibility available in the program part from the user's non-technical standpoint. motion according to differential equations may be easily combined with the grey-scale and area-filling potential of BEFLIX. Production Director of the Computer Image Corporation. appears in Table II. artists. geometry and programming logic. and freedom for the artist for his essential function. The IBM.the BEFLIX movies language.g. and also uses the key circuits as feed back sensors to advise the computer of the camera's status with regard to these controls. spacial functions. Another carefully worked out language for film production is CAMP (Computer Assisted Movie Production). Los Angeles Dr. John Witney. they have cost time in another. It is probably safe to say that most systems employing computers or computer technology have frustrated the animator just as they have failed to shorten the time or the work of animation appreciably. and depiction of results. perspective projection. 1964). J. Dr. Myron P. thus causing the operation to proceed dynamically in a film. While the language is quite complex compared with others. each square holding a number. Smith. the system is used exclusively by means of in-line F O R T R A N coding and F O R T R A N coded subroutine calls (literacy in F O R T R A N is assumed). The program runs on IBM 360 with a 2250 display unit equipped with a program function keyboard. Animators have accustomed themselves to the inevitability that any system they use involves a delay factor. for ways around the drudgery of the cell by cell. BEFLIX facilities here providing for the establishment of boundary geometry. Knowlton and Mrs. This device allows the light circuit on the keyboard to activate the camera controls under computer direction to photograph images on the 2250 and advance the film frame-by-frame. The computer brought with it a bewildering array of devices. creativity. also the subroutine for outputting a part of this array on its display device. requiring only four short machine-language subroutines and a few other minor adjustments for each computer. This has been a frustrating part of animation from the beginning and makes the animator one of the most patient of all artists. It's a persistent but false assumption that mechanisation or computerisation of the process of animation will destroy or replace the artist. Operations noted as dynamic are the subroutines'which contain calls to the output routine.array elements normally standing for picture elements in a raster-scan representation.C. Computer Image Corporation Lee Harrison IlI. These techniques have been totally replaced by the use of the various high speed c. The system is described by Mr. two-dimensional bookkeeping during computation. as well as with the multiplicity of subroutine which are available today on both sides of the Atlantic. BEFLIX provides an internal picture storage. which was developed by Dr. and it must set a few parameters. it has capabilities for providing a highly rich visual texture. as before. consisting of a two-dimensional packed array representing picture elements in a raster-scan representation. as follows: "The computer approach to the art of film animation was predetermined by the discovery of the art itself at the turn of the century. entitled Permutations. But the fulfilment of the promise was slow in coming. a more detailed listing. One might speculate COMPUTER AIDED DESIGN IBM. Every animator has searched for shortcuts. P.J. that there will be a time lapse between the inspiration of creation and the finished animation. effects and visual evolution. The system of subroutines is written almost entirely in FORTRAN IV. He believes that the user should utilise his or her artistic capabilites for which he has provided a clear way of constructing a wide variety of figures which in 36 . While the mathematics and logical program necessary to perform this processing may be complex. The application of computers in recent years promised an answer . unpacking and shifting machine words. One obstacle was consternation among animators who are. and who. are listed in Table I. He has at his command scanners called 'bugs' which can crawl about the surface reading and changing the numbers they are siting on. recorders. as in the original BEFLIX animated movie language (Knowlton." turn can provide manipulation functions.

left. yc. top. direction. top. frames. n. boundary-n) ZOOM (right. DIFF] CENTER (right. onto-right. top. left. xc. left. n.2. amount) [direction : UP. x. bottom) FRINGE (right. bottom) COPY (right. left. WEST] drafting operations RECT (right. LEFT. frames. coordinates moves a bug draws a rectangle draws a straight line (dynamic) draws an arc or circle (dynamic) traces other curves (dynamic) types alphanumeric characters (dynamic) uniformly paints an area shifts contents of area transliterates numbers combines two areas centres objects (usually typed captions) copies an area enlarges picture by integer factor smooths sharp corners puts a fringe around object(s) fills a bounded area approximates a zoom effect (dynamic) the installation-supplied output routine dubugging aid--prints out a subarea and bug locations repacks words bugs are on unpacks words bugs are on (updates bugs after a subroutine) function for getting nth letter of a string sets output of RANDOM function for delivering random numbers rectangular area operations miscellaneous operations Table II Summary of FORTRAN IV BEFLIX Subroutines and Parameters grid operations WINDOW (xmin. n. y. direction. bottom. frames. frames. . Xc. left. frames. EAST. DOWN. left. RIGHT] TLIT (right. SMALL. height) UPDATE BGREAD LETTER (n. Y2. bottom. rule) [rule: BIG. bottom. B . becomes. width) LINE (xl. n. bottom. yc.) MOVE (bug. bottom. next-to. speed) t [width : 1. CCW] TRACE (xl. top. LEFT. size. ymin >~ 1] [bug: A. left. top. 4. bottom. sense. SOUTH. x. yl. 3. y. RIGHT. n) SHIFT (right. ymin) bug operations PLACE bug. Z] [direction : TO. factor) SMOOTH (right. width. n. top. left. top.Table I Summary of FORTRAN IV BEFLIX grid operations bug operations drafting operations Wl N DOW PLACE MOVE RECT LINE ARC TRACE TYPE PAINT SHIFT TLIT COMBIN CENTER COPY EXPAND SMOOTH FRINGE FILL ZOOM CAMERA DEBUG UPDATE BGREAD LETTER SETRAN RANDOM repositions the window that the internal grid represents places a bug at x. y. top. speed) TYPE (xl. how far) [xmin ~> 1. speed) : ARC (xl. width. top. n. n. onto-top) EXPAND (right. DOWN. array) SPRING 1971 37 . x2. Yl. top. top. bottom. left. width. yc. left. 5] rectangular area operations PAINT (right. top. table) COMBIN (right. top. Xc. speed) miscellaneous operations and functions [installation-supplied output routine] CAMERA DEBUG (right. bottom. factor. bottom. flag) FILL (right. bottom. onto-right. left. string. bottom. left. left. width. x-limit. string) RANDOM SETRAN (n. speed) [sense: CW. onto-top. y-limit. UP. . SUM. string. y~. NORTH. Yl.

been designated 'off-line" computer animation devices. the new positions of each of the dots must be recomputed starting with the first. the gap between the creative product and the demand widened. whether it be a character or an abstract. The grandfather of true computer produced images grew out of the digital computer technology. pin boards. This language consists of sequential bits of programmed information which then forms the image. and the most development. It has come to be called the analogue system. There is no delay factor in an analogue system.000 dots or points of light. though it does not discriminate against digital techniques. if one is used in place of a punch-tape program. Any system which used a conventional animation stand and was automated in any way. does not produce the animation. The result of the analogue approach has been to produce two hybrid animating systems or devices. Instead it forces them to learn a new one. a digital computer must construct the image on a cathode ray tube from a series of interconnected dots or points of light digits. in which only the lips and the eyes of the animated character move. Because it is made of lines rather than dots. why it has the most disciples. The digital computer's memory system is programmed with the position of each of these dots for each frame of film animation. requires an engineer's knowledge to create the image. They have. But precision. the function of the computer in many systems is secondary. too. moreover. The analogue image is modified instantaneously and produced in 'real time'. nor can a digital system produce an image of infinite complexity without an infinitely large memory or storage system. I think. Other tedious tasks were delegated to inkers. The first. Some animators turned to cutouts. thus. the animator created the 'in-betweener" . it can be animated without engineering know-how or computer language of any kind. called Animac. it neglected the function of the artist. Another shortcut was a 'cyclical' animation. a drawing. Would we have had the beauty of their music if such were the case ? So it is understandable that the animator has been seeking. there is a fluidity to analogue animation. a sculpture. Still. to the degree possible with a digital computer. the photography also requires an increased exposure time. plastic models. bit by bit and piece by piece. digital animation might best be described like this: in order to produce a visible image. Scanimate's use has had a limited application to character animation and has been used primarily for what might be called computer graphics. in more recent times. Thus far. however. The advantage of digital imagery. have made some very significant artistic contributions to animation and if you have seen true computer-animation. Most artists. any means to reduce delay. was said to be 'computerised' and therefore capable of producing 'computer animation'. Anyone familiar with animation is aware of the attempts to eliminate the requirement for hundreds or even thousands of interrelated cells necessary to produce the 1. are aware that few. processed by the computer under the control or instruction of the operator and displayed on a cathode ray tube in animation. plotters. Each analogue circuit operates continuously. In order to create a line. Since programming such a device requires time and since 38 it constructs the image sequentially. the time it takes to watch it or film it. It is the 'engineer's animation' and. and proceeding sequentially through however many dots are required to create the line. Most animators. His answer to these problems was fundamentally one of simplification. The analogue system constructs an image by employing a series of co-ordinated analogue circuits each of which is responsible for repeating only a part of the image. In relation to images. Then. or the camera of a conventional animation stand in predetermined increments and. partial animation. Each time the line moves. called Scanimate. but most detrimental. the animator must learn the computer language appropriate to the computer he's using. that is. They move the cell. science and industry. colourers.440 frames which comprise a single minute of film animation. On closer examination. either straight or curved. most of what you have seen has probably been produced by the digital technique. however. and eliminate the exasperation of repetitious procedures.what would have happened to music if Beethoven. the most money. pantographs and. The second system. however. But once created. that it had some shortcomings. It was costly and slow. Perhaps there are animators who are not aware of the fundamentals of digital computer technology. Then came the computer and the confusion it created. What this means to the artist is that he does not program an analogue or hybrid computer by using computer or engineering language. he thought. and other supporting skills necessary to produce full colour animation. have somehow been reluctant to adopt it. a photograph. the digital computer designates the position of a number of interconnected dots. It worked in a medium which was strange and unfamiliar to animators. He modulates or modifies the images he watches by turning a knob. Early in the art of animation. if any. instead of producing a part of the image by means of a series of dots. It doesn't speak their language. That is. But the computer. save the animation cameraman the boredom of doing these tasks manually. digital technology was already an established technique. The image of the artist's work is picked up by a special. and can and does employ them whenever it is appropriate. Suppose a reasonably simple image was composed of a number of interconnected lines or surfaces containing 100.the assistant who took the animator's grand design and filled in between the keystone drawings. of these techniques or systems enhanced or advanced the art of animation. The capability of animating or transforming any graphic material by means of COMPUTER AIDED DESIGN . He felt. which devised ways to re-use cells already drawn to produce extended animation. it produces lines by moving an electronic beam over the surface of a cathode ray tube at an extremely high speed or drawing rate. Perhaps it was because digital computers have other applications in business. is more appropriate to science than it is to art. The result is not a significant saving of time for the animator. why it attracted the most research. When Lee Harrison III first conceived the idea for the animation systems now employed by Computer Image Corporation. the engineer-animator-artist is very rare indeed. Its input is any material or art form with which the artist is familiar. except for some noteworthy exceptions. Digital computer animators. most recently. can be operated without engineering knowledge by anyone after a half hour's instruction. two-dimensional electronic camera. Bach or Brahms had had to wait three weeks from the instant they struck a note on the piano before they could hear it. They simply created an increasing quantity of product or fill an increasing demand. Perhaps no one knows why the digital system came first. from the beginning. the table. is precision.

Music or sound of any kind can be employed to drive or animate the image or any component of it. once the creative input has been supplied.S. There is the capability of direct artistic input and direct artist control. for an artist or a group of artists. or object. No computer can circumvent or substitute for this." The Future In conclusion both digital and analogue computers can simultaneously contribute image controls far exceeding those of any animation camera or the patience and skill of any animator. the capability is already available. however. F. F r o m a single design. Halas. complex systems have been revealed clearly for the first time to the wonder and delight of both the professional scientist and his pupil. making this capability applicable to typography and printing. that any kind of artistic input can animate the images. The infinite visual possibilities of computer animation is already exciting more and more artists since it can stimulate both fantasy and imagination. The animator can wear a set of attenuators called an anthropometric harness attached to his body and. adds a new creative dimension for graphic artists and designers. as he moves. photograph. or a voice recording can be used to produce synchronous lip movements in the animated character. complete dimensional control is possible instantly. plus the ability of the graphics' designer to stop and photograph the image at any stage of transformation he desires. At the moment the various systems are most effectively used for education and science. real time animation will be available with any of the Computer Image's animation systems. both Animac and Scanimate images are recorded in monochrome (i. Animators and film producers with varying degrees of experience have used both systems to produce educational and training films. no matter what its source. A modification of the Scanimate system will be operational in the near future which will produce character animation and will produce it in real time as the animator watches and modifies it. The long range goal is to produce full colour three-dimensional full animation of the complexity of Fantasia or The Yellow Submarine. The overall advantage of both Animac and Scanimate. It is not impossible that the next Leonardo da Vinci will have a computer terminal in his studio as a part of his artist's equipment. the animator's voice. It has been specially successful in space research revealing the movement of satellites in orbit. Currently.the Scanimate system. SPRING 1971 39 . A clear indication that the technique has made it! Received November 1970 J. He is the editor of a book entitled Computer Animation to be published in the summer of this year and has been deeply interested in this subject for some time. What it does do. the real time capability. But the challenge to widen the horizon in visual communication is here and is spreading dynamically. television has been the chief user of Computer Image animation.. to provide the creative input. That is. please be assured it does not. F o r example. And now the advertising industry has started to use computer animation. black and white) film or videotape. the character moves or animates. film titles. Colour is presently being added by a conventional film printer or by colour keying electronically. the direct control and immediate variation by the artist. In fact. But this by no means covers what is perhaps the most important capability. in physical chemistry dealing with kinetic theory and Newton's Law of motion in electrodynamics in complex engineering and molecular biology.I. in a matter of days or weeks. as well as interior and industrial design. So far. It is still necessary with the Computer Image systems. full colour. is a director of Halas and Batchelor Animation Ltd. is to shorten the time from conception to the realisation of the final product. as with any computer animated system. It awaits only the creativity of the animator necessary to put it to use. For the time being. Probably because television is more of a voracious consumer of any imagery. A new aspect of time and space in motion has been presented. that is. If this kind of time schedule for such ambitious production seems to bypass the artist or his creative contributions. rather than months or years. This means an animator can choreograph as he watches the resulting animation. the artists' contribution is purely experimental. The film method adds the laboratory process time to the completion of the finished film. and film effects as well as television commercials. have already been described.e.A. But within a year. Computer Image Corporation's next logical and inevitable step is the further development of full character animation. And it can perform this task quicker and in many cases cheaper than hand-made animation.

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