Cel Shading: the Unsung Hero of Animation?

Cel Shader
Left: a computer graphics render with soft shadows. Right: a cel shader (also known as a toon shader) and border detection. This creates hard edged shadows with lines drawn around the model. Illustration from Hash Animation Master manual.

This is a guest post by Olivia Lennox.

As you’ll well know, there are far more animation techniques out there than the average movie-goer or TV watcher knows about. You can’t blame them for only really knowing about stop-motion animation, CGI animation, and what goes into shows like The Simpsons and Family Guy. These techniques are what ‘make it big’, and what can be seen on screens, both big and small, all over the world. But there are plenty of other forms of animation that don’t get the credit they deserve.

Take cel shading for example. This lends animation a ‘cartoony’ look which can be very effective in certain media. This form of animation has actually only been adopted by a handful of film and television productions; however it has been used extensively in video games. Perhaps the reason for this is that cel shading is easier on the graphics processor, so games can look great even on less powerful hardware. When cel shaded animation does make its way into film and television, it’s usually used conservatively, but there are exceptions as we’ll see. There’s an important distinction to make before we get into the cel shaded world: whilst there are plenty of techniques that use block colours, cel shading refers specifically to the cartoony rendering of light and shadow.

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Issue 33 – Index of selected articles

Don Messick: the man with a million voices Messick is best remembered for his long association with Hanna-Barbera where he voiced TV catroon characters such as Boo-Boo, from the Hucklebery Hound Show and Droopy from Droopy, Master Detective. Read more… The ReBoot TV series The ReBoot series takes viewers into a world inside a personal … Read more

Don Messick: the man with a million voices

Father Bob Murphy meets voice artist Don Messick. Here is a quick Baby Boomer quiz that will give away your age: Which of the following groups of cartoon characters do you remember from your childhood: Group No. 1: Ruff of Ruff and Reddy; Boo-Boo, Pixie, and Iggy from the original Hucklebery Hound Show; and Tadpole … Read more

Don Messick: the man with a million voices – Page 2

About the same time on the West Coast, MGM Studios was shutting down its cartoon division. Two of its animators, Bill Hannah and Joe Barbera, left MGM with a vision of how animation could be financially feasible for television. They started their own company and perfected “limited” animation and this assembly line approach would have … Read more

The ReBoot series

The ReBoot series takes viewers into a world inside a personal computer, to the multi-level city of Mainframe populated by sprites – an eclectic mixture of digital information in the forms of robotic-looking biomes and human-like data sprites. ReBoot is a cross between the Gerry Anderson puppet production Thunderbirds (1966) and the Disney feature Tron … Read more

The ReBoot series – Page 2

Ironically, it is the realistic three-dimensional quality of ReBoot’s computer-generated characters that make its animation unique. The member’s of ReBoot’s cast behave, move and speak like actors in any television show. But ReBoot’s characters exist only as digital information – complex mathematical equations that imitate life. Like the concept of the show, until the digital … Read more

The ReBoot series – Page 3

ReBoot is produced by Christopher Brough whose extensive experience as a writer, producer and director of film and television projects and his specialization in animation led him to become an integral part of the ReBoot team. Chris’s career in animation has included stints as Executive Producer and Director at Hanna Barbera Studios, Vice President of … Read more

The ReBoot series – Page 4

Ian left Rushes to join a group of liked-minded creative people to found the world’s first fully digital facility, The Mill, where he was named Creative and Technical Director. Ian and The Mill parted company when he decided to devote his attention to the development of his pet project, ReBoot. During this time, Ian was … Read more

Animating with the Commodore Amiga

Christopher Barnatt looks at animation packages for the Commodore Amiga computer. Although way behind IBM and Apple PCs in the general popularity stakes, the range of Amiga computers from Commodore have long proved popular for animation and desktop video (DTV). One reason for this popularity is the fact that it is extremely easy to obtain … Read more