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The trick that made animation realistic

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 Fine Arts   |   Film   |   Science   |   Technology
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Rotoscoping changed animation forever. This is how.

Almanac Hollywouldn't is our miniseries on big changes to movies that came from outside Hollywood. Watch all of the episodes right here on YouTube.
Episode 1: https://youtu.be/NMkZpuiEqh8
Episode 2: https://youtu.be/stznrpS3_Gc
Episode 3: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=80CKTOjjZFQ

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One breakthrough made animation look natural. And it involved a clown dancing on a roof.

In this episode of Vox Almanac, Voxs Phil Edwards explores the beginning of rotoscoping, a technique animators can use to create realistic motion. Invented by Max Fleischer of Fleischer Studios (and echoed and practiced by many others), it involves taking filmed footage and using it as a traceable model for animation. The results are fluid and natural in a way animation had never been before.

As the above video shows, it started with Maxs brother Dave dancing on a roof in a clown costume. Footage of that was then used to model the classic Koko the Clown cartoons, which formed the basis for many Fleischer Studios films. Today, animators still use techniques like rotoscoping to turn real movement into animation.

Check out the original patent!
https://patents.google.com/patent/US1242674A/en

If you want to learn more about early animation, check out Fleischer Studios on the web and YouTube.
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCtCAhYwGZxcAPDpu5Q7ueKQ

You can also read Man and Superman: The Fleischer Studio Negotiates the Real in Quarterly Review of Film and Video by J.P. Telotte, which describes the techniques used for the animated Superman series.
https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/10509200802433020

The Fleischer Story by Leslie Cabarga is invaluable for any early animation fan and has lots of trivia you wont find anywhere else.
https://www.amazon.com/Fleischer-Story-Leslie-Cabarga/dp/0306803135

Vox.com is a news website that helps you cut through the noise and understand what's really driving the events in the headlines. Check out http://www.vox.com.

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