Rotoscoping changed animation forever. This is how.
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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, Vox’s 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 Max’s 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!
If you want to learn more about early animation, check out Fleischer Studios on the web and YouTube.
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.
The Fleischer Story by Leslie Cabarga is invaluable for any early animation fan and has lots of trivia you won’t find anywhere else.
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