Not all animation is done by hand. Many animations are done using different techniques, and in animation school, one of the most popular was pixilation animation. While somewhat similar to stop motion animation, pixilation often uses live actors and objects and sometimes other forms of animation, such as Claymation into its fun filled mix.
Pixilation uses the technique of shooting one frame at a time, just like in like stop motion and is primarily used with live actors. While it sounds easy enough, it can be a rather time consuming process, as you have to keep things like continuity in mind. If you're filming something outside, you want make sure the lighting is consistent and that there's no differentiation in the actual photography. The overall effect can be a rewarding exercise and if you're in animation school, it's a good way to play around and get a feel for it.
Say you're shooting a sequence where two people are walking across a field. You want to shoot one frame, then have them walk maybe about a foot, then shoot another frame, all the while repeating the process until they cross to the end. When reviewing the animation, it'll look as if they've bounced across the field rather quickly in just a few seconds, giving the actors the appearance of puppets.
Try the same thing using actors walking down a busy street, and you'll see how the characters, as well as others in the background, bounce all over the pace and how it makes for a startling effect. Pixilation is a great way for students in animation school to get a grasp not only of the genre's many possibilities, but also how to experiment with the camera.
Pixilation uses the same breakdown as does most other forms of animation. There's usually a storyboard involved with sketches on how the action should progress. If you're in animation school and trying this for the first time, it's a good way to get a grasp of how pixilation works. You might make a few mistakes, but the end result can be really cool looking and serve as a great learning opportunity as your style progresses over time.
Pixilation has existed since the early days of filmmaking, with the oldest known use of it in the short Spanish film El hotel eléctrico in 1908. Since then, it's been an extremely popular form of animation that has appeared in film, television commercials and music videos.
In fact, many celebrated filmmakers have flirted with pixilation, such as Norman McLaren, The Brothers Quay, and Mike Jittlov, with the best known being Czech animator Jan Svankmajer, who's created many surrealistic animated films and influenced many animators and filmmakers.
While the general technological approach to pixilation has remained the over the decades, probably the greatest use of it appears in the critically acclaimed "Sledgehammer" video by singer Peter Gabriel that combines elements of Claymation and stop motion animation. This particular video is ruthlessly inventive, featuring Gabriel in live action and in animated form surrounded by a myriad of objects. Its breezy five-minute running time cannot mask the fact that it took perhaps months to create, due to its complex fusion of live action and Claymation. Watching this particular video in animation school, as well as seeing it countless times on MTV, still remains a visual smorgasbord. Its inventive use of rapid paced imagery, especially the dancing chickens, has inspired numerous filmmakers and animators since it first appeared in 1986.
So, if you're unfamiliar with this type of animation, and have been dying to experiment with it, it can definitely be a fun way to create something unique and different. If you're in animation school, it's also a great way to let your imagination run wild.