I wanted to compile a short but sweet list of different styles of animation that can help show you definitions and hopefully you will enjoy trying at home! Typically called a style, but more correctly a technique, animation has been applied in any sense possible over an entire century of experimentation.
1) 2D 'Traditional Animation'
This can come in a variety of different forms. Mostly they start with a 'pencil test' which is paper, pencils and pegbars. These are then studied and scrutinised and thrown away until correct.
In olden times these were then sent to the Ink and Paint department (usually full of women) who systematically inked and painted the cels by hand.
This method was widely used up until the 1990s!
After the 1990s many studios started to use computers to do all the colouring work! Disney developed its CAPS system and used it from The Rescuers Down Under (1990) till The Little Matchgirl (2006) when they stopped using it. Since then they have used ToonBoom Harmony for films such as The Princess and the Frog and Winnie the Pooh.
Now there are many tools available (including ToonBoom Harmony) for you to try and animate with...
Adobe Flash; TV Paint; ToonBoom Animate; PAP 4.0; Adobe Photoshop (CS4 and up)
2) 3D Animation
A complete twist on 2D animation, 3D involves a mesh character that is manipulated using certain invisible markers - called a rig. To these we can apply a number of codes, simulations and effects to get hair or fur, and not to mention the patient art of texturing.
Who could mention 3D animation and not talk about Pixar? Pixar were a great crusader of 3D animation. Check out their first rendered short film:
Autodesk Maya and Autodesk 3DS Max are available FREE if you are a student. Go see their student page!
Blender; DAZ Studio; ZBrush and Mudbox are also very good 3D tools.
Stop Motion (Stop-frame, claymation etc.)
Some great examples of stop motion here on deviantART:
Don't forget to look up Aardman studios, famous for Wallace and Gromit, and LAIKA studios, famous for Coraline and of course, Tim Burton, infamous for The Nightmare Before Christmas.
My personal favourite method to create, Cut-out is the art of moving tiny bits of paper on glass and trying not to get too angry if someone breathes nearby.
The effect has a sort of lack of polish that isn't found in anything created by a computer, and can look very whimsical and atmospheric!
(It's also quite fun)
You can also do digital cut out, which is where you can literally have any shapes on screen and move them around. I did this for my animation Pudge's Problem:
I cut out the pieces from scanned textures. It was great messing with hues and tones on Photoshop for this part.
I then used Flash to animate the face and edit everything together!
Easily the most popular of digital animation software, Adobe (once Macromedia) Flash is a great tool for those who want to start animating right away.
The popularity of Flash animation is perhaps due to the acessibility of great features such as an automatic inbetweener, called Tweens, which can help with basic animation and cut out a lot of work!
Also the fact that almost everyone who goes on the internet can play Flash movies can contribute to the popularity of using this software.
Regardless of the popularity, however, it's a great tool which has plenty of beautiful examples here on deviantART:
6) Drawn on film
Literally what it says, you draw on a reel of film and then spin it through a player, to project on a wall. Can be very trippy but looks lovely!
This was a very intense and popular way to add special effects waaay back in the day. There is a lot of history of Drawn on Film, so click here to check it out!
Not quite live action, pixilation (NOT PIXELATION) is the art of using multiple photographs in a forced animation style, often to give some funny effects such as flying or floating (when jumping). It's all about the timing of the photograph.
Please be careful, though, and take your pixilation photos at a low resolution (we experienced it the other way around in college after a teammate gave us over 200 photographs all over 2000 pixels wide to import into Flash! Not likely!)
8) Mo-cap (Motion Capture)
This is the method where people, objects, rooms or anything is tracked with digital software to then transfer to a program ready for rendering and animation.
A very futuristic tool that has been used in many famous films, however the price of the equipment is often ludicrous, being the biggest downside to this.
Many people have developed home-brew methods though!
A beautiful example of the most impressive technology for mo-cap comes from the groundbreaking game L.A. Noire which used MotionScan to animate characters with details that we just never think to add in, things we do with our faces that we never even see with our eyes.
Often described as the old-fashioned method of Motion Capture, rotoscoping was used heavily in the early days of animation to understand and perfect difficult movements. Films such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and shorts like Betty Boop in Minnie the Moocher utilised this new technique with often scary results!
(Watch from around 5:00 to see an example of the rotoscoped Cab Calloway)
Simply put - stop motion/pixilation with lego or similar toys! Can seem easy to do, but a lot of effort (and lego) goes into making such films as Plastic Planet Production's The Dandelion: