‘Rotoscoping’ is the process of frame-by-frame tracing of recorded movements of actual humans or events.
The technique was developed in 1915 by animator Max Fleisher who used this technique as a way to create a seemingly more ‘realistic’ (or photorealistic) style of movement. Disney and other studios used this technique as one way of enhancing ‘realism’ in animation through the mimicry of live action.
However rotoscoping is not necessarily a satisfactory alternative to drawing freehand:
- it limits possibilities for creating imagined worlds and narrative
- real actors and objects do not have line, so tracing often results in lines being too prominent and sharp, too flaccid or too stiff.
Digital rotoscoping: Filmed or live media are used as a reference point for the creation of digital animated movement: motion capture, interpolated rotoscoping, mattes and frame by frame rotoscoping.
Motion capture: Uses live actors and the signals of their movement is
interpreted by a computer. (See Part 2 of this unit??).
Mattes/Masks/Stencils: Similar to motion capture but uses two dimensional sources to create a silhouette (called a matte) that can be used to extract that object’s shape from a scene for use on a different background. This extraction is often aided by green screen technology, motion-tracking and/or digital onion-skinning. Then images are composited in layers these in much the same way as a stencil or cut out shape would work in analogue collage/layering. Digital rotoscoping plays a large role in the production of visual effects and animation.
Interpolated Rotoscoping: the digital equivalent to the pose-to-pose approach. The animator sets a particular style, line weight and colour. They then link key drawings to anchor points in the source footage. The computer then ‘interpolates’ all the in-between movements according to the action on screen. The first software to do this, ‘Rotoshop Software’, was developed by computer scientist Bob Sabiston in the 90’s which he used to make his film “ Snack and Drink ”. Subsequently this software was used by director Richard Linklater for the production of his feature films Waking Life (2001) and Scanner Darkly (2006).
Digital Frame By Frame Rotoscoping does the in-betweens by hand – either in physical or digital media. Each frame of the video footage is drawn or painted over, one by one. Done digitally the technique requires import of the source video, but can be done in most professional animation programmes. In physical media every source frame is printed out and manipulated before being rescanned and played in sequential order.
Look at a range of animations that use rotoscoping as a technique and compare the results.
As a starting point, view the animation links below and use Vimeo or other online sources to find other examples of animations that appear to have used the rotoscoping technique.
Choose examples to analyse and express your opinion of their use of
rotoscoping. How has each animation used copying/rotoscoping and to what effect? Is it always effective as a technique and are there any pitfalls?
‘Rotoshop Software’, was
developed by computer scientist Bob Sabiston in the 90’s which he used to make
his film “ Snack and Drink ”. Subsequently this software was used by director
Richard Linklater for the production of his feature films Waking Life (2001) and
Scanner Darkly (2006).