Mathematically generated imagery is becoming ever easier for animators to exploit, thanks to open-source programming languages like Processing.

The Irish-born animator Glenn Marshall uses Programming to create output that encompasses generative art pieces, music video animations for Peter Gabriel and generative iPhone and iPad apps such as Zio, Eyegasm (below bottom) and Supernova (below top). “Processing, for the first time, invited computer artists like me to try out coding,” he says, “by making it as easy as possible to write some code that could quickly create something visual, as quickly as we normally do in Photoshop or After Effects.

“It helped the likes of myself to move between the traditionally divided vocations of artist and programmer,” he adds. “I could now think and dream theoretically about any kind of abstract or experimental notion of animation and visuals, and know that I could program it exactly according my thinking.

“This would not be possible using off-the-shelf graphics software, where I’m limited by the built-in tools and framework of someone else’s programming,” he says. “In Processing I’m creating my own tools to create my own art; it’s truly the purest and most holistic ideal of what a computer artist should be.”

Who would have thought that gaming engines might become part of the animator’s toolkit? It turns out that game development tools provide an excellent avenue for exploring the narrative potential of animation, as Glasgow studio The Story Mechanics has discovered.

The Story Mechanics is creating what it calls ‘digital adaptations’ – classic stories that are reinvented as interactive experiences, built with the Unity game engine.

“The format of the book itself is ditched,” says the studio’s Simon Meek. Instead, locations in the story become the primary storytelling canvas, he says.

Soon we should see The Story Mechanics’ first commercial release in this vein, a version of The Thirty-Nine Steps. It will feature four animations that tell the character’s backstories, says Simon. “These were created from cut-out paper models, scanned and rigged, animated in Maya, then treated in After Effects before being packaged as OGGs to be played in Unity. As hardened After Effects users, we have been blown away by what a games engine like Unity can do when it comes to VFX.”

Unity will allow the interactive experiences to be delivered on PCs and Macs plus the iPad, and potentially on Android devices and the PlayStation Vita, too.

Animation trends 2012

Intro

1) Stop motion animation is hip again

2) Interest in hand-crafted animation grows

3) Combine animation with programming

4) Children's TV animation rediscovers its craft roots

5) Photorealistic CG meets traditional animation

6) Animation firms positive about George Osbourne tax breaks, but have reservations