Key frame

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A key frame in animation and filmmaking is a drawing that defines the starting and ending points of any smooth transition. They are called "frames" because their position in time is measured in frames on a strip of film. A sequence of keyframes defines which movement the spectator will see, whereas the position of the keyframes on the film, video or animation defines the timing of the movement. Because only two or three keyframes over the span of a second do not create the illusion of movement, the remaining frames are filled with inbetweens.


Traditional animation

In the workflow of traditional hand-drawn animation, the senior or key artist would draw the keyframes, then, after testing and approval of the rough animation, hand over the scene to his assistant. The assistant does the clean-up and the necessary 'inbetweens', or, in really big studios, only some breakdown which define the movement in more detail, then hand down the scene to his assistant, the 'inbetweener' who does the rest.

Animation by means of computer graphics

Use of key frames

In computer animation this workflow is basically the same. The animator creates the important frames of a sequence, then the software fills in the gap. For example, in Adobe Systems Flash, the animator can specify, in keyframes, the starting and ending position of an object, such as a circle. Flash smoothly translates the object from the starting point to the ending point. This is called tweening. The animator can correct the result at any point, shifting keyframes back and forth to improve the timing and dynamics of a movement, or change an 'in between' into an additional keyframe to further refine the movement.


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