Rotoscoping: The Thing That Changed Animation Forever


One breakthrough made animation looks smooth and life-like. And it involved a clown dancing on a roof.

In this episode of Vox Almanac, Phil Edwards investigates the source of rotoscoping, technique animators can use to generate realistic motion. Invented by Max Fleischer of Fleischer Studios, it involves taking shot footage and using it as a traceable model for animation. The results are smooth and natural in a way animation had never been before.

It started with Max’s brother Dave dancing on a roof in a clown costume. Footage of that was then used to model the classic Koko the Clown cartoons, which made the basis for many Fleischer Studios movies. Today, animators still use methods like rotoscoping to turn the real motion into animation.

Check out the original patent here.

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