One weird trick animators use to make movement look fast

Some relatively typical computer game animations have a single still frame of body scary snuck in. They’re called smear frames. There was a time when smears were essential in video games, however they don’t occur much any longer, and there’s an excellent factor for their disappearance.

Smears harken back to the early days of contemporary animation, when artists would study live-action movie to get a much better sense of how to portray action reasonably. They found that when someone is moving rapidly, movie doesn’t catch well-defined images. Rather, the motion equates to blurs of color. Animators explored with this images and turned up with smears to simulate this visual fallacy. It’s especially noticeable in extremely stylistic animations like Looney Tunes.

This stylistic technique to speed can be seen in contemporary video games that make use of that retro animation visual, like Cuphead and Skullgirls. However it’s likewise noticeable in franchises you wouldn’t anticipate. In specific, Capcom battling video games from the ’90s and 2000s, particularly Street Fighter, relied greatly on smears to offer quickly, stylish action. Although we don’t think about Sonic the Hedgehog as being an homage to old Warner Bros. animations, the franchise utilizes smears to get the very same type of pleasing gotta-go-fast movement.

It’s a lot more difficult to do smears in 3D animation than it remains in hand-drawn animation. Games like Crash Bandicoot and Overwatch put in the additional work, however utilizing skeletons and fits together suggests a lot more finessing is needed to get a smear to look, and feel, excellent.

Enjoy the video above to see some fantastic still smear frames, and to find out how they work and why they’re so difficult to do in 3D animation.

Jobber Wiki author Frank Long contributed to this report.