9 Differences Between Game Animation and Movie Animation

If you’ve watched a movie or played your XBOX lately, you’ve probably already noticed that animation in games and movies is evolving faster than ever. Each decade, the smoothness of playing games and the experience of watching animated movies continue to improve in quality and in the number of games and movies produced. 

It is crucial for animators, especially those about to start their animation careers, to know the industry they will be or are working in if it is into games, movie animations, or other types of animation. 

Check out the 9 differences between game animation and movie animation that every animator must know. 

1) Game Animation Has More Camera Angles Than Movie Animation

person sitting on gaming chair while playing video game

Image by Florian Olivo via Unsplash

Games will have different shot angles depending on how the user controls the character and whether the game is shot in first, second, or third-person points of view

Though games usually have a general storyline, character interaction with other characters or objects around him are dependent upon the gamer’s will. Basically, the animation can change depending on how the character moves and even how the camera angle is controlled either by the gamer or the game through AI-intelligence. 

With movie animations, however, the viewer is taken to a series of scenes as desired by the makers of the animated movies. Though different angles can be presented, the movie animators have full control of angles and movements. 

2) Game Animation Has Cycles While Movie Animation Has Sequence 

Image by Stem List via Unsplash

Since characters in games are reliant upon the gamer, there are a multitude of different potential scenarios. Each possible scenario must have an animation, like when the character sprints and then goes back to an idle mode, or when a character shoots a gun then re-holsters it afterward. 

Animated movies are sequential in nature, meaning no cycles can happen because multiple scenarios cannot happen outside of the created animation frames. 

Both cycles and sequences are important in an animator’s work, but each one is approached differently in the creative process. 

3) Game Animation Is Dependent On Programmed AI Scripts And Users While Movie Animation Controls   What The Viewers See 

Image by Jonas Leupe via Unsplash

In games, objects in the environment are programmed to react towards the user’s movement. Though there can be fixed sequences in a game, it won’t happen until the character arrives at the scene. Programming an enemy to chase you once your character is within sight is a good example of this. 

In some episodic adventure games (like Walking Dead from Telltale Games) where stories can change depending on the gamer’s series of decisions, AI scripts and programming allow the game to change its story path. 

4) Movie Animation Usually Has Higher Polygon Budget Capability Than Game Animation

a man talking about something expensive

GIF via GIPHY

A “Polygon Budget” is the amount of money spent to show an animated character’s geometric qualities. The more defined an animation, the larger the cost. 

In movies, however, the possibility to improve the quality of animation is almost endless since it can be edited and rendered by video animators as desired.  

5) Game Animation Is Limited By Game Consoles’ Hardware Capabilities While Movie Animation Has Few Technical Limitations 

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Since game animation depends heavily on real-time rendering, there is a limit on how much quality  animated characters have, depending on the console’s hardware such as inbuilt video cards and chips. 

This means that game animators, and even developers and programmers, are very much reliant upon the progress of consoles as well. The good news is they do progress - rapidly.  

6) Movie Animation Requires No Programming Knowledge While Game Animation Does 

Image by Emile Peron via Unsplash

Since an animated movie is meant to be viewed and not interacted with, most of the software used in making the film is geared towards producing results that will be visible to its viewer. 

In video games, wherein the user controls each action, the user’s pressing of a button serves as the stimuli for an animated action to be performed and knowing how programming works will allow the animator to create a suitable animated motion depending on the game’s logical sequence. 

7) Mistakes Are Easier To See in Movie Animation While Glitches In-Game Animation Are Harder To Catch 

GIF via GIPHY

Since a movie animation has a single sequence of events, quality checkers and creative directors run through the animated film in numerous ways.

Animated movie quality is so detailed and refined that, on average, for a 90-minute film, it can take 3-4 years of work by at least 200 to up to 600 people. 

Meanwhile, with game animation, one cannot afford this amount of time and money for each sequence inside the game since there are so many. It is much more likely for glitches and  small errors or detailed lapses to be shown in the game either by viewing or by interacting with the environment as the gamer. 

8) While Movie Animation Doesn’t Have Programming, Modern Game Animation Can Have Animated Scenes and Clips 

Image by Desean Dwyer via Unsplash

Story-driven games like The Last of Us series, Uncharted, and many others include interactive animations and animated scenes inside the game as well, AI initiated, of course, but they are animated clips making the game seem almost like watching an animated film at the same time. 

This shows the continuous evolution of the game animation industry and the overlapping of movie animation and game animation. As a matter of fact, Netflix’s Blackmirror’s Bandersnatch made a live-action episode interactive. 

9) Movie Animation Rendering Happens Before Production While Game Animation Renders Frames In Real-Time 

Image via BlenderNation

Rendering, or the process of getting the final arranged animation scenes in the format of a sequence of individual frames, happens differently for movie animation and game animation. 

In movie animation, rendering happens before it can actually be released and usually done for a long time, as discussed previously. 

Meanwhile, game animation renders frames in real-time since whatever will appear on the user’s screen is affected by the user himself.

In the gaming industry, video cards are a big deal because it determines how many images can a video card produce in a second (frame rate), meaning the higher the quality of the graphics are, the higher the quality of the video card should be in order to be able to render the frames real-time in accordance with how the design of the game’s graphics. 

Conclusion

Games and movies are entirely different animals. Now that you know the 9 major differences between game animation and movie animation, this should be clear! Although there are differences, this doesn’t mean that one is harder than the other or one is simpler. 

Both  industries involve tons of different people, programmers, and animators in the background. 

Whether you are into game animation or movie animation, what’s important is that you love what you are doing and you are determined to get better at it. However, knowing the differences will make you understand the scope and focus your animation career and path will take. 

If you liked this blog post, share this with the animators you know! Also, download a copy of our free marketing handbook and join our free masterclass.

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