Animation: What are Smear Frames?

Animation: What are Smear Frames?

You’ll be pressed to find an animation technique that doesn’t blow your mind, with one of the most impressive found in smear frames.

You won’t find this technique in the 12 principles of animation, but that doesn’t mean it’s not crucial in portraying depth within an animation.

Animation smear has become a staple in the industry, and you’ll hardly see a cartoon nowadays that doesn’t utilize smear. So, what exactly is it?

Animation Smear Explained

Traditional movement in animation uses keyframes and in-between frames to plot beginning and endpoints and create the illusion of movement. This method is all fine and dandy, but a smear can create the illusion of a quick “blur” of motion in a single frame.

How this works is instead of drawing a perfect subject moving through an action frame by frame, and in a series of poses, an animator will stretch or repeat a shape in sequence to mimic movement. Not only does this save time in the animation process, but it makes fast movements more authentic.

The Origin of Smear Frames

This animation style is widely credited to Warner Bros. because of its use in cartoons like The Looney Tunes, and while it’s renowned today, it didn’t receive the warmest reception at first.

The technique was invented by Chuck Jones, a writer and animator at Warner Bros. who has worked on famous cartoons and created iconic Looney Tunes characters like Marvin the Martian, Pepe Le Pew, and Wile E. Coyote.

Heads at the studio referred to this time-saving technique as a “lazy way to depict movement,” and executives almost decided to ax Jones from the studio. This eventually fell through because they couldn’t replace him, and the animation world is lucky for that; can you imagine how much illusion would be lost without smear frames? 

Smear Frames in the Real World

While it is an animation technique, you can actually see smears in real life; this probably had something to do with the creation of the method, though, as mentioned earlier, it was mainly a way to save time while animating. Take, for example, a soccer ball or arrow gliding past you at a swift pace. Your brain can’t register each individual frame of a fast-moving object, so it instead creates a smear, or in other terms, motion blur. The term motion blur is also a common term in video games, another medium that utilizes smear for added realism and immersion.

Get the Best Use Out of Smear Frames with Revity Marketing Agency

If you’re thinking to yourself, “man, an animation with smear frames would be perfect for a brand video,” then you’ve come to the right place. We will help your brand stand out with industry-leading animations for your business that are sure to leave your customers in awe. Get in touch with Revity Marketing Agency today and see how animation can play a crucial role in your marketing strategy.

Jarrett Webster

Jarrett Webster