Key-Frame Animation


In 1971, the Radio and Electrical Engineering Division of Canada’s National Research Council, developed an interactive computer-controlled graphics system aiming to address the inaccessibility of computer systems to animators at the time. This early instance of Key-Frame animation allowed for the interpolation of frames in between frames input by the animator.


“Most potential users of computers,” say Nestor Burtnyk and Dr. Marceli Wein of the Data Systems Section of NRC’s Radio and Electrical Engineering Division, “are not particularly interested in programming, but they are interested in solving a problem. For them, the important thing is to be able to communicate freely with the computer in a way that is meaningful to them and relevant to their problem.”

What the animator wants, they say, is a facility where he can do the kind of operation he wants to do. He doesn’t have to have any knowledge of how the computer is programmed because the programs that provide him with this facility have been written by someone who understands computer programming.

A package of three-dimensional drawing and manipulating programs developed by NRC allows the animator to work with the computer. The animator sits at a display console with a cathode ray tube display, which is very much like a television set. He is provided with a variety of input and control devices such as keyboard buttons, knobs, thumbwheel encoders, a light pen and a hand-held positioner called a “mouse.” With these devices, he draws and manipulates pictures in three dimensions directly on the display screen. A number of separate picture components, each capable of independent motion, may be manipulated separately as desired and then combined to form a composite picture.


In the above image, Nestor Burtnyk, one of the lead engineers on the project appears at the terminal developed to work with the new graphics suite. See the mouse prototype developed as part of the system here


Metadata by Peter Foldes was one of the first films created using this new tool.

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