Digital Imaging

10 – Rotoscoping Animation

Lesson Objectives

At the end of this lesson students will be able to:

  • to work at depth in the Adobe Photoshop timeline
  • create abstracted images for animation
  • demonstrate making complex moving images using the rotoscoping animation technique
  • create an animated video


This week we have two items due – Rotoscoping Animation and Oral Presentation #2 (script only). Please give yourself enough time for both.    Rotoscoping animation can be very time consuming if you are making a complex animation so what is due this week for the Oral Presentation is just your script (as Google Doc). Next week you will record it.

Rotoscoping is a technique that animators use to trace over motion picture footage, frame by frame, to produce realistic action. The action can be very carefully constructed to flow smoothly, such as in old Disney animated films or can be simple with a looser movement, which gives the output an interesting and hands-on look and feel.


Watch this in-depth overview of rotoscoping animation from The Little Big Screen:

In practice, the idea is not necessarily to trace the exact likeness of the image behind, but the essence of it. Watch this short group example with many different styles and levels of fidelity applied to the same simple running cat video.


Rotoscope Animation Example and Process

This video is a great example of a carefully constructed simple story that has been filmed specifically for this purpose. Notice that the only areas that are rotoscoped are the people moving or the items moving, the background generally remains static. Watch the next video to learn more about how they shot the film that they used for the project.


Contemporary Rotoscope Animation Examples




Historic Examples


Rotoscope as Video FX

‘Rotoscoping’ can have a slightly different connotation in modern film and special effects production where an area of the film is masked out and replaced with an overlay that follows the motion of the film or an area is masked out to have a different background. Nearly every film produced relies on this technique to either create special effects or for fixing problem areas. Sometimes this can lead to the uncanny valley feeling that we get watching nearly realistic movies.   This is a complex process achieved in software like After Effects in combination with Mocha plugin and not what we are doing this week but it has evolved from the original rotoscoping idea. Read a little more about the basic of this technique here if you like.  

By the way, soon, rotoscoping vfx will become much easier in Adobe After Effects, updating the rotoscoping brush to dramatically save time:


Additional Resources



Exercise 10

Step 1

Find a short video you want to use for rotoscope animating. Look for something simple, with movement that has an interesting part that is very short – you are looking for a segment about 7-12 seconds long to use for this exercise.

Here are some resources for video and audio that you can use if you like, you may know of others. You are also welcome to use your own video for this exercise! Pay attention to whether the author requires attribution and make sure you do that in your work somehow. Bensound, for example, has some fantastic background music and just asks to be referenced in credits.

Audio –

Video Clips

Step 2

Follow the instructions on the videos below to create your animation. You can also look through the additional resources section for more tutorials or do your own Google search for one.

Adding additional elements is optional

Adding color is optional but encouraged!


Step 3 – Export your video

To Export as video (mp4) file, go to File Top Menu -> Export -> Render Video… and save your video file.

Upload it to your YouTube account for sharing. Choose Public or Unlisted option.

**Important Notebefore you spend any time on audio, double check that you can export from Photoshop as video first. There is an annoying bug in some versions of Photoshop that causes the video export to hang up on ‘Initializing Video Export’ about halfway through. Our workaround for this, for now, is to export it as an animated gif (like we did last week) instead of a video file. :-(. If you really want to figure it out, my suggestion is to try updating your Creative Cloud and Photoshop applications to the latest version before trying to export. If you also have the full CC suite, make sure your Media Encoder is also up to date.


Create a new post on the course site and title it ‘Exercise 10 – your name’. Give it the Category “Exercise 10”.

Copy/Paste the URL to your finished video of your rotoscoping animation. If creating the video file did not work, please upload your animated GIF instead.

Write a bit about this process – What do you like about it vs the GIF animation for the last exercise? Do you have any favorite rotoscoped animations you want to share a link to? What was challenging about the process or was it easy and why? Did you run into any trouble and how did you solve it?


Please comment on one of your classmates’ animated gifs from Exercise 9.

Oral Presentation #2 - Script

It’s time to do another oral presentation. You all did a great job on the first one so I have full confidence you will again and I look forward to hearing about your process.   This is a requirement for the oral intensive component of this course.

Since rotoscoping animation can get pretty time consuming if you really get into it and are doing a detailed job, I’m going to break this oral presentation process into two parts, writing a script and recording.

Next week you will record a video of yourself, 2-5 minutes length to talk about your creative process. This is pretty open, as long as you focus on your process. If you are an artist or filmmaker, focus on your visually creative endeavors. If your focus is more on communication or a different discipline, focus on the creative elements of your profession and the process involved. You can also talk about creative process for this course specifically.

Please center your presentation on creative process on these three elements:

  1. Communication of story –  What is your process for creating the story you want to tell? How do you come up with visual ideas? Is planning – like making an outline, storyboarding or sketching –   something you enjoy or maybe don’t take the time for?
  2. Logistics – Do you work on projects consistently during the week or put them off until the last minute and feel short on time? Are you someone who thrives on a deadline?
    Most importantly, how do these factors influence how happy you are with the final result?
  3. Technology –  refers to methods, systems, and devices which are the result of scientific knowledge being used for practical purposes. So, ‘technology’ can mean lots of things – pencil and paper are technologies, for example. What approach do you take when you run into trouble figuring something out with the technologies you use for creative process?

What’s due this week:

Please write your script based on the creative process prompts above.   Use a Google Doc inside your folder for this class and title it ‘Oral Presentation #2 Script’.   Start with an outline of what you want to talk about and then fill it in as you go along. Read it out loud to yourself and time it to make sure you are within the 2-5 minute mark.