Most animation computer software can be categorized as being designed to create either two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D) computer animations. Within the software designed for 2D animation, many of these programs allow an animator to import an image, or create an image within the animation software, and then manipulate that image in numerous ways to create an animated sequence. 3D computer software allows an animator to create a three-dimensional model through the software, and then animate that model in different ways. There are also some programs that may not be designed as animation computer software, but can be used to create an animated sequence.
Animation computer software typically refers to a computer program developed as a tool to create animation on a computer. Some of this software is developed to allow animators to create 2D animation, similar to traditional animation created with ink and paint. These programs may include tools to actually create images, including characters and backgrounds, and then animate those images by combining numerous frames together. Other animation computer software may simply provide tools for importing individual characters and components, and assembling those pieces together through editing and some image manipulation to create an animated sequence.
Some animation computer software is developed to allow animators to create 3D animation, rather than traditional 2D animation. This does not mean animation that appears as a 3D image, such as those images that are viewed with glasses to make them appear in 3D, but animation that uses a 3D model and environment. Such programs allow animators to create models of characters and environments in a virtual 3D space, and then create animations of those characters. These animation computer software programs can be quite expensive, however, and are typically used by professional studios.
Other animation computer software can be used to create animation that is simpler in nature, or uses still images to create animated videos. This software is often quite similar to those programs used to create original 2D animation, but does not typically provide tools for creating original images or artwork. Such programs can be used to import simple images, including photographs and illustrations, and then move those images one frame at a time to create an animated sequence, usually consisting of hundreds or thousands of frames. The resulting animation may appear somewhat simplistic, but can often be used to create animated advertisements online or for a stylized animated short similar to those seen in old Monty Python shows.