At the core of all types animations – cartoons, videogames, movies – are “keyframes.” Keyframes are what allow animators to move characters to different positions. Essentially, it’s a “keyframe” that animates Bart Simpson, a LEGO video-game character or computer-generated monster in a “Harry Potter” movie.

At DMA animation camps, budding cartoonists receive a helping hand from trained experts.

Keyframes aren’t the only elements to animation, and they aren’t the only topics covered in Digital Media Academy’s Adventures in Animation summer tech camp for kids 8 to 12 years old.

But they are a good place to start:


When bringing art and imagination to life to bring a character to life, you need the same ingredient as real life: motion. Keyframes change the still images. For computer-rendered characters, keyframes simplify animation by allowing animators to modify a character or object quickly over an animation cycle. Instead of manually drawing a new pose every single frame individually, keyframes get rendered characters from one point of action to another. The alternative is frame-by-frame animation; think about making a “flip-book,” and redrawing the character on every page.

Draw to Life

The classic Disney cartoons of old were created using frame-by-frame animation. The leading software program in animation, Toon Boom Studio, has a Copy feature built in to help with this kind of animation. It outlines the drawing from the previous frame, and gives you a reference of the position of the next frame’s drawing. Animators certainly didn’t have it this easy back in the 1970s!


Shading characters with shadows is easy, too. Adding shadows for characters is as easy as dragging and dropping a shadow in. The shadows even automatically update. Once we put the shadows in, we don’t have to worry about them anymore. We can even draw with gradients, instead of plain colors.

Lip Service

Toon Boom Studio has a lip-syncing engine built in, too. This lets you record an audio track and sync the lips of your characters to fit your recorded dialog. This helps take the monotony out of lip-syncing. Animators get pretty excited when they make a character speak, and the software does the hard part for you.

File Compatibility

Toon Boom Studio works with file formats that animators already use – importing Adobe Illustrator vector files, Flash .swf’s, all kinds of raster image formats, video formats, and sound formats. This means that animators or cartoonists can use almost any source material that they want to animate. Artists who use Adobe Illustrator can even bring their work right into Toon Boom Studio, with no loss in quality, and no conversions!

If you’re ready to learn how to make cartoons, then Toon Boom Studio is for you. If you’re ready to make them next summer, then DMA is for you.

Ben Jaffe is an instructor with Digital Media Academy.

At DMA, girls have just as much fun taking our Adventures in Animation tech camp.

Have an Animation Adventure!

Next summer, kids from all over the U.S. and Canada will be flocking to DMA animation tech camps, where they will receive expert instruction in Toon Boom Studio, the leading software program in modern animation.

At DMA, animation students never have to share computers and they leave camp with a project they can show friends and families, or even include with college applications.

DMA’s Adventures in Animation tech camp is just one of many ultra-cool Adventures learning experiences offered by Digital Media Academy.