“These are relatively simple physical equations, so you program them into the computer and therefore kind of let the computer animate things for you, using those physics,” said May. “So in every frame of the animation, (the computer can) literally compute the forces acting on those balloons, (so) that they’re buoyant, that their strings are attached, that wind is blowing through them. And based on those forces, we can compute how the balloon should move.”

This process is known as procedural animation, and is described by an algorithm or set of equations, and is in stark contrast to what is known as key frame animation, in which the animators explicitly define the movement of an object or objects in every frame.

Why stop there?  Next, we can use models from the behavioral sciences, program a few equations and let the characters, dialog, and action animate themselves by following the solution of the model.  Don’t believe me? Here’s how to procedurally animate Romeo and Juliet.