What is ANSI Animation or ANSImation?

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Published on: January 11, 2008

People often confuse ASCII animation or ASCIImation with ANSI Animation or ANSImation and believe them to be the same. This is actually wrong.

ASCIImations are created by using programming (code) to move text characters around in a way that makes it apear like an animation or movement. Even text-mode demos that show text characters with ANSI color coding are not really ANSI animations, because they also use programming to make the characters move to get the desired movie or animation visual effects.

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True ANSI animations are not coded, don’t use any programming language to create the effect of motion and only make use of some more specific and special escape sequences provided by the ANSI.sys driver of MS DOS. ANSI animations are not executables like text-mode demos, but plain and simple .ANS text files.

Smart Cursor Control
ANSI animation takes advantage of the build-in ESC sequences of the ANSI format to re-position the cursor on the screen to rewrite individual areas in a video-like sequence. ANSI.sys, the MS DOS driver that enabled the support for ANSI codes, also supported a number of other features that were helpful for the creation of ANSI animations.

Set cursor-position; move up/down/forward/backward for a set number of characters, save current cursor position, restore cursor position and erase line are the most important of those features. For a full description of the ANSI escape sequences supported by ANSI.sys, check out this text file.

Only few editors that supported ANSI animation are available. One of those editors is TheDraw, which is also my ANSI editor of choice for most ASCII and ANSI art pieces that I created. I use it since 1993 and still use it today once in a while. You can download the editor on my website and play around with its ANSI animation features, if you’d like to.

The “Speed Issue”
ANSI animations have one significant issue. The artist has no means to control the speed at which the animation is “played back”. ANSI does not support fix time delays that are linked to the internal clock of the computer to wait for a set number of milliseconds, something most third generation programming languages support. The playback speed is entirely determined by how fast the system can read and display the ANSI escape sequences of the ANSI file. The speed if you load an ANSI from your hard disk by using the “type” command for example (with ANSI.sys driver loaded), is virtually instant. Even large ANSI files will be displayed within a fraction of a second.

In order to make the ANSI animation look like an animation is it necessary to throttle down the speed with which the ANSI codes and ASCII characters are loaded and then displayed on the screen.

The natural way to throttle down the loading speed of an ANSI at that time was the transfer speed of the modems of that era. The top speed of modems around the early 1990s was 9.6KBit to 14.4KBit. An 100KB ANSI animation would take a few seconds to download and just cause the necessary delays to bring the animation to life.

To show the effects of the longer loading time on an ANSI, caused by the slower download speed of a modem from that era, see this video. It shows a long ANSI downloaded with a simulated speed of a 14.4KB modem. It’s not an animation and only a very long static ANSI, but it is perfect for the illustration of how ANSI animations were only made possible, because of the existance of the combination of available and needed ANSI.sys escape sequences for cursor movement and control plus the slow download speed of modems at that time to cause the necessary delays by which ANSI animations are being loaded and displayed.

The biggest takeaway from this simple fact is that creators of ANSI animations did not only have to consider which characters to re-write, overwrite and delete etc., but also for which download speed the animation will be optimized. If the animation was optimized for a download speed of 2,400 baud and downloaded with a 14.4KB modem, the animation would play much too fast. If the animation was optimized for 14.4KB and downloaded with a 2,400 Baud modem, the animation would appear like in slow motion.

ANSI Animation Artists Tracer/ACiD and Jed/ACiD
One artist who kind of specialized in this special area of ANSI art were the famous ACiD artists Tracer and Jed. They created a number of ANSI animations and were in my opinion the best ANSI animation artists who ever existed. They worked on some pieces together.

Tracer optimized most of his ANSI animations to be downloaded and watched by a user with a 14.4KB modem or at least 9.6KB for optimum playback speed.

Here is the video recording of one ANSI animation that was created for the BBS “The Bog” by Tracer/ACiD and Jed/ACiD in 1992.

Other ACiD artists who created ANSI animation were Tank, Fusion, Cerberus and Blade Runner. They created also some remarkable pieces of ANSI animation (they called it ANSI Movies back in the old days), but fell a bit short of the quality and ingenuity of the works by their group mates Tracer and Jed (IMHO).

Although ANSI was capable of some sounds, which caused the development of a small specialized scene, which created ANSI music, am I unaware of the existence of ANSI animations that also use ANSI music for sound effects and/or background music. I am also not aware of any editor that supported both of those features to help artists with the creation of such ANSI animations.

I dug up a number of old ANSI animation pieces (over a dozen of them) and currently work on converting them to video. Watch out for the ANSI Movies/ANSI Animation gallery here at RoySAC.com.

Update! Here are 21 ANSI Animations from various ACiD Production members. I did not embed the YouTube video for all of the 21 videos, because that would screw up some browsers. I added small thumbnail images with a direct link to the video at YouTube for each of the ANSI animations instead. Enjoy the show!

ACiD Productions

The Elders Craft World


Body Count

Jed and Tracer/ACiD
The Bog

Agents of Fortune

Inn of the Last Home

Why does iCE has so many members?

Spyrits Crypt


So-Krates BBS

Midnite Oil 3

Beyond the Realm of Reality

Barter Town

Jed and Spectral Illusion/ACiD
Nuclear Wastelandz

Jed and RaD Man/ACiD
Street Spydrs


Evil Palace

Blade Runner/ACiD
The Cartel

Blade Runner/ACiD
Korova Milkbar

ANSI Toons 2

And here is another fun bonus. I provided one of the ANSI animations with a voiceover including foley FX and all that hehe. I hope you like it.

Backup link to video at YouTube.com.

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Carsten aka Roy/SAC

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