Animation is a relatively new and exciting career field with many opportunities. Animators create images, either by hand or with the help of computers, for companies such as animation studios, game companies, and advertising agencies. They make commercials, movies, video games and TV series. Animation is a modern art form that offers many job opportunities. If you’ve always loved cartoons, you can make them your career!
You must have a clear understanding of the profession and its many specializations so that you can ensure your skills match. All animators bring characters or images to life on screen by making them move, but they work in different areas. Some animators create images that are used by animation studios and advertising agencies. Others create storyboards that TV and film directors use to plan their shoots. These storyboards represent what will appear on screen, such as where the actors will be standing. There are many different tasks that humans can perform during the animation process. Animators create special effects that appear in films, television series, and video games. Animators also work as modelers, in computer animation, as painters, as game designers, and as technical directors. Consider working freelance. Sometimes animators work part-time freelance in different areas of their professional field.
Employers are looking for “hard skills” such as the ability to use computer programs. They also consider “soft skills,” which are the personal qualities that many animators need. It can take many weeks to create a 10 second animation. If you lack the patience for such an endeavor, this career field may not be your best choice. Also, don’t assume that you’ll learn the skills needed to animate in a matter of weeks. The field requires a lot of technical training. Animation is fun, and many animators grew up watching animated video games or movies. Imagine you have to create a battle between two Transformers! Animators are insightful and good observers of life and human nature. This is because they need to know how to create facial expressions and how people move. You must have the ability to develop plots, not just characters. Animators need to be able to work well with other people. Rarely do animators work outside of a team. There are many, many steps along the animation process.
The animation process can be divided into different sections. There’s a lot more to it than pen and paper (or fingers and a computer mouse). By mastering these steps, you can make better decisions about which task you want to take on. pre-production. In this phase, the animator creates a concept for the final product. An animator could create a storyboard that includes sketches of each frame, helping to develop and illustrate the storyline. The drawings in the storyboard often include text that describes how the characters move. Sometimes animators will make reference videos in pre-production. For example, if you’re creating a character throwing a baseball, you’ll probably film a person throwing a baseball beforehand. Model Sheets show a character’s facial expressions. These specific drawings allow animators to consistently maintain characters’ personalities. The visuals department will then create animatics, which are simple simulations of visual animation. An animator will also decide on a few key poses, which represent the character’s most important positions. Production. Layout artists create 3D versions of the storyboard’s drawings. Basically, they bring it to life. Some types of animation use modelers who form figures based on the drawings. “Textures” means adding the little details that make the animation seem real, like little cracks in sidewalks. “Rigging” means that the bones and movements of a character are more precisely defined on the screen. Some forms of animation use motion capture, which means that an actor’s movements are captured and then matched to the animation’s drawings. post production. There are three basic components of post-production: Mixing brings together all of the previous elements of production into a seamless storyline. Sound editing adds sound effects and lip-sync audio to the animated drawings. Video editing creates the right flow and storyline by rearranging the images if necessary.
Most animations are either 2-D or 3-D. To understand the difference, remember traditional cartoons like Aladdin, which were 2-D, and movies like Toy Story, which show more complex dimensions. To create 2D animations, you need to draw everything you see frame by frame. You draw the most important poses. Then you draw the movement in between. Artistic drawing talent is important for all animators, but it’s even more important in 2-D animation. Animations typically work at 24 frames per second. Slower movements can also be achieved with 12 frames per second. In stop-motion animation, where the characters are standing still, not as many frames are used. 3D animators move the characters like puppets on the computer. 3D animators create a model of the character. The animator can then use controls on the computer to create differentiated character movement. 3D animation requires knowledge of graphs and curves and basic geometry. 3D animators rarely use stop motion animation. You must always keep the character moving, otherwise, it will look like a bug.
While there are always exceptions, it will be easier to get an animator job if you have a bachelor’s or professional degree from a university or college that has a good reputation in the field. You should look for an educational institution that offers courses in 2D and 3D animation. While some animation students choose to study art, it’s better to find a program dedicated to animation. To help you find a school, look for advertisements and reviews of animation courses. For example, Animation Career Review lists the best schools for game design courses. It also provides an overview of the best animation schools by region. You could perhaps opt for a two-year online course instead. The Animation Career Review is one resource to look for animation courses. The site has an extensive list of schools offering courses related to animation. You should look for schools that offer degrees in the types of animation that interest you most. For example, if you want to animate video games, you should look for schools that offer courses in things like “gaming design” and “3D modeling for games.”
Technologies change over time and consumers want more and more unusual imagery. Some areas offer more job opportunities than others. Study the field so you know where the growth opportunities are and what best matches your skillset. Reading trade magazines dedicated to animation is a great way to learn about trends and gain a better understanding of the industry. Comic artists (2-D animators) aren’t as popular these days as technical animators, who use computers to create visual worlds. Just think how much animation has changed from Mickey Mouse to the digital complexity of Toy Story.
You should probably specialize in the area of animation that you do best and enjoy most. Don’t try to do everything at once. Find your animation niche, whether it’s drawing by hand or creating intricate special effects on the computer. If you love drawing and are good at it, 2-D might be for you. If you’re good at math and love computers, 3-D is probably your best bet. Universities and other educational programs offer specializations in areas such as game design, computer animation, graphic design, visual arts, and entertainment animation. People sometimes don’t find out which specialization suits them best until they’re already in an apprenticeship. Don’t put too much pressure on yourself to specialize right away. At the end of your training, however, it is good if you can show a clear focus. Specializing will help you choose the right programs and courses. You will need different courses to become a Hollywood film animator than a game animator. Some universities offer courses that have been developed around different specializations. However, don’t forget to master the basics. If you can show employers that you have a solid base of fundamentals, you’ll be better at selling yourself.
This is extremely important. You should demonstrate artistic creativity, but you’ll find work much easier if you can master the computer programs most commonly used by animators today. This is absolutely necessary. Programs popular with animators include web design software (like Dreamweaver), graphics and photo editing software (like Creative Suite), 2D and 3D animation software like Studio Max, Maya, Flash, and After Effects), and video editing software (like Premiere or Final Cut Pro). These computer programs can be very expensive. However, many university courses offer student discounts.
Animators aren’t just technological robots. You must have an understanding of artistic concepts and be able to draw. This also applies to people who want to pursue a career in 3D animation. Traditional artistic training helps animators create poses and stage shots. Good animators can draw by hand and know what changes to take from one frame to the next to get the movement they want and how to bring their characters to life. In the industry, these people are called “draftsmen” or “draftsmen.” There are jobs for animators who only draw by hand, but the competition is tougher in this field these days. Still, most people will be better animators after they take a few art classes. In fact, some animation companies like Pixar say they value animators’ artistic talent as much as their computer skills.
There are other courses and experiences you may need to be a good animator. These can be found outside of the specific animation courses. Some of the big studios prefer animators with acting experience. They believe this helps them better capture the liveliness and movement of their characters. Keep in mind that these companies want you to be hired to create personalities and storylines—basically, to replicate real life. Courses in science and especially geometry are highly valued by animators. Animators need to be creative and think in pictures, but they also need a good understanding of geometry.
Build your resume with actual work experience. This applies while you are still at university. Start there (or even during school if possible). Animators need work experience, not just a degree, to get their first job. Many animation companies offer internships to animation students so they can build a resume and get their first job. These internships are sometimes unpaid. Consider volunteering. This can be a great way to build your resume. You may have to work for free for a while, but the work will help you get a real job. Many nonprofit organizations would appreciate an animator to help them with their projects. You can list volunteer work on both your resume and portfolio. Companies don’t really care if you got paid for it or not. It’s about being able to show people what you’ve done in a very concrete way. Entry-level animation jobs typically require at least a year of professional experience, and it will likely take you 5 years to get a higher-level position.
It’s common for employers to want to see your work as a demo video or “demo reel.” A demo video is a video with short examples of your work played one after the other. Some companies prefer demo videos that only show a snippet of your best work instead of multiple samples of your work. You could adapt your demo video for different positions to emphasize the style and training that each position requires. Different companies prefer different styles. Demo videos should be at least 2 minutes for novice animators and no longer than 4 minutes for more experienced animators. Choose your best work for the video, not every single work you’ve ever done. Begin and end the video with excerpts of your best work. Some employers will want to see the demo video in DVD form, others will accept a link to your demo video on your website. Some companies, like Pixar, tell applicants to tell them what they want to see when they apply. Use the original audio in works that contain dialogue, but avoid adding distracting music to the video. You can use music, but make sure it complements the animation rather than overpowering it. Some employers will watch your demo video without sound anyway. Number each segment. The number is usually displayed at the top right of the screen when a new animation segment appears on the demo video. Add a title slide. This picture should include your name, contact information and the position you are applying for. The title slide should appear at the beginning and end of the demo video. The best animation companies expect creative ideas in addition to technical skills in demo videos. Don’t just do what everyone does. Be willing to take risks. An animator who wanted to submit an animation of a jump instead chose one where the character slips and falls to differentiate himself from the other animations with jumps. Upload your demo video to YouTube, Vimeo and your website.
Most companies will require a written summary of what you’ve done that they can refer to when evaluating your work. The numbering in the demo video should match the numbering in the summary. Explain to the viewer exactly what you did. For example, if a ball appears on the screen, explain why you cast a shadow on it.
These are the two usual application documents that you should send in with your demo video. In the letter of application you should introduce yourself and your demo video. You should showcase your skills in the cover letter. Your resume should outline your education and work experience relevant to the job, as well as awards you’ve won for your skills.
You will need to put your best work together in a portfolio in order to apply for an animator position. People will want to see examples of what you’ve made, not just hear what you’ve made. A portfolio is not a voluntary diligence task. It is expected of you. Include a biographical part. You need to give your employers an idea of who you are as an employee. Provide longer examples of your work. Make sure it includes a section with your contact information. Create a section for your demo video and resume. Check out sample portfolio pages by professional animators. You can find many of these online, giving you a better understanding of what the industry norms are and what your competition is doing.
Practice creates masters! Practice as much as possible. Having a drawing tablet can help. If you can’t afford one, that’s no problem either. Be persistent. Some companies, like Pixar, recommend that unsuccessful applicants reapply for open positions every six months.
Trolls lurk on the internet. Don’t listen to them. You can’t please everyone. Your first animation probably won’t be your best. Don’t let that discourage you. Don’t create and send out portfolios of your work until you have a really good collection of work. Don’t use music that doesn’t belong to you. You could get into trouble if you do that.