Discover How (and Why) to Become an Animator
If cartoons like Tom & Jerry, The Simpsons, and Johnny Bravo, and movies like Aladin, Cinderella, and The Little Mermaid were a big, fun part of your childhood, you owe animators a debt of gratitude. They made those films and your favorite cartoon characters come alive on TV screens
An animator is a technology-driven creative artist who produces multiple images called frames, which when sequenced together create the illusion of movement. That illusion of movement is what is known as animation.
The images making up the illusion of movement can comprise of hand-drawn images or digital pictures, puppets or models. As such, an animator can work in 2D, 3D model-making, or computer-generated animation.
Computer-generated animations are the ones that commonly feature in motion pictures to create the animated films, video games, and special effects on television we all love so much.
Recently, Disney’s 1994’s “The Lion King” 2-D animation movie inspired the photorealistic 3-D re-make of the movie, which is making headways as the latest of Disney’s animation blockbusters.
With advancements in technology, more digital platforms are opening up for animation, and more and more brands are seeking animated videos and ad creatives, causing demand for animators to rise. According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), by 2026, the employment rate of multimedia artists and animators is projected will have grown by 8%.
It can pay huge dividends to explore the world of animation and consider a career in this field.
Photo credit: Walt Disney
Career Opportunities in Animation
In an animation career, however, you should understand that most animators find their work through word of mouth. No offense to agents and talent recruiters, but in my experience you have to develop and build strong networks and relationships to succeed in getting work in the business of animation.
The simple truth to finding work in the animation industry is to understand that this is a people driven industry. We are the creative artists who need people to succeed.
Here's a list of probable job roles in animation:
- 2 D Animator
- 3 D Animator
- Key Frame Animator
- Image Editor
- Character Animator
- Texture Artist
- Layout Artist
- Lighting Artist
- Story Board Artist
- Background Artist
- Clean Up Artist
- Rigging Artist
- Rendering Artist
- Digital Ink and Paint Artist.
All of those branches of animation have potential to pay well and be satisfying career fields, with median annual wages of $72,520 as of 2018, according to BLS.
Nurturing a Career in Animation
In order to become a successful animator, you must be well-versed in graphics and computer software (the technical skills of animation), be highly creative, have drawing skills, attention to detail, and an ability to sustain pressure.
And the very first thing that you need to do in order to land a job as an animator is to have a clear understanding of the job and all it requires. Then, you can decide whether to take up animation as a career path, and all that that entails. You can either work as an employee in a company or freelance. Many animators work from home.
You also need to understand that animation needs a lot of patience. A 10-second animation can take days to create. Also, it takes time to become good at animation. So, if you think that you can learn these skills in couple of weeks and start making waves in the industry, then this field is not for you.
That being said, making animations is a lot of fun. Imagine creating a fight between your favorite Avengers’ characters. How cool is that? You can determine how the fight goes.
If you enjoy watching animations as a consumer of the media, then chances are high this might be a good career choice for you.
Moreover, you need to be a good observer and have great imagination, because as an animator you will have to recreate facial expressions of people and how they move.
You should also be able to create solid storylines and not just the characters alone. Teamwork is also very important in an animator’s career.
Basically, the entire process of designing animation can be broken down into three distinct stages: Pre-production, Production, and Post-production.
In Pre-production, an animator needs to conceptualize the final product. In production process, an animator makes 3-D versions of the storyboard; and finally, in the Post-production stage, the animator adds sound-effects and lip-syncing is done to complete the animation.
Qualifications for a Job as an Animator
It will be easier for you to get a job as an animator if you have a bachelor’s degree from a college or university that has a good reputation in animation. Some students choose to major in art, however, finding a program that provides a degree in animation is even better.
You also need to stay up-to-date on changing trends in the industry. Because consumers and employers demand more advanced imagery nowadays, you will often be working with the most up-to-do-date computers and software, meaning your technical skills must be up to par.
Moreover, there are certain areas in this field that offer more job opportunities, so you need to understand which field is going to give you the more stable career option. Just to give you an example, cartoonists nowadays are not in demand as technical animators.
Subscribe to the leading animation and related blogs and magazines to keep pace with developments in the industry. It can really help you tune in to the pulse of the industry.
Brush up on your skills with the leading software in animation and motion graphics. A program in the market right now that animators use to design websites is Dreamweaver; Studio Max, Maya, Flash and After Effects are used for creating 2-D and 3-D animations; and Final cut pro and Adobe Premier Pro are used for video editing.
While learning and polishing your computer skills, do not forget the importance of traditional art. We animator are not just technological robots. We also need to understand the importance of artistic concepts as it helps the animator in creating aesthetic poses and all stage shots.
So, if you want to be a good animator, learn how to draw by hand, and how to space the drawings to create the desired motion, in addition to all the things mentioned above.