Have you sat down to admire the appearance and gestures of Simba in The Lion King? Or perhaps you have asked yourself how Woody in Toy Story acts almost like a human? All your favourite characters in animated movies were created by animators. An Animator is an expert who uses special computer programs or software to build two dimensional (2D) and three dimensional (3D) images for websites, games, movies, and other multimedia platforms.
An Animator designs images and turns them into frames. He then uses some software tools to create an illusion of movement. These movements are what we refer to as animation. Do you aspire to become one? The following are your typical roles.
Roles of an Animator
Depending on the terms of your agreement with an employer or client, you will be asked to create beautiful and interactive designs. After this, you will present the designs for evaluation by all stakeholders including customers. You will also collaborate with other production team members to understand what clients need, revise scripts, create storyboards for videos and also edit projects when necessary.
Your roles will equally involve:
- Listening to feedback on your designs and implementing them
- Providing information in a visual form
- Creatively telling a story with images.
- Learning how to use the latest computer programs and staying up-to-date on trends within the creative industry.
- Creating animation projects that match the expectations of clients and/or your employer.
- Discussing contracts with clients and helping them understand the limitations.
A career in Animation usually involves extensive drawing and a good knowledge of creative technology. Your work becomes easier when you can quickly sketch your designs. Since you will be responsible for turning still images into moving and living objects, you need to be very creative. Having a good knowledge of how humans/ things move is equally necessary. However, these are not only the areas to look at when considering a career in the field. The following skills will go a long way in helping you decide if you fit in. You will also learn and understand what you need to succeed in the field.
Motion, visual and special effects, as well as making images appear as realistic as possible are graphics skills that will help you create stunning animations. Your graphics design abilities must be at an advanced level before you begin to search for animation jobs or projects.
As an aspiring Animator, you have to learn the 12 principles of animation, audio, and video editing skills. Your ability to use software solutions such as Adobe Creative Cloud applications, Studio Max, 3D studios among others is crucial to your progress in the field.
Maybe this is not a skill you will expect to be on the list, nonetheless, it is quite necessary. You need to be able to create characters that can project real human emotions in their gestures, faces, and actions. In film animation, your ability to imitate and put life into your designs is key to producing meaningful animation films. Viewers are expected to empathize with your characters as they will do when they watch humans act in a movie.
Colour combination skills
Your ability to combine colours and understand the colour theory is also important while pursuing a career in animation. Characters, expressions, moods, scenes and every other component that contributes to the visuals of a project will have specific colours that best depict them. You must understand these colours, where and when to use them in your designs as they will help in passing your messages just as you want.
Ability to Analyse
Every tiny bit of detail is important in the animation process. So, being an animator, your mind and eyes must always pick details that make your characters realistic. For instance, a boy’s shoulder is usually broader than a girl, the movement of animated arms and hands must be in sync as they would when humans swing them. All aspects of a character you are trying to build must be included in your finished work. Proper analysis and study of characters are crucial for every animator.
This includes knowing the ideal proportions of objects, understanding how to space characters, and other elements featured in your design. Spatial skills will also help you time actions, reactions, and movements as you create your animations. It equally helps to make elements appear realistic to clients or end-users.
No doubt, the most instrumental skill you should develop as an aspiring animator is creativity. Partake in activities that can help build your mind to think outside the box. Practice and create unique elements that can serve as your style of creation. Develop characters, scenes, objects, stories, and activities that are original and can only be traced to you. One important habit that can help increase your level of creativity is when you sketch and draw consistently, creating new shapes from your imaginations and developing them every time you can. As an animator, you are expected to be innovative, as well as have the ability to produce new concepts.
How to become an Animator
The first step towards becoming an animator is taking subjects in visual or fine arts in high school. And you do not just take, them, you must make a conscious effort towards learning and practising your lessons. A proper Fine Arts curriculum will ideally include a lot of practical tasks and assignments. Your tasks may sometimes seem too bulky, but you need them. They contribute to your creativity in the long run. Furthermore, you get to develop spatial, timing and analytical skills through subjects such as Mathematics. For storytelling, you should be an active learner in English Language, Literature, or indigenous language classes.
The next step after completing your secondary education is enrolling for a Computer Animation, Fine Arts or Graphic Arts degree in a tertiary institution. There, your skills will be brushed and developed appropriately. ( Find a list of schools that offer certified animation degrees below.)
University Degree in Animation
In your Bachelor’s Degree program, you will learn how to use the most advanced computer programs other experts use. You will also become familiar with the different specializations within the field. There will be room to decide the field you want to focus on. For instance, you may specialize in either film animation, games, website animations, or special/ visual effects, advert animation and so on.
During your early years in the university, endeavour to pay attention to courses on Drawing, Graphics, Multimedia, and 2D/3D animation. As you progress in your studies, it important to choose courses where you can learn the exact skills and techniques that are required in a specialization you have chosen. Courses for special effects, for instance, are usually different from the ones you have to take if you are considering a career in creating interactive film style animation.
Having a catalogue of your creations is important when schooling. You can have demos of animations you have created, stored up in an external hard disk or cloud storage. This way, you can visit them from time to time to see how much you have learned and attempt to improve on each of your previous works. Interestingly, your first potential employer will most likely want to see the animations you have created previously. This helps them understand how knowledgeable, skillful and creative you are.
Taking up Internship positions in animation companies
Practical knowledge, previous work experiences will certainly set you up for employment in decent organizations. Truth be told, most practical opportunities will come from internship positions. As you study, take up intern roles at animation studios that are close to your institution. You can also volunteer to create animations for not for profit organizations as you continue to increase your level of expertise and confidence. Participating in community development projects is another smart way to build your portfolio. Awareness films, civil programs will help you understand your community; a good way to learn how to appeal to them through animations.
Learn more on Animation
In the creative industry, new trends come up every time. You must remain curious and learn every day, even after attaining a good level of proficiency in the field. Your competitors will always have a goal to outdo whatever you create, increasing your proficiency level helps you remain relevant. Attend discussion groups, seminars, workshops and training organized by software producing organizations like Adobe and Autodesk.
Another smart way to keep up is by reading publications from leading experts in the animation field. Follow them on social media platforms where they share insights and new trends in the industry.
Enroll for Graduate animation programs
While your skills and level of expertise will determine the type of jobs and positions you will get, it is advisable to enroll for a Graduate Program, especially if you do not have plans to work as a freelancer or set up an animation firm yet. You get to learn advanced technical skills in animation at this stage. You may take up programs in Fine Arts, Dramatic Arts, to master storytelling skills, or you can specialize in 2D and 3D designs. Collaborating with other classmates on projects will help you learn how to function well within a team. You will also meet a good number of skilled animators. Bonding and creating connections will occur naturally in such an environment.
One other way to set yourself on the right path is finding a mentor. Make a list of experienced professional animators. Trim it down by mapping out those who would genuinely add value to you and help you grow. Attend events they are likely to show or send messages to them through their publicly shared contacts. Apply for internship positions at an organization they own, develop and maintain a good relationship with them. You stand to get opportunities such as job placements, referrals, and get first-hand information on industry trends. However, you need to also find a way to give back. You can volunteer to help them without charges on some grand-scale projects, you can share ideas with them or provide candid opinions on their designs and projects.
Job prospects for an animator
The data released by the Bureau of Labour Statistics (US) indicates that career growth in the animation industry will be up to 8 percent by 2026. This is because more organizations now need animators to create marketing videos, develop realistic characters that are not only aesthetically pleasing but also interactive, and meet with consumers’ demands. Mobile phone users are eager to download interactive games, kids learn in a fun way when they watch animation videos, and there is an increasing audience for full-fledged animation films.
Organizations that employ animators
Two out of every four animators are freelancers. That is, animators mostly work on projects from home. Sometimes, project supervisors keep them in a temporary camp with other production members and IT experts in the process of creating products. However, animators are usually coveted by agencies in different sectors. You can work in the marketing units, an advertising agency, a software company, a film making firm, among others. If you choose to work within a team, your tasks may sometimes keep you at work for extended periods. Sometimes, you may spend your weekends with other team members, working on projects and trying to meet deadlines.
Fields of Specialization for Animators
Animation Lighting Expert – This is a professional who designs, develops and modifies highlights, shadows, and other general lighting conditions. If you have a keen interest in film making and enjoy coordinating the appearance of scenes, you should consider becoming an Animation Lighting Artist
Graphic Artist – A graphic artist creates appealing visuals for advert campaigns, multimedia boards, teaching materials, websites, software programs and so on. You can specialize in this field if you enjoy convincing or compelling an audience to take action after interacting with your designs. Graphics design is an important aspect of marketing.
Video Game Designer: This is an IT expert who uses computer programs to build video games. Designing games usually involves writing codes, creating and developing characters, scenes, and settings. A game designer also creates controls for the end-user. Therefore, matching animation skills with coding is important in this field.
3D Designer: A 3D (three dimensional) model designer recreates a normal image by making it appear more life-like and realistic. With the help of computer programs, the designer creates crystal clear images and videos which are usually more attractive than the regular 2D model. As a 3D artist, you will work with movie producers, music video directors, Television stations, and other multimedia firms.
You should also learn about some other high-in-demand creative careers such as:
Universities to Study Animation
The best foundation you can have as an aspiring Animator is to get the right education. Below are some institutions offering accredited and widely recognised programs in the field.
- Program: Bachelor’s Degree
- Duration: Three years
- Specializations: Computer Animation, Games Technology, Software Development, for Animation Effects, Computer Visualization and Art.
- Program: Master’s Degree
- Duration: Two Years (Full time)
- Programs: Bachelor’s Degree, Diploma
- Duration: Four Years (1 Year Diploma) (Full Time)
- Specializations: Game Design, Computer Animation.
- Programs: Bachelor’s Degree, Master’s Degree
- Duration: Four Years (BFA), Two to Three Years (MFA)
- Specializations: Character Animation, Experimental Animation
- Program: Bachelor’s Degree
- Duration: Three Years (Full Time)
- Specializations: Animation, Interactive Media
There you go. If you have read through my explanations on who Animators are, their roles, the career paths they must follow, and the prerequisite skills needed to excel in the field, deciding on whether you should become an animator or not will be less difficult by now. If perhaps, you need more clarity and further guidance on how to enroll for the institutions above, you can send an email or use the chat option below the page, I’ll gladly assist.