Unlike you and me, Buzz Lightyear wasn’t born in a day. In fact, the charismatic space cadet from Toy Story cherished by children everywhere was intricately designed by an army of animators on a computer screen. In reality, that adored astronaut is simply a series of simultaneous still images manipulated to create the illusion of movement.
And it’s not just children’s movies either. Animators play integral, behind-the-scenes roles in action-packed blockbusters like Transformers, high-octane video games like Halo, glamorous television commercials and much more! How would you like to be a part of such exciting projects on a daily basis?
In such a specialized and competitive field, it’s important to be sure you’ve got the chops to succeed before investing your time and energy into a career in animation. To help get you up to speed with the industry, we’ve compiled some need-to-know animation info for you.
What does an animator do, anyway?
Animators, also known as multimedia artists, create special effects, animation or other visual images using computers or other electronic tools for products or creations, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
As you know, animators help create television shows, movies and video games. But besides the obvious, there are many lesser-known instances where animation is used, says Kristy Mize, instructor of digital design and animation at Rasmussen College.
Some other unique examples of animation jobs she shared include:
- Designing animated graphics for websites
- Recreating crime scenes for court proceedings
- Producing simulations for medical procedures or military practices
- Creating virtual tours of building architecture or model homes
Put simply, animators do more than just make cartoons. Mize explains that a crucial component of an animator’s job is to create a series of drawings that bring characters and other inanimate objects to life in a way that makes the audience feel what the subject is feeling.
What are some characteristics of a successful animator?
If you like the idea of working in animation, the next step is to determine if you have the innate qualities that lend themselves well to the profession. Knowing this information ahead of time will help you avoid wasting time and effort if it’s not the right fit for you.
“A successful animator is someone who is observant and inquisitive about life and the world around them,” says Mize. She claims a natural animator sees the world much differently than the average Jane or Joe.
Mize says animators must commit incredible attention to detail to the world around them. For example, a non-animator might not notice the stranger in line ahead of them at a coffee shop. But a true animator would analyze every detail of that individual, from their posture and facial expressions to the way they walk and talk.
When it comes down to it, animators must master the art of movement, which is why acting experience is particularly helpful. In fact, Pixar Animation Studios places a large emphasis on acting experience for animation candidates to ensure they can “show a character’s internal thoughts and feelings through its physical external motion.”
What are the technical skills needed in animation?
Perhaps you’ve decided that you possess the natural characteristics necessary to excel in an animation career. But hold on, you’re not quite in the clear yet. Those qualities are useless if they aren’t accompanied by the requisite technical skills for animation.
In order to give life to their creative ideas, animators must utilize both the artistic right and analytical left side of their brains. You’ll need to possess the perfect combination of practical skills and software savvy to flourish in this field.
First and foremost, Mize stresses the importance of strong drawing skills. She says it’s imperative to have a clear understanding of how to draw a figure and how the body moves. You don’t have to be the next Michelangelo but you should have a good understand of drawing fundamentals.
Her advice to individuals interested in pursuing a career in animation is simple and straightforward: “Draw, draw and draw some more!”
Mize also teaches her animation students other essential skills from color theory and audio/video editing to web authoring and digital media production. She ensures her students master the 12 principles of animation. Students are also exposed to cutting-edge software such as Adobe Flash, 3D Studio Max and Mudbox.
If you find yourself lacking some of these technical talents, don’t worry! These are the exact skills that you can acquire by earning an animation degree.
So … are you up for the challenge?
Bringing dynamic characters to life is an exciting job, but an animation career isn’t always a walk in the park. Many animators work long hours, including nights and weekends, to adhere to strict deadlines. But if you’re passionate about animation and determined to succeed, the high-pressure, fast-pace environment shouldn’t faze you a bit.
Now that you’re aware of the skills and qualities needed to succeed in animation, take a minute to determine the areas in which you may need some work. Then decide if earning a degree may help you develop those areas.
In the words of the Pixar animation team, “Computers don’t animate. People do.”
To learn more and start planning for your career in animation, download our free Design Career Outlook today!