The Path to an Animation Career

Until recently, multi-media artists and animators worked primarily in the motion picture and video industries.  Today the multi-billion dollar games industry has added an important employment sector for animators, and with the advent of Web 2.0 and broadband internet access animators have also found an important employment niche in website design and development. 

An animation career can take you to a movie studio, but a tiny percentage of animators make it to that level of the entertainment business.  Fortunately, animation has become commonplace in the creation of television commercials, online ads and website applets.  There are currently about 90,000 animators and multimedia artists working in the United States. There will be growth in this industry – over 25% in the next decade –  but it’s also an attractive field to a lot of people.If you have a good hand and eye for drawing, animation may be an excellent career choice.  But you need to expect stiff competition, and you should also understand that there is a definite career ladder in the business.  Here are some checkpoints that you need to consider before embarking on active pursuit of this profession.

Animation is a combination of hand drawings and computer generated renderings.  Often original sketches become computer files, and the animation software takes it from there.  Many ad agencies still use storyboards; some are computer generated but often at the early stages they are hand drawn.  Once art is folded into a computer program it can become a story line or a 3D character or part of a web page theme. 

Animation isn’t just drawings in motion.  Animators working on pieces of any complexity are going to get involved with shading, backgrounds and frame-by-frame changes.  An animator often works with a programmer, but in many cases the programming falls to the artist.

You;ll need an animation degree on your resume.  The complexities for animation today lie largely in the computer programs that are used to create them.  You need to have a thorough understanding of the tools used in the animation shop; today most people starting out in the field have a bachelor’s degree in multimedia or animation. 

Expect to become a computer programmer.  CGI – computer generated images – is the state of the art in animation.  There are dozens of animation software choices out there, many of which are designed for webpage use.  Advertising shops use a different selection, and companies like Pixar create their own.  Adobe’s Flash products for the Web and Autodesk’s Maya and 3Ds Max software for movies and videos are examples of popular animation tools produced by respected companies.Study the career steps.  When you begin to look at the operations of an animation studio, you’ll find specialists in storyboards, texture mapping, motion capture, game design, and the usual starting point for graphic artists, character art.  While they are all talents of a particular sort, you will find that moving into the field of your choice may require some initial work in some other specialty as a method of getting your foot in the door.