What are the skills needed to become an Animator?
Traditional hand-drawn animation – every movement and facial expression is painstakingly drawn, then transferred onto film or increasingly onto digital media. Up to 20,000 drawings may be needed for a 30-minute film.
Model, or stop frame animation – made famous by Aardman’s Wallace and Gromit – requiring equally detailed work to bring the characters to life.
Computer animation or CGI – using highly sophisticated software for both 2D and 3D animations.
Although some people work on their own, there is increasing emphasis on teamwork and multi-tasking. A large team may be involved in the various stages of production – from raising the finance for the original idea, to script development, the creation of animated characters and backgrounds, casting the ‘voices’, recording the soundtrack, checking the design, editing and sound mixing – and the finished product has to look as if it were all ‘drawn by one hand’.
Despite constant technological development, and the resulting changes in the animation industry, it is widely recognized that the most important skills needed by new entrants (as well as practitioners generally) remain fundamental ones. Aside from the less tangible attributes of creative flair, a good visual eye and raw talent, these are:
- A good sense of timing and composition
- An understanding of motion, size, ratios and perspective
In addition, as the industry broadly becomes more technology-based, certain aspects of the animation discipline are becoming more technical. Consequently, certain other skills are becoming increasingly relevant within some sub-sectors:
- Computer operating systems, (notably Linux/Unix as well as Windows and Mac OS)
- Software-specific computer scripting languages (e.g. MEL scripting for Maya)
- Digital asset management
Combinations of both creative and technical skills are important – ideally within individuals, but certainly within teams, where creative specialists must know how to communicate with technical specialists and vice versa.
If you start getting to the point when you have to decide on your career path, maybe it would be wise to consider someone else’s opinions and pieces of advice. For example, here is what Victoria, a young and aspiring girl had to say about her life choices: “I study from the best animator of our time (My personal favorite is Glen Keane), look at the animation very carefully and focus on character design. I even came up with Chrissy, my O/C from the “A Day from the Kung Fu” series.
So my career choice now is to be an animator (mostly in the work of storyboard and/or supervising animator). To be an animator is something different. It’s like acting but with the use of drawing. I want to bring things to life and inspire people as those movies in the past inspired me to be who I am today.
I still work hard at school, previously a graphic design major but changed to S.A.G. (Simulating Animation Gaming) major. I will continue to work hard and to reach that goal of the animation dream.”