Becoming an animator is a dream for many people. It’s a creative and rewarding career that allows you to bring characters and stories to life on the big screen. But what does it take to become an animator? What kind of training and experience is necessary? And what are the prospects for someone who wants to enter this field?
In this blog post, we will explore the career path of an animator. We will look at the education and training required, as well as some of the challenges and opportunities faced by animators working in Hollywood today.
1. What is An Animator?
An animator is someone who brings drawings to life by creating the illusion of movement through the use of timing, movement, and personality. Animation can be created via computer software or with pencils, paper, and a lightbox.
Traditionally, animators worked in studios where they were part of a larger team that included artists, writers, editors, and producers. Today, all of these roles can be performed by one person. At present, the animation market is dominated by feature films and television series, but animators are also employed in video games and short-form content due to the rise in online streaming services like Netflix and Amazon Prime.
2. Types of Animators
There are many types of animators. Some will specialize in character animation, others will focus on special effects or backgrounds, while some may work across both. Animators might have a background in art or computer science. For those with an artistic leaning, a degree in fine arts is the usual first step towards becoming an animator.
Traditionally, animators would find work within the studio system where they are employed by a company to animate on projects. However, the rise of technology has allowed for more freelance opportunities across streaming companies and advertising agencies.
3. How to Become An Animator?
As with most careers, the best place to start is at school. An interest in art and animation can be encouraged by attending after-school art classes or studying animation in high school. When it comes to choosing a degree program, an animator will typically need an education that encompasses traditional fine arts training as well as computer science or programming skills.
The American University’s Media and Games Network website has a list of universities offering degree programs in animation, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s pioneering course in computer graphics.
In addition to studying traditional fine arts, an animator will also need to develop their skills using commercial animation software such as Adobe Flash or Maya. In fact, many studios look for animators who are already familiar with these programs.
The artist recruitment website, Concept Art Empire, also stresses the importance of gaining hands-on experience by taking part in online tutorials and sharing your work on social media channels like YouTube and Instagram.
4. How Much Does an Animator Make?
The median salary for animators is USD $75,000, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). The BLS also notes that animators working in film and video game production typically earn an average of $14.00 per hour more than those working in advertising agencies.
The rise of freelance work means that there is no single route to becoming an animator. The American University recommends getting your work out there through internships, volunteer projects, and showing off your best skills on social media to make yourself known in the industry.
5. How Long does It Take to Become An Animator?
The length of time it takes to become an animator varies from person to person. Some graduates will be able to get a job in animation within a year, while others may take up to five years before they are ready for the workforce.
Further education is not universally required but can help you stand out from other applicants and also allow you to specialize in certain areas of animation. The BLS also notes that animators who have worked within the industry for many years may become mentors to aspiring animators while simultaneously taking on other roles such as art director or production designer.
6. The Job Outlook for An Animator
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment opportunities for animators are expected to grow by 16% between 2016 and 2026. While this is on par with other career paths in the world of media production, it remains a highly competitive field.
Entry-level jobs are typically outsourced overseas, where they can be performed more cheaply. At present, many of these are animated television series. Jobs within the feature film industry are typically offered to more experienced animators who have established their skills with smaller projects.
Some animators will find work through freelance opportunities at places like Upwork, Freelancer.com, or Fiverr. However, due to the competitive nature of the field, it is advised to supplement these freelancing gigs with another unrelated stream of income.
The biggest hurdles for aspiring animators are the competition and the length of time it takes to secure a job. With so many people wanting to enter this industry, those fresh out of art school will need to make themselves as employable as possible by gaining experience and developing their skills before entering the job market.
As with any creative career, there is no one path to a job as an animator. There are a number of routes into animation, with some starting by working on short films and others getting jobs as concept artists or 3D modelers. Many choose to go freelance and work from home, while some work part-time in schools or studios while they build up their portfolio.
Maya, a 3D software developed by Autodesk, is a popular choice among animators. The program allows users to animate, render and create interactive 3D animations with ease. Maya has been used in major feature films such as “Avatar,” “Titanic,” and the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy. In fact, it has become such a popular choice that many other animation programs now use it as an animation base.
Animation is a career with very little job security, and the market can be highly competitive. However, those who stick with it will reap their rewards in the long term and benefit from technological improvements and demand for short-form content and streaming services.
8. Where is the Best Place to Work?
As with most creative industries, it is seen as advantageous for an animator to live in a major metropolitan area where there is greater access to jobs and more networking opportunities. This means that many animators are tempted into relocating to Los Angeles, New York, or San Francisco.
Although the best place to work might be a major city, it is wise to consider the logistics and costs that come with relocating before making an immediate choice. It isn’t always necessary to move immediately into a studio or big-name company when there are plenty of jobs within extended commuting distance from where you live.
9. What do you Love About Your Job?
The artistry involved in animation can be extremely rewarding. It is one of the few jobs that allow you to fully express yourself creatively and give shape to an idea. The industry also offers a flexible work schedule, allows for freelancing opportunities, and has plenty of room for advancement within the company if you are looking to move up in your career.
10. Am I Likely to Find Work Overseas?
The animation industry is very much globalized. A large number of animated movies are outsourced to overseas studios that pay animators lower wages than they would in North America. This practice has become so pervasive that many graduates leave art school with the intention of finding work in places like South Korea, where there is a demand for animators.
11. How Can I Increase My Chances of Landing a Job As An Animator?
An art portfolio is one of the best ways to show potential employers that you have the skill and creativity necessary for a career as an animator. It doesn’t matter whether or not your finished product has been digitally rendered, as long as you have a good body of work backing it up.
As well as having an impressive portfolio, recent graduates should also consider getting relevant experience within their chosen field. Short films are a great way to show artistic skills and storytelling abilities.
There is no one path into animation, so it is important to be prepared for any opportunities that might arise. Any work experience or internships you can get will go a long way to increasing your chances of success at the interview stage.
12. Best Colleges to Study Animation
Some of the best colleges and universities to study animation include:
- Ringling College of Art and Design http://www.ringling.edu/
- Savannah College of Art and Design http://scad.edu/
- Massachusetts College of Art and Design https://www.massart.edu/
- Rhode Island School of Design http://risd.edu/
- Savannah College of Art and Design http://scad.edu/
- Laguna College of Art and Design https://www.lagunacollege.edu/animation
Animation is a great career choice for creative and passionate people. It offers the opportunity to work in a variety of industries, express your creativity, and tell stories that entertain and inspire audiences around the world. If you’re interested in pursuing an animator career path, there are many schools that offer excellent animation programs. Start by doing your research and finding a school that fits your needs and goals. With hard work and dedication, you can achieve success as an animator!