Are you interested in working in the industry of animation and cartooning? Well, look no further! Below, you can find the most pertinent information related to this occupation so that you can begin traveling your dream career path now! Animators and cartoonists typically work in many different settings, such as publishing, advertising, or large motion picture studios. If you do not see yourself working in any of these settings, it would also be possible for you to work on a freelance basis to establish a name for yourself. Although it is common for animators to specialize in one type of animation, you will likely still be working with a group of people in your company. In order for your team to consistently achieve success, you will be required to be an effective communicator and a team player. You may find that you have strength for an area and frequently work just in that specific area, such as hand-drawn animation, backgrounds, computer modeling, character design, clay animation, or storyboarding. It is important to note that each of these aspects goes into a particular animation; therefore each component is critical to the overall end product. Start your animation degree today!
While not all employers require that their animators have a formal degree, it is highly advised due to the fierce competition in this industry. In today’s job market, a flair for art and technology may not sufficiently sustain you. It is common for aspiring animators to pursue a degree program related to fine art, art history, or another area of art. Regardless of which of these you choose, you will be working to gain a thorough understanding of the basic principles of design and also the technical skills that will be needed on the job. Some students also attend art school as a part of their educational training. This gives them the chance to work on technique and to further work on building their portfolio. Feel free to research any of the schools shown on our site and request a free information packet from them. With your formal training and knowledge in animation it would be possible for you to pursue work in the design department for video gaming, in computer software graphics, or with an advertising firm. It would also be possible for you to work as an independent contractor who works for different employers when they need something completed. Keep in mind, in many venues a cartoonist is thought to have a similar job function as an animator. Any of the accredited schools below offer animation classes allowing you to get started based on your career goals.
How many times have we all heard about the proverbial poor artist? The man who loves his work, but is unable to really create art and also live comfortably? Well, if you are an artist and also have a penchant for the digital art form of expression, then you might not be cursed with a poor man’s fate.
Computer animation is one of the world’s fastest growing industries, according to a 2016 Global Animation Industry Report. And though self-proclaiming as this may seem, there is no denying that the video game and the entertainment industry are not slowing down in their need for computer animation artists. But what must you be able to do in order to be a computer animation artist? To be a good salesperson you should be both likeable and convincing; to be a good doctor you should be book-smart and caring, and to be a computer artist…? Well, you have to be creative.
The number one quality a person in the field of computer animation should have is creativity. At the end of the day, computer animation is performance art. As the artist, you are not the performer, but you are the one pulling the strings. You are the one creating imagery that will tell whatever story your animation needs to tell. So, in order to be good at this you need to be creative. Don’t confuse creativity with artistic ability either. Artistic ability is indeed very important in this field, but with 3D animation being as high-tech as it is, a person might be able to skate by with less-than polished drawing skills depending on his specialty. If that person, however, can’t create an engaging story on screen, all of his attempts will be worthless. In addition to creativity and theatrical flair, a person looking to enter this field needs to develop the ability to competently work the various programs used by artists in this field. There are quite a few popular programs in use today, and whichever aspect of computer animation you intend to enter can define for you which programs you need to learn. Now that you know the high-level synopsis of what skills you need to acquire in order to be successful in this kind of career, let’s take a look at how to get hired, starting from square one!
High-schoolers Looking to Enter the Field of Computer Animation
Some of you high-schooler artists may already know where you want to go in life, and kudos to you for that! An early start is always a good thing, and most especially in this field. Take as many art classes as you can in high school, focusing on your drawing ability in particular. Depending on which aspect of computer animation you end up focusing on within your career, drawing may play an extremely heavy role in your day-to-day on the job. Raw artistic ability is great, but anyone with a bit of a knack for drawing can come out with a nice piece here and there. In the field however, your skill needs to be a well-honed craft. Because of this, your drawing skills need plenty of attention. In addition to art, take theatre. As a computer animation artist, you will be playing in a cyber-theater every day. You will be creating a virtual show for viewers to enjoy in the comfort of their homes or perhaps out-and-about at movie theaters. So, you need to learn how story-telling (a.k.a. acting) works. In college, these kinds of classes will also likely be a part of any program related to computer-animation. Finally, take advantage of any opportunities you might have to use the following software: Flipbook, Flash, After Effects, Blender (Blender is Free!), Poser, Maya, 3Ds Max, Photoshop, and Cinema 4D.
If you get an early start learning these programs, you will be a step ahead in this game.
So let’s say you just want to know what exactly can get you hired. The answer is simple really: a knock-your-socks-off portfolio and demo reel is what will get you hired. In this field, your creativity and your ability to use the computer to portray art is everything. Take one guy who sat at home and taught himself everything he needed to know about art, drawing and programs and seat him next to another who studied under excellent mentors in college; and they may meet each other at the same level of ability. In the interview process, the way in which you arrived at your ability to create animated footage does not matter. However, your actual ability most definitely does. You need to have something promising to show employers in order for them to hire you; and this something promising is the portfolio reel that you submit which shows your ability to create 3D, 2D, flash, motion-graphic, or stop-motion animation, depending on which aspect of computer animation you plan to specialize in. Learn how to create animation on screen, and you are good to go.
So you’re off to school. This is not a bad choice. Four-year degrees of a few different titles can indeed make you career-fit. So, what to study? Not to disappoint, but this question can get a teensy bit more complicated than the other questions addressed thus far. You might separate computer animation into five different categories: 3D animation (which is what most people nowadays are talking about when they say the generic phrase “computer animation”), then you’ve got your 2D or traditional animation (think old Disney movies like Snow White), followed by Flash animation, Stop Motion Animation, and finally, Motion Graphic animation.
To prepare yourself for the career you want, you might want to decide pretty early on where you want to apply the computer animation skills you plan to acquire. If you are all about the gaming industry, 3D animation will be the style you will need to learn the most about. If you are more about the motion picture industry, 3D animation should certainly be a specialty you want to consider, but other types of animation are used for this type of work as well. The Nightmare Before Christmas, for instance, is a great example of stop motion animation being used in the industry. If you’re interested in marketing and advertising, or PR-related material production, then a working knowledge of all five categories could be useful as you never know what type of production your clients might be looking for to share their brand with the world. Once you have an idea about which direction you want your career in computer animation to go, you can pursue the appropriate degrees/areas of study that will most benefit you in becoming hirable.
Video gaming has become vastly popular. And those who are the biggest fans of gaming often end up wanting to work in the field. Perhaps this is you. For this industry, creativity is big, knowledge of 3D animation is big, and problem solving skills are big. So let’s jump into what exactly you should study in school to be ready for this field, what potential employers are looking for, and also which may be some good schools to consider. To be hirable in this field, you need to have a good understanding of game development from the ground up. Employers want to hire designers who are passionate about the gaming industry. This means they want people who have been playing video games for a while and completely love it. Knowledge of what kinds of games are popular, which aspects of certain games make them so popular, and what types of games are trending make a person looking to enter this field a valuable asset to any game studio. Therefore, before you spend a fortune on a degree fit for the gaming industry, make sure you are interested in it first. What are some degree options you could go for to enter this field? Well, it just so happens that we have a list. If you wish to enter this field, you might consider the following degrees:
• M.S. in Digital Media
• Bachelor in Game Art and Design
• B.S. in New Media Interactive Development
• Bachelor in Game Software Development
• Bachelor in Game Design and Development
• B.S. in Game Programming and Development
• Bachelor in Computer Science
There are more degree options out there of course, but you get the idea. Your best bet is going with a degree closely associated with the gaming industry; but if you already have a degree in, say, computer science, with some extra art classes under your belt and a desire to learn, you could do very well in this field. What kinds of classes will you take? A good question. Your classes will teach you how to create a game from start to finish; and once you have acquired that ability, you will know which area of game production you most enjoy and want to focus on. According to one expert, classes in a good program should train you in the following areas:
• Digital media
• Programming languages
• Computer graphics
• 3D animation
• 2D animation
• Game design
• Color theories
With passion and training as part of which you are, after four years of study, you should be just about ready for the hunt (the job hunt). This is where it gets real. Hiring managers want to see people who can effectively create games. For this reason, using your time in school to create actual, fully-developed games (even simple ones) with their rules, story, and features, can make you a valuable candidate in the eyes of an employer. In addition, an internship or co-op history under your belt can be a great platform for you to stand upon when looking for a position in this field. For those who are asking, a co-op is a gig in which you work with another designer or team of designers to help create a bit of animation. Make yourself as knowledgeable and as skilled as possible during your years of study, so when you present the work you have accomplished to a potential employer, they are suitably impressed. Where should you go to acquire the degree and knowledge that you need? Well, lucky for us, College Rank performed a study on the best ranked schools for game design hopefuls; here are their top ten picks:
1. University of Southern California
2. University of Utah
3. Savannah College of Art and Design
4. Drexel University
5. Rochester Institute of Technology
6. Parsons The New School for Design
7. Georgia Institute of Technology
8. Massachusetts Institute of Technology
9. New York University, Tisch School of the Arts
10. University of Pennsylvania
The Motion Picture Industry
Entering the motion pictures industry is the ultimate dream for many artists looking towards animation. Companies like Pixar and Disney are the holy grail of modern animation. Disney is legendary for its 2D animation, dating back to its historic release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves in 1937 as well as for its 3D animation with its film Frozen, which currently holds its own in the world’s top ten list of highest grossing films of all time, according to AMC Filmsite. So what can you do to enter this industry and perhaps even work at or at least intern for one of the two hot motion picture companies mentioned above? Well, you can start by implementing the advice offered at the beginning of this article: aka Draw A Lot. Then, make sure to get some theatrical experience under your belt before heading off to college where you will learn a whole lot about art, storyboarding, modeling, previz (previsualization), animation, lighting, et cetera. Basically, you need to know how to create a computer animated production in which your artistic and theatrical ability are coupled with your computer prowess to wow all who see the production.
Technically, you need to know how to do the following things:
• Write a good story
• Build 3D models
• Develop animation
• Work at rendering and lighting
• Editing and coloring
• Sound design
Some degrees that could help you learn what you need to know to work in this field are as follows:
• BFA in Motion Picture Arts
• BFA 2D Animation and Stop Motion
• MFA Film and Animation
• BA Animation and Visual Effects
• BFA in Motion Picture Arts, Animation and Digital Arts
• BFA 3D Animation and Visual Effects
• BFA Animation
Where might you earn degrees like this that have some reputation behind them? Well, we’ve got one more list for you on this topic that could be of some help. AnimationCareer.Com is a site that puts together lists of good schools for animation.
In the motion picture industry, they’ve developed a list of favorites which you can find below:
1. Academy of Art University, School of Animation and Visual Effects, San Francisco, CA
2. School of Visual Arts, New York City
3. Rochester Institute of Technology, College of Imaging Arts and Science
4. School of the Art Institute of Chicago
5. Savannah College of Art and Design, Savannah, Georgia
6. Maryland Institute College of Art, Baltimore, Maryland
7. University of Southern California, School of Cinematic Arts, John C. Hench Division of Animation and Digital Arts
8. Park Point University, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
9. Florida State University, College of Motion Picture Arts
10. California State University Los Angeles
Saving the best for last? This final segment of some popular options today in the field of computer animation is one that could provide a lot of diversity for the artist who follows this path. Think about some of the commercials and infomercials you have seen online. It seems that every business needs a computer animated video out there either on YouTube or somewhere else in cyberspace that shares its brand in a fun and engaging way. 2D animation is very commonly seen in this field, and stop motion animation is common too. Both types get the job done in the eyes of a businessman, with stop motion perhaps providing the opportunity for a more whimsical approach to marketing and 2D having the traditional appeal. Now the question remains, what do you desire to do in the long run? Are you intrigued by the field of marketing? Does the idea of having a constantly varied workload appeal to you? Creating short videos of every shape and size can be both fun and challenging, which is why this field appeals to many artists. Like any career, you do need to prepare; and once again, college can be a very productive way to equip yourself. Attaching yourself to a mentor in marketing animation might not be a bad idea either, should you happen to have the right connections. For this field, you want to make sure you are adept at using various types of software related to animation. You also should be fluent in coding and be learned in visual media, animation (various kinds), special effects, and digital graphics. You never know which specialty will come in handy on the job! You can always choose to focus on one discipline of computer animation of course. There is always room for the specialist, especially for he that excels! For this field, a simple BA, BFA, or BS in Computer Animation could be a great choice for a major. Other degrees listed for work in the motion picture industry or even some listed in the gaming section of this article can also help you acquire some of the skills you need (such as the B.S. in New Media Interactive Development and the BA in Computer Science). Once you have finished at least two years of schooling, start trying to freelance your abilities in order to gradually grow your portfolio. When you are looking for internships and co-ops closer to graduation, your applied skill in freelancing will have readied you for this stepping stone, and an internship is the opening of the door in a field like this one. When considering which college you might go to if this is your career of choice, consider some of the schools listed already under the motion picture section of this article, as computer animation is the route you are going to go, though your ultimate purpose with the art form will be marketing/short vids. In addition, these animation schools recommenced by EHow Tech have a great reputation for art and animation.
1. Ringley School of Art and Design (in Florida)
2. Savannah College of Art and Design/SCAD
3. California Institute of the Arts
Any of the three schools listed above would be of a good enough reputation to at least get your work looked at, even if they may not get you hired! (Remember, in this field, it’s all about how good you are at the end of the day, the path you have taken to get yourself an interview is not important!).
Now that you have followed your dream, graduated, and are looking for employment, you might be interested in budgeting, and finance, and how much you can expect to take home at the end of the day, all while living the life of your dreams. In art, salaries may not quite be “where the rubber meets the road.” But, in real life…they very well might be! So, to help you out a bit, below you’ll find a listing of the median salaries for the most common career titles in this field, as well as what you might expect to receive as the highest level of reimbursement for your services.
Video Game Designer
Median: $68,000 High-end: $150,000
Median: $63,007 High-end: $89,000
Median: $71,350 High-end: $187,200
Multimedia Artists and Animators