Computer animation is easily one of the fastest growing careers in the fields of entertainment, education, and training. Professionals who can create animated or moving representations of concepts are in high demand, particularly in a more visual and digital world. Animators generally use a variety of computer applications to create animations for use in videos, gaming, movies, and presentations. They also must use storyboarding, illustrative conceptualization, and motion capture to bring images together. This requires above-average creative skills coupled with technical knowledge, which are areas that use both sides of the human brain.
There are a number of ways an individual can obtain the training necessary to work as a computer animator. These methods include training delivered via open online courses, and training programs delivered by individuals on tutorial websites, college and university programs, workplace training and development opportunities, and professional associations and organizations for animators.
Many computer animators start out in other areas of art or design and then teach themselves the skills needed to use various computer animation software. They may learn techniques from other animators, or they may just have natural talent for this medium. There are a number of self-teaching methods for obtaining the skills needed to succeed as a computer animator, including taking classes at local art galleries or being an apprentice of a more seasoned computer animator. Other ways to learn the skills needed to work as a computer animator include tutorials offered for free or low cost on Udemy or Lynda.com.
There are a number of computer animation courses available on the Internet and accessible via mobile devices. Some of the Massive Open Online Courses (MOOCs) and others are created by individuals and instructors to teach the various components of successful computer animation. Many are facilitated by real working computer animators who know the current industry well.
Colleges and Universities
Schools that cater to the arts and humanities often have computer animation courses that support learners who want to focus on this as a career path. Some students choose a graphic design or illustration path and then take specialized courses in animation and film production. Colleges and universities provide learners the opportunity to take advanced and specialized courses in the field of computer animation and design. Some of the highly-rated colleges that offer degree programs in computer animation include:
- California Institute of the Arts, an art institute located in Valencia, CA
- Ringling College of Art and Design, a Florida-based arts and liberal arts college
- Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD), a college for creative-based careers in Georgia
- University of Southern California (USC), a private university in Los Angeles
- Pratt Institute in NY, a creative campus located primarily in Brooklyn and Manhattan
- Rhode Island School of Design (RISD), an arts college in Providence
Computer animators will most likely want to pursue a Bachelor's in Fine Art (BFA) or Master's in Fine Art (MFA), coupled with a major in Film/Animation/Video (FAV). Program completion is generally in four to six years of full-time classes with a practicum where students will have the opportunity to work on actual computer animation projects.
Workplace Training and Development
Companies can provide a solid learning experience for those who wish to get involved in computer animation as a career. Generally, these are companies in digital marketing, movie and film production, gaming design firms, eLearning agencies, and advertisement agencies that offer internships and apprenticeship programs.
Professional Organizations and Associations
Several professional organizations dedicated to the arts and marketing offer computer animation training modules. These programs can also provide access to earning certifications, which can increase the value of an individual's skills in the marketplace. For example, the Society for Animation Studies (SAS) and the Animation World Network (AWN) offer training and certifications. The most popular certification that individuals may earn include the 3D Character Animation Certificate or the Computer Aided Design Certificate.
Examples of Computer Animation Skills
There are some specific skills that computer animators need to be successful in a career, including:
- Animation and Image Editing Software - Such as Maya, 3ds Max and Mari, Adobe Flash, Photoshop, After Effects
- Storyboarding and Layout Programs - Such as character rigging, motion capture, and 3D modeling
- Fine Arts Concepts - Such as color composition, lighting, hand drawing, texture, creative writing, and brand concept
It is recommended that computer animators put their focus on earning the skills needed to perform the various aspects of this demanding work and learn from a mentor while building a strong portfolio.
Career Outlook for Computer Animators
According to the US Department of Labor - Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook, careers in multi-media animation and the arts are expected to grow at a rate of 6 percent, and there are projected to be around 3,900 additional jobs created until the year 2024. Typical earnings for computer animators average $63,630 USD per year with a Bachelor's degree. PayScale.com puts average earnings for Computer Animators at $50,194 USD annually. Animators may work independently as freelancers or part time on contract jobs, or they may benefit from profit sharing of a final film project, all of which can influence earnings.
Getting into a career as a computer animator takes a great deal of skill, as well as knowledge of both creative design and manipulation of images using computer applications. Attending a variety of college and self-directed learning courses can go a long way towards success in this competitive field.