What to expect from animation schools
Modern animation techniques can help multimedia artists and video editors create special effects for movies and television shows, and have helped make the video game industry a multi-billion dollar giant. It can include designing entire worlds such as in the movie "Avatar" or disguising the fact that the movie "Black Hawk Down" only used one helicopter.
Classes in animation school can focus on the creation of storyboards, even if they are only providing special effects. Students can expect to take classes in modeling, animation and lighting during school. One of the possible requirements for completing an animation program is to produce a "capstone" animation project, either alone or in a group. Some are brilliant, emotional and moving works of animated art and some are not. Animators may also take classes in psychology and communications as both concepts can help tell a story and keep the audience engaged.
Degrees in animation can be earned at the associate, bachelor's or master's level. Some companies may prefer to hire animators with a bachelor's degree, while others may favor applicants with the most robust portfolio of work. Degree programs may allow animation student to expand their portfolio without having extensive work experience.
Tools of the animator
Much of the work of an animator or a special effects editor is now completed through software programs on very powerful computers. As such, animators can expect to work with some of the following types of programs and software.
- Flash - Adobe's classic vectoring animation software not only scales to any size, one of the benefits of vector-based animation, but can also be great for animation beginners.
- Toon Boom Studio - Toon Boom makes cartoon-based animation simple through a library of animations, effects, frame-by-frame editing tools and design widgets.
- Pencil - This free and open-source "traditional hand-drawn animation" program allows quick and easy 2-D animation based on bitmap and vector graphics.
- Xtranormal - This software allows animators to create 3-D-animated movies using the same concepts and mechanics as more professional programs such as Adobe After Effects.
- After Effects - Adobe's After Effects allows for faster rendering of graphic animations than other software types and provides frame-by-frame viewing for precise detailing.
- LightWave 3D - This animation software from NewTek is great for creating photorealistic video effects and animations.
Skills and talents of an animator
Animators and multimedia artists can require just as much skill and precision as other forms of artistic work. As such, the following technical skills and talents may be beneficial for multimedia artists and animators, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).
- Artistic talent - Animators should have a strong sense of color and texture and understand the role light and shadow can play during animation.
- Creativity - Animators may be required to think outside of the box when solving problems or when trying to make their ideas come to life.
- Physical stamina - Tight deadlines can required animators to work long hours, so animators should be able to cope with these physically demanding time constraints.
- Computer skills - Most animation and video editing is done on computers, and as such, animators should be knowledgeable on the use of computers and relevant animation programs.
- People skills - Animators may be part of a team or work closely with other collaborators, and may benefit from having strong interpersonal skills.
Where are the jobs for animators?
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from 2010 to 2020 multimedia artists and animators can expect to experience a national employment growth of up to 8 percent (bls.gov/ooh, 2012). Growth is projected to be tempered by the tendency of companies to hire overseas animators at lower rates. However, the demand for quality animation in films, TV programs and video games, as well as the rising popularity of mobile apps, may help create favorable employment conditions for some animators and multimedia artists (bls.gov/ooh, 2012).
As of May 2012, multimedia artists and animators made a national annual median wage of $61,370, with the highest 10 percent earning up to $113,470 and the lowest 10 percent earning up to $34,860. The states that employed the most animators and multimedia artists were California, New York and Washington state (bls.gov/oes, 2013).
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, May 2012 Multimedia Artists and Animators - http://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes271014.htm
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2012-13 Edition, Multimedia Artists and Animators - http://www.bls.gov/ooh/arts-and-design/multimedia-artists-and-animators.htm
Vancouver Film School, One Year 3D Animation & Visual Effects Program, http://vfs.com/programs/3D-animation-vfx
San Francisco Academy of Art University, School of Animation & Visual Effects - http://www.academyart.edu/animation-school/mfa-program.html