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How to become an animator

Updated: Mar 15

Where to start?




You want to be an animator, but you don't know where to start?

What style of animation ? What technique? What is the best way to learn? and how to find a job? What software to use? for what price? Should you join a school or register to an online course? Do you need a degree to find a job?

So many questions! With this article I am going to walk you through it:

  • What is animation

  • What is the animator's job

  • How to learn animation

  • Validate your skills

  • Make your first demoreel

  • Apply for a job

  • Make a great impression at work

 

Step 1 Get to know animation:

What is animation, you ask? Essentially, it's the art of creating the illusion of movement. By rapidly displaying a sequence of images, the brain interprets them as in motion. But it is much more! It is giving life! Think bout it, you can animate anything. Like a character or a simple ball . But if you do it the right way with the right timing, then you create life with a soul and a personality. You all know Pixar's Lamp:


It's a simple object. But when animated in the right way, you can capture its personality: curious, playful, and a bit mischievous.



What are the different styles of animation?


Anime, Animation feature movie, VFX Movies, Stop Motion, Cartoons, Video games are an overview of many animation styles.



 

Step 2 What is the job of Animator?


You've got it! Creating life with the illusion of movement. But that's not all. As professionals within animation studios, animators must adhere to certain requirements:

  • Consistency: Characters, animation style, and quality must remain consistent throughout the entire movie, even if many artists have shared the workload.

  • Realism: When animating humans or creatures like dragons, dogs, or birds, the animator must adhere to the character's anatomy (unless it's completely cartoonish, of course).

  • Physics: Have you ever tried to animate a bouncing ball? Well, you should give it a try to experiment with the laws of physics. You'll notice that factors like weight, gravity, forces, resistance, flexibility, and kinetic energy play a significant role in achieving realism in an animation.

  • Respecting the Director's Vision: Sometimes, the animator is the director. However, most of the time, the animator should do their best to align with the movie director's vision.

How does the animator do it?

There are many techniques available, depending on the type of animation. Here are three examples:

  • 2D Animation: To create the illusion of movement, the animator will draw 24 images on paper (or on a computer).

  • 3D Animation: To achieve the same result, the animator uses a 3D puppet. They control it to create two key poses, and then the software assists in generating images in between.

  • Stop Motion: This technique involves using a real puppet. The animator creates a pose and takes a picture with a camera. They then make slight adjustments to the puppet and take another picture, repeating this process as needed.

 

Step 3 How to learn animation? (To become a professional)



Prepare yourself

Take some time in advance to start exploring animation.

You should read this animation bible:















Check my other advice to prepare yourself for Animation school:













Let's dive into it

Now that you have a better understanding of animation styles and techniques, you might have an idea of which one you prefer. It's time to assist you in finding the right training. In this section, I'll primarily focus on 3D animation, as I am a 3D animator myself. However, many of the tips and advice here can also be applied to other animation techniques.

There are numerous ways to learn animation, each with its associated costs. There's no one "best way," but rather the method that aligns with your expectations and budget.

I see three primary paths for pursuing this fascinating profession:

  1. Enrolling in an animation school.

  2. Participating in online classes.

  3. Self-learning with the aid of online resources.

Each method has its pros and cons, but before we delve into each of them, let me offer you some advice:

Regardless of the learning path you choose:

  • Choose a Style You Love:

Do you adore cartoons from kids' TV shows? Opt for a training style that matches your love for cartoons. If you prefer Star Wars and Marvel, lean towards a more realistic animation approach.

  • Compare students' work:

Pick your top three training options, then compare students' work from each school. Which one provides the best quality?

  • Contact students:

Yes, reach out to individuals who have previously chosen the school or course you're considering. Inquire if it's worth it. Does the quality of education meet industry expectations? Did they enjoy their experience?

Believe me, I've witnessed people enrolling in schools without knowing what to anticipate. It's a wiser plan to gather as much information as possible before you make the commitment and invest in your future.


Animation Schools - Make some friends!

I attended a school myself, and it wasn't an easy choice due to the cost. Was it perfect? Maybe not. Was it great? Absolutely.

Schools offer incredible advantages:





  • Teamwork: One of the most important benefits is teamwork and forming lasting friendships. Animation often involves collaboration, and attending a school is the perfect training ground to develop soft skills like teamwork.

  • Networking: Many of your fellow students may become your future colleagues, leaders, or supervisors. It's an excellent way to kickstart your professional network from scratch.

  • Resources: Many schools provide excellent resources such as high-end computers, software licenses, cameras, drawing supplies, and more.

  • General Knowledge: Most of the time, you won't only learn animation but also delve into subjects like art, cinematography, VFX (Visual Effects), rigging, lighting, and more.

  • Employment Opportunities: Some schools with strong reputations even offer job placement sessions at the end of the program. This might be your chance to get your foot in the door at a company.

Another significant advantage of attending an animation school is the creation of your demo reel and student movie. When you join a school, you're likely to collaborate on the production of a short film with your team. Teamwork can lead to higher quality work, resulting in a more impressive demo reel than if you were to create it on your own.

As mentioned on the previous page, it's crucial to choose your school wisely to avoid potential scams, as not all schools are created equal.

Now, if you don't have 3 to 5 years to dedicate, you're solely interested in animation without delving into other disciplines, or you can't relocate to a new city, then a traditional school may not be the best fit for you.


Online courses - Straight to the point!

What do I mean by online courses? I'm talking about classes conducted online with a live teacher or mentor. These classes typically last for a few weeks, and they are interactive, unlike YouTube videos.


The primary advantage of online courses is their duration. They offer a concentrated learning experience that often spans just a few weeks, focusing on specific aspects of animation. This means that if you're starting from scratch and aiming to reach a professional level, you may need to take more than one course. Consequently, you might not delve into related disciplines like modeling, lighting, or compositing.

Keep in mind that the animation learning process takes time. So, the results of your learning won't solely depend on the course duration, but also on your dedication and the amount of time you invest in it.

The variety of online courses is vast, and you'll have plenty of choices. So, my advice will be the same as for physical schools: Compare students' work, prices, and ask alumni about the quality of education they received.


Also, check the time zone of the school. If you live in France and take an American course, you might find yourself attending classes at night :)



Self education - Thank you YouTube!

Are you a naturally curious person with an unyielding motivation and a fantastic coffee machine at home? Well, why not embark on the journey of learning animation on your own?


There's a plethora of free animation content available on the internet, in books, podcasts, and conferences. Check it out https://www.animstarter.com/resources


Starting on your own might actually be a great idea to gain an understanding of what animation entails before committing your money to it.

But let's be honest. As I mentioned earlier, animation is a time-intensive skill that requires a lot of practice. To make it on your own, you'll need consistency, but keep in mind that it's entirely achievable.

No need to rush; take all the time you need :)


Working on your own, yes but not alone! Thanks to the internet, you don't have to be alone! There are many fantastic animation enthusiast communities online, on forums, and on Discord channels. Use these resources to connect with like-minded individuals who can assist you when you encounter challenges or provide constructive feedback.


Feeling stuck or in need of a motivation boost? Consider seeking a mentor for a few hours. Check websites like www.superprof.fr to find the right mentor for you.



 

Almost there!


You want more content? And you want to know how to finish your learning journey from the school to the studio?

  • Step 5 - Validate your skills - Probably the most important step!

  • Step 6 - Make your first demoreel

  • Step 7 - Apply for a job

  • Step 8 - Make a great impression at work

Check out my Roadmap, follow my advices and same time and money, by downloading my free Ebook right HERE


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How to become an animator



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