There are plenty of great pieces of advice for a budding animator out there. This can be a competitive and difficult industry to get into so young animators need to be at their best when looking for a job or striking out on their own as a freelancer. These five pieces of advice will be helpful for anyone who wants to pursue a career in animation, no matter what type of animation they want to do.
1. Get a Degree
Although a formal degree is not always strictly required for landing a job as an animator, it is often much harder to enter the field without one. Aspiring animators typically get a degree in animation, art or similarly related field per PayScale. These degrees can be obtained from a traditional, in-person college, an online college program or a specialty vocational arts school. Students should carefully consider their college options before deciding on which program to enter. Factors to take into account include cost, the prestige of the institution, perceived quality of the program and simply how well the student likes the college. Once accepted into a program, students will learn the basic principles of animation, its history, the process of creating it, various techniques and much more.
All artists need to practice to improve their existing skills and learn new ones. Aspiring animators are no different. They will get significant practice while in school and especially if they can land an internship position, but it is just as important to practice alone. Animators should always be looking to expand their horizons and try new techniques, styles and ideas. Contrary to popular belief, practice is the key to making good art; at the end, of the day it trumps innate talent every time. Budding animators may even choose to make a project of their own on their own time. With the ease of accessing quality animation software and video sharing sites like YouTube, it is entirely possible to produce short animations or even an animated series as a single person.
3. Learn The Software
Animation used to be done using a pencil and paper, but now it is all done digitally on computers, even productions that are done in a traditional 2D style. For this reason, aspiring animators should come to learn what software options are available on the market for creating animation and which ones are heavily used in the industry. Some examples are Toon Boom Harmony (used by Warner Bros., Pixar and Disney), OpenToonz (used by Studio Ghibli) and Autodesk Maya (heavily used for 3D animation). For video games, there are Unreal Engine, Unity and Godot, to name a few. For beginners just looking to get into game design and practice making something of their own, RPG Maker and GameMaker Studio are good basic options.
Once aspiring animators know which programs are most often used, they can begin to learn how to use them. The ones most in use will be taught in college programs, but students can also practice on their own either by buying the software or simply learning the key basics through free trials. This software doesn’t have to be expensive. OpenToonz and Godot, for example, are open source and free to use. These tech skills should be listed on a resume regardless of whether a specific software proficiency is mentioned in a job description or not.
4. Build An Impressive Portfolio
Creative professionals and those looking to hire them to rely heavily on portfolios to evaluate the creator’s suitability for a job. The bulk of great pieces of advice for a budding animator revolve around putting together a quality portfolio. Animators should treat their portfolios as they do their resumes and continuously update them to include any new, particularly noteworthy works they have created. It can be difficult to judge what works should go into a portfolio, but there are a few key things to keep in mind. The first is that animators should showcase their best works in their portfolio. Another factor is the variety of works on display. Animators want to show off their range of abilities, skills and projects they have completed. Finally, Creative Bloq notes that portfolios should focus primarily on the type of work an aspiring animator wants to do. For example, 2D animation samples might not be as useful for someone who wants to work in 3D modeling for video games.
5. Persistence Will Pay Off
Animation can be a very competitive field and unless an individual is especially talented, it may take many tries and several years to break into the industry. Aspiring animators need to persevere and not give up after being rejected. It is almost bound to happen and happens to just about everyone in this industry at one point or another. Fortunately, there is an increasing demand for animators due to the amount of media now that uses animation, whether video games, visual effects in films or full animated productions.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, more multimedia animators will be needed for each project to meet the demands of more detailed, realistic animation, as well as a growing demand for animation used in mobile applications. This career is rather location-based, which can make getting a job more complicated – animators typically need to live near where the major animation studios are. Although they are located across the United States and internationally, most are in California. However, in recent years animators have been given more freedom to work remotely thanks to digital advancements. If finding a full-time position isn’t panning out, continue to make animated projects on your own. With any luck, they could draw the attention of someone influential.
Working in animation can be an incredibly rewarding career. For the people who are truly passionate about it, it can hardly feel like work at all. For anyone hoping to enter the industry, these great pieces of advice for a budding animator should set you on the right track.