A character rigger is one of the many experts in animation who plays a role in the creation of recognizable and sometimes iconic cartoon characters within games, application content, and movies. Anyone who is a creative thinker and loves both geometry and anatomy in addition to technology should consider pursuing a career within the animation sub-specialty of character rigging. Here’s what prospective character riggers should take the time to learn before reviewing salary ranges and current job listings.
Inherent Qualities of a Character Rigger
Animation production is an extremely involved process comprised of various professionals. These professionals include 3D animators, executive producers in charge of the projects and the professionals who sit more behind the scenes with the modelers and animators.
In some areas of the business world, any responsible adult with a high school education who is capable of learning through hands-on training can succeed. In others, like animation, the right professional will require inherent qualities that just cannot be learned in a school or professional setting. Character rigging is one of the many careers within the technology or even more detailed animation umbrella where riggers and animators will need to possess qualities before even entering a school program for training. Some of the best candidates for school training in character rigging will possess the following qualities:
- Keen eye
- Precise and keen attention to detail
- Creative thinker
- Interest in physics and anatomy
- Independent but also collaborative
Do Character Riggers Need a College Degree?
Character riggers may be artistic and creative individuals but there is still a need for an education past high school for those who would like to work for production companies and animation studios. While game development companies are not the only companies hiring character riggers, this is a popular path for media riggers in character development and almost all of the top-name companies in the industry require candidates to have a four-year college degree.
College Degree Options
With the rising cost of a college degree, it is important for students who are serious about studying for a lifetime career to assess the costs associated with earning a degree. The most responsible students who are pursuing a post-secondary degree will look at their options, degree paths, degree costs at various institutions, potential salaries post-graduation, and whether or not earning a degree or certificate is the best investment of time.
For a character rigger, there are a few different paths that four-year college students can pursue once they have completed earning their general education credits during the first two years of their post-secondary student careers. Fortunately, since game development and media are two career areas that are growing in popularity, there is no shortage of options in terms of Bachelor of Science majors. A character rigger would need both a degree in an area below and certifications in scripting languages like C++ and Java. For character riggers in the making, the best degree major options would include:
- Computer Science
- Game Design
- Game Development
- 3-Dimensional Animation
- Graphic Design
Courses Character Riggers Should Put Effort Into
Everyone attends classes throughout their four-year student career that they just want to skate through with a good grade. These students generally know that they will not need to retain the information that they are learning for the long-term. This could be a reasonable way to survive school as a full-time student, however, there are major classes within all animation and game design programs that will need to capture your attention for your professional future. Some of the classes and programs that character riggers should put effort into learning include:
- Motion Builder Software
- Autodesk Maya
- 3D Studio Max
- UNIX and XSI
- 3D modeling and texturing
- Game and Mechanical Rigging
- Body Mechanics
Are There Other Programs for Character Rigging?
While earning a four-year degree is the most popular route for those who would like to work for the larger and more respected game development companies, some choose to complete technical certificate programs in animation and rigging. These technical programs are focused entirely on the skills that need to be developed to make it within rigging in animation. They are typically administered online and focus curriculum on the areas needed to master the skill and technique needed to be a rigger.
To enter into a technical character rigger program, most students are required to have a basic understanding of modeling and rigging within animation. Students will be immersed in the curriculum throughout fall, winter, spring, and summer semesters and can expect to complete the certificate program to earn their character technical director certification after nine months of earning credits. Students must find a program that is nationally accredited by a body such as Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training so the credits they are earning will count towards other continuing education elsewhere.
Demand for a Character Rigger
Character riggers create the bones of some of the most popular animated icons that are marketed throughout the gaming industry. While they play an important role in creating the skeletal structure and anatomy of characters, many are not aware of how big of a role riggers play in animation.
According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, the average character artists and animators make an average of $72,520 per year. While the salary within the field is higher than the national average, growth in the field is only projected at four percent. Consider your talents and skills and determine if you have the eye to detail that will be imperative to succeeding in character rigging and 3D animation before you invest time and money into earning a degree in animation.