Was this article helpful?
BREAKING INTO ANIMATION!
A top professional offers invaluable tips on how beginners can enter the animation industry.
A great deal has changed in the industry over the past decade or so. The pencil seems to have been replaced by pixels and the assumption is widespread that the pencil is now obsolete. However, this is far from the truth for anyone wishing to enter the higher aspects of the film, games, web or television industries. Schools and colleges should know this but although many offer all kinds of seemingly impressive degree and certificate programs the absolute truth is that no piece of paper will get you a job as quickly as if you have the creative smarts to show them.
The real challenge is to find the right school to give you the creative smarts. There are many schools of animation out there but how do you choose the best one for you without any knowledge of what is good or bad? Fundamental to the choice is an awareness of a program that genuinely reflects what the industry needs. Second to this is that the faculty is competent. Finally a course speaking to the change face of the industry today must have classical art training as a foundation of its program.
Sadly I am increasingly aware that many animation students are just not being prepared well enough for modern demands, especially from the traditional arts point of view. There are of course some exceptional schools out there but they are surprisingly few and far between. Therefore the first thing I would advise a prospective student to do is check the caliber of the faculty at the school they are considering. Some schools have a huge reputation, but actually currently have poor faculty. Other schools are pretty obscure in the greater scheme of things and yet they have fantastic faculty. It’s really important to find out which before you invest in the significant costs required to provide you with your education.
Secondly students need to realize that when it comes to their education, they are also part of the picture! Many students today attend school passively. For example they tend to turn up, expecting the teachers and the curriculum to do all the work for them. They believe that as long as they do the minimum amount of work required they should automatically gain full employment at the end of their academy journey. But if you really want that ideal job in the industry that is animation, you will have to put in much more than that – indeed, over an above the call of duty. Turning up in just body and mind doesn’t cut it. Turning up with an unquenchable spirit, as well as a tireless passion to learn and succeed – even touch new horizons far beyond the program being offered – is a formula for far more certainties.
Students should therefore start as they mean to go on. Never deliver ‘okay’ work, instead deliver exceptional work! Don’t just work the required amount of hours on an assignment; work twice as long! Don’t just study the areas covered in the course curriculum alone, but go out and study addition related subjects! Most important of all, things like painting, drawing, researching additional software and techniques are essential things to add to your studies if they are not already there.
I have some thoughts on what should be in an acceptable program in this day and age? The following are of course in addition to the fundamental CG studies –modeling, rigging, texturing, unwrapping, lighting and rendering for example.
YEAR 1: Fundamental drawing/Introduction to 2D animation/Perspective and anatomy/History of Animation.
YEAR 2: Gesture drawing/Advanced 2D animation/Character Design & Illustration/Storytelling & Screenplay writing.
YEAR 3: Storyboarding & Animatics/Portfolio Animation/Concept Art, Graphic Design and Layout/Producing Animation.
YEAR 4: Personal Film Project ~ and/or ~ Industry internship:
Note that there is a strong emphasis on traditional art values included here. This is because these things are becoming more and more important to the modern industry. Even game studios are now much more aware of what top film studios have wanted for a long while now – that the best animators these days are not just software jockeys. They are invariably pure artists in their own right as well. Many of the finest Pixar animators were traditional animators at the beginning! Consequently, more and more studios these days feel that drawing at the very least is fundamentally important to an animator’s showreel presentation.
A strong portfolio of wide-ranging drawings, designs and illustrations is still one of the finest support weapons a job seeker has in their armory – that is, in addition to the core animation work on their showreel. Therefore, a wise and informed student who’s school does not focus on the traditional art aspect of their education in its program should definitely look outside that program for these additional studies in their education. Better still if you can find drawing classes that focus more on the dynamics of pose and action in the human figure you will reap huge benefits as a prospective animation employee.
Having said this, it must be suggested that many employers can easily become tired of seeing portfolios bulging with endless drawings that represent just about everything you have ever done! In the real world they have little time to go through everything a student might like to show them. So be discriminating. Include no more than 10-12 really good pieces in an art portfolio. If you want to show more then add them to your web or blog site and supply the contact address for them to view them remotely. Defining art pieces that needed to be covered should include gesture drawings, sketchbook drawings, animal drawings, figure drawings and longer-study drawings.
'Good luck' - animators of the future!
Learn more about the author, Tony White.
Comment on this article
No one has posted a comment yet. Be the first!
- tony white
- jumping through hoops
- animation job coach