Career in Animation? Here’s what you Need to Know

Thinking about a career in Animation? Sounds glamorous, fun and creative right? Yes, it absolutely can be, but that is not all there is to it.

In this post we cover the most important aspects of the trade and what it really takes to be an animator and carve out a successful career.

Let’s go.

What does a career in animation look like?

Contrary to popular belief – animation can be quite multidisciplinary. Some of the most typical roles in animation include

  • 2D Animator
  • 3D Animator
  • Character design
  • Storyboard artist
  • Vis Dev (Visual Development) Artist
  • Image Editor
  • Clean-Up Artist
  • VFX Animator
  • Modeler

And many many more…

What are the industries I can work in as an Animator?

The main industries that animators work in are as follows:

  • Film
  • Games
  • VFX (Visual Effects)

While the core principles will apply across each – there are subtle and important differences between each, which will likely determine what area you might want to go into.

Are Animation Jobs in Demand?

In a nutshell yes. However it’s competitive and there is a seasonal-like element to it as opportunities fluctuate. An important thing to consider in this career is that it’s often (not always) project based.

So, you find yourself a project which can vary from weeks to months – maybe even a year or 2. And then once that ends you must start over again, searching for the next opportunity. It’s during this time in between work that it can fluctuate.

Like buses, sometimes you are waiting a little while and then all of a sudden – many job offers come all at once.

Beyond that, there is a necessity to develop your skills to the max. By adopting the right mindset (more on this below), you will be able to withstand the competition, build a name for yourself and have a very rewarding career in animation.

What does a Career in Animation look like?

Traditionally, animation careers have been somewhat nomadic. As mentioned, you move from project to project and go to where the work is. Of course this isn’t always the case – many animators stay with the same studio for a long time. However, in light of the covid-19 pandemic – working remotely has become much more prominent. So, there is a solid argument to make that the norm going forward – you won’t necessarily have to physically be in a place to animate and get the gig.

While this remains to be seen – time will tell to what extent the post-pandemic landscape will change the animation scene in the long run.

Either way, whether you are looking in Ireland or further afield – short or long term -there are opportunities. Animation Ireland gives you the option to search by job type.

Or check out other platforms such as LinkedIn to get a broader sense of what is available.

animation job search linkedin

So now you’ve a flavour of what animation looks like as a career. You might be wondering – how do I get into it?

How to get a Career in Animation – The Core things to Remember

1 Mentality – The Best Animators Keep Learning

Animation is far from impossible but to say it’s easy would be a lie. Just like any other craft worth mastering – it takes time, perseverance and a love of the process. One of the most important things to remember when it comes to animation is having the right outlook. Adopting the attitude of continuous learning is key. This is fundamental when you are starting off (because there is loads to learn). But equally so when you are more established.

The truth is there is always more to learn and different ways to improve your skills.

One way (of many) is by reading and staying up to date with what’s happening in the field.

‘The Animators Survival Kit’ by Richard Williams is a classic book referred to time and time again by Animators around the world.

 

The Animators Survival Kit - Pulse College

Get Reading!

 

best books on animation

Beyond that, the technology used in animation is continuously evolving and updating. That requires you to stay on top of the latest industry standards.

2. Produce Some Work (yes that means a portfolio)

While mastering theory and improving your more abstract knowledge is important – you will need to produce and ultimately get your hands dirty. Whether that is in your free time or through a reliable animation course you are attending, it’s integral to get practical experience.

How you use your spare time will also be important. To get the best work and outshine your competitors, you’re going to have to show off your skills.  Consider developing your own site as a portfolio. Prospective employers are going to do their due diligence and google you.

Furthermore, making an animation showreel to stand out from the crowd will go a long way. You are building a personal brand – i.e. the reputation of you as a top-class animator.

So take advantage by showing your initiative and showing the best of your work to the world. (It’s important to note also, that nobody expects perfection when you’re starting off. A portfolio is a living evolving thing. You’re best work today will probably be quite different in 2 years’ time. Just focus on getting the best you can done today.)

Career in Animation

3. Curiosity outside of Animation

David Epstein in his book Range said the following:

“The challenge we all face is how to maintain the benefits of breadth, diverse experience, interdisciplinary thinking, and delayed concentration in a world that increasingly incentivizes, even demands, “hyper specialization”.

Developing a healthy sense of curiosity in areas outside of your professional domain is becoming more and more integral to career success. This is very true when it comes to Animation. The reality is that it’s a multidisciplinary area with many moving parts. On a practical level, that means to be the best and most creative animator you can be – it would be wise to cultivate wider reaching interests.

Ok so what interest should a budding Animator take on outside of Animation?

Be Curious about Acting & Story

You do not need to be a professional actor or actress – but it would be no harm to have a keen interest in this. After all, the process of animation is a form of acting and storytelling.

Soak in movies, theatre, plays. Critically think about what makes them act well? What are their secrets? Why is this grabbing my attention right now? The reality is a lot of the principles are going to be transferable to your animations.

As renowned director and storyboard artist Jennifer Yuh Nelson puts it:

“A lot of the time in animation is spent getting the story right – that’s something you can’t rush.”

Through the medium of animation, you too are telling a story. Study how others do it through their medium and your work will be all the richer for it.

Be Curious about The Study of Movement

Furthermore, a good animator will also be a student of movement. From the subtilities of body language to the anatomy of how we move, are all key things you are going to try to bring to life in your animation.

We are capable of making over 10,000 expressions just on our face. Therefore, being curious about people, body language, human movement etc is a vital interest to develop to take your animation game to the next level.

In the vid below, we can see the intricate detail of how Pixar’s movement animation has evolved. The importance of studying actual human movement to recreate it in animation in a scarily accurate way is very much evident here.

‘Animation is not the art of drawings that move but the art of movements that are drawn’

Norman McLaren.

4. Social Skills

Animation has a lot of different touchpoints and you’ll be working with a lot of different people. This means to get ahead in this career – you need to be a good team-player. 

On top of this, leveraging your social skills to build a network goes a long way.

Animation, (just like most industries) often gives opportunities to those that have contacts or mutual connections in the right places. Getting your foot in the door in an exciting project could be as simple as knowing the right person. Of course – you will still need to have the work under your belt to show you can bring value to the table.

Furthermore, knowing more people in animation is giving more fuel to your learning voyage. While every animator has different experience and different skillsets – you can stand to learn from everyone.

Sometimes, a simple 5 minute conversation from a seasoned pro can unlock a lot of animation related questions in your mind.

The animation community is not super big so get out there, network and build your reputation. (For the moment it’s tricky but fortunately there is plenty of online communities)

Is a Career in Animation right for me?

5. Know Your ‘Why’

Why are you doing this? What makes you interested in animation? If it’s something that you would be interested in doing anyway in your spare time, then you’re probably on the right track. There’s a lot to learn with inevitable speed bumps in the road ahead. However knowing your why is integral to navigate this now and for longer-term success.

So if after some introspection, you realise that your ‘why’ is for fame and recognition – then maybe think again. The curious phenomenon about animation is that you often don’t get the same credit as other artistic disciplines do. You very much work behind the scenes. And that’s ok – because if you are doing it for the love of the craft and the process, it doesn’t matter.

6. Get the Right Training

Remember we said developing a hunger of learning and curiosity is key? While it’s not obligatory that you attend a formal course, it would be wise.

Why? Because you can

  • Learn from practicing professionals.
  • Learn industry standard tools and techniques.
  • Develop a Portfolio and get hands on experience.
  • Network with other creative minds in the industry.
  • Fastrack your learning experience and hit the ground running in your Job-Search.

At Pulse we provide exactly that. Giving you the expertise to hit the ground running as an animator is our main objective.

We have a variety of Animation Courses available to give you the best learning experience from practicing professionals in the animation field.

Other typical Questions around a Career in Animation

How hard is it to get a job in animation?

It is competitive and there is a learning curve to get the required level for the most interesting and challenging jobs. However if you follow the guidelines outlined above, you will be well on your way.

How do I start a career in animation with no experience/skills?

Well you don’t exactly.. but you can take the required steps to get there.  If you’re considering 2d for example – pick up a book like the Animators Survival Kit, learn to draw, play around with photoshop, download TV Paint, consider a shorter course in animation, and just talk to people who are in the industry.

2D or 3D – which is better?

There is no right or wrong answer as the 2d vs 3d animation debate is well known in animation circles. It really depends what you find enjoyable as both have their place. While this is absolutely not set in stone, 2D tends to match the more artistic types whereas 3D, the more mechanical mind. However, remember how we said animation is multidisciplinary and that you can learn from different fields in and out of animation? For this reason, when you’re starting out – try both!

 

What are the requirements for a career in animation?

Officially nothing. Animation is quite a meritocratic field in that if your work is good enough and you have the right skills – you have the potential to go very far. That said, many employers do prefer a related animation degree. Formal training in animation is fertile ground to develop your skills (both hard and soft) plus a portfolio of work which is essential to career success. If you are serious about a career in animation, then a related degree is a solid investment in your career.

So Finally, you might be wondering –

Is a Career in Animation worth it?

 

A Career in Animation can be one of the most rewarding and satisfying things you can ever do. The perfect hybrid between technology, creativity and storytelling – animators have very stimulating and enjoyable careers. However, it’s not for everyone and is suited to those who are passionate about it and are in it for the long haul.

Want to Become an Animator?

If you are interested in learning more about animation and are considering a career in animation, please get in touch with us.

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