After the recent successes of blockbuster movies Avatar and Alice in Wonderland, a career in animation doesn’t sound anywhere near funny.
Thanks to ever-changing technology, more and more entertainment companies are using animation—modeling, rendering, CGI—making it a multi-billion dollar growth industry. Better yet, some of those millions can be yours—most animators make good money and the demand for qualified experts is only expected to grow.
While creating a mind-blowingly beautiful film like Alice or Avatar sounds to many people like a dream come true, the entertainment industry can be cut-throat competitive. After all, most people want the fun, glamorous jobs. Luckily, it’s not only the entertainment industry that uses computer animation: architectural drafting, medical imaging, weather simulation, legal reconstruction of accidents and virtual reality training programs are just a few of the non-entertainment jobs a degree in computer animation can land you.
Whether you would give your right foot to work Pixar or if you’d rather land the high-end salary that comes from a job at a medical powerhouse like GE, you first need to figure out what kind of computer animation is for you, and just what you want to do with it.
We all know that cartoons aren’t just for kids. While storyboarding skills, Photoshop, and business and management skills will all help you, you usually have to know how to sketch and draw.
Entry level job: storyboarding
Today’s animated films range from Nightmare Before Christmas stop-motion to Beowulf’s realistic looking CGI. Instead of making models out of clay, today animators make models out of pixels. Motion-capture graphics, CGI and real-life models are all used to create animation that often looks just as good as the real thing.
Recommended classes: Stop Motion Animation, Visual Effects, Maya Character Animation and Photoshop Compositing.
You can now get a “video game degree” and learn how to create all kinds of video games. The video game industry is intense, competitive and on the cutting edge of technology. You usually need to know some computer programming.
Fact: The video game industry makes $7 billion a year.
Want to create web shorts, animated ads or just to add animation to a website? Add a web design class to your animation curriculum.
For any animation degree, it’s a good idea to have a foundation in traditional art, including anatomy and color theory. Whatever school you decide to attend should have a Motion Capture Studio and offer classes in compositing, rendering and rigging. They should also help you to prepare a portfolio and demo reel, the keys to getting your perfect job.
Technology is always changing. If you are the type of person who likes to keep up on the latest advances, then a career in computer animation might be for you. Just be ready to start at the bottom, as long as you can get your foot in the door, you have a shot at the stars.