What Is an Animator? Definition, Qualifications and Skills
Updated 18 March 2023
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Animators are multimedia artists who create designs or models that create an illusion of movement in a sequence, often telling a story or providing information. If you enjoy creating innovative art and are interested in working within the entertainment or advertising industries, you may consider this career path. Understanding the skills and qualifications required for entering the animation field can help you make a more informed career decision. In this article, we discuss what an animator is, the job's typical responsibilities and steps you can follow to become an animator.
What Is An Animator?
Animators sketch and design various digital media assets, including video games, animation movies, commercials and television programs. Sometimes called digital animators or motion cartoonists, they are responsible for creating two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D) images and models that appear to move. These professionals can specialise in particular animation fields and styles, such as creating video game characters or making stop-motion films. While animators can sketch their ideas using hand-drawing techniques, today's professionals often use computer software when working.
What Does An Animator Do?
Animators often work as part of a creative team on an animation project. Their daily activities can vary depending on their specialisation, such as creating avatars for video games or storyboards for animated movies or commercials. Regardless of animators' specialisations, some of their typical job duties include:
Using creativity to convey or tell a story and provide information in visual form
Creating initial designs and applying feedback from the creative or marketing team to refine the designs
Designing 3D characters and creating computer-generated images (CGI)
Using animation techniques and software to produce animations
Working with directors, producers, writers and fellow animators to develop actions, plot points, character traits, settings and other story elements
Creating mock-ups and prototypes of new products and types
Conceptualising and brainstorming ideas to produce concept sketches for clients
Presenting the final animated design for client approval
Executing directions from the lead animator or manager
Related: 43 Animation Interview Questions (Plus Example Answers)
Average Salary Of An Animator
The average national salary of an animator is ₹4,67,071 per year. These professionals' salaries can vary depending upon their skills, qualification, experience and geographical location. Some of the top-paying cities for this profession are:
Mumbai: ₹5,76,206 per year
Chennai: ₹5,73,733 per year
Ahmedabad: ₹5,12,289 per year
Hyderabad: ₹4,90,290 per year
Kolkata: ₹3,57,771 per year
Pune: ₹3,46,771 per year
Work Environment For Animators
Animation is a specialised career that allows you to work for various organisations within the entertainment and media industries. For example, animators can find jobs at film and television production studios, video game and interactive media companies, special effects studios, marketing firms and specialised animation studios. This role typically involves working full time, about 8 hours a day or 40 hours a week, in office settings. These companies may provide you with a private workstation equipped with the hardware and software required to complete your animation tasks.
As an animator, you can also choose to work as an independent contractor or freelancer. This option enables you to work with various clients and companies, often on a project-by-project basis. It also can provide you with more flexibility in your schedule, allowing you to pick which projects you work on and when.
How To Become An Animator
If you are interested in becoming an animator, you can use the following steps as guidance:
1. Complete your 10+2
The minimum requirement for enrolling in a bachelor's or diploma course in animation is completing your higher secondary or 10+2 in any stream. Most animation courses require a candidate to secure a certain percentage of marks. When determining which course or programme to pursue, check the college's eligibility criteria to ensure you meet its requirements. To further increase your likelihood of acceptance, learn about the different animation software or tools you might use in the future.
2. Get a bachelor's degree
Most employers prefer candidates with a bachelor's or diploma in animation, fine arts, multimedia or other related fields. These programs provide animators with a foundation in drawing, sketching, intentional character design, modelling, motion physics and animated video creation, among other topics. Some courses may offer training in filmmaking or storytelling to help you understand the entire creative process.
You can choose from various three-year degree programs, including a Bachelor of Arts or Bachelor of Science in animation & multimedia, graphic design filmmaking and related fields. You can even opt for a Bachelor of Visual Arts or a Bachelor of Fine Arts. Furthermore, the diploma courses include 2D animation, 3D animation, filmmaking, digital animation, visual effects (VFX) and other related areas. The duration of a diploma course may vary from six months to one year.
3. Complete an internship
Interning under an experienced animator or a company providing animation services helps you learn the job's daily responsibilities and gain relevant skills. You can pursue internships as a student or a recent graduate. Employers typically hire candidates with professional experience, so an internship proves you already know and can perform the job's tasks. Internships also provide opportunities to meet other animation or creative professionals, who may provide you with career advice or connect you to professional opportunities. You can also gain experience by working as an animation freelancer or volunteer or entering online animation contests.
Related: How To Write a Resume for Internship (With Template and Example)
4. Create a portfolio
Creating a digital portfolio of the animation work you have created can help you showcase your knowledge, skills and expertise to potential employers. When possible, you can create demo reels to differentiate yourself from other candidates. Your portfolio may include projects from your bachelor or master degree programmes or work completed during your internships and other jobs. When applying for jobs, tailor your portfolio according to each company's requirements or preferences. For example, applying for a job at a video game company may require focusing your portfolio on 3D animations you have created.
5. Pursue a master's degree
While not required for entry-level animator jobs, senior-level roles may prefer candidates with master's degrees. You can get a master's degree after your undergraduate graduation or after a few years of work experience. Look for master's programmes in animation and other related areas. This degree can show your advanced animation or artistic knowledge and skills. Both private and government schools provide these courses, and the admission process varies from institution to institution. While some may conduct an entrance exam, others may admit candidates after clearing an interview round.
6. Improve your skills
The animation industry changes rapidly, often because of new technological innovations. You need to stay aware of such advancements and update your skill set continuously to maintain your expertise and advance your career. For example, when learning a new design tool, practice it each day to improve your understanding. You can stay informed by joining professional associations or following industry news sources. You may also consider taking formal courses to improve your technical and soft skills, sometimes offered directly through employers.
Some organisations also provide job shadowing opportunities, enabling you to learn about other positions that might interest you. Shadowing a senior animator at your company may help you learn about some of the more advanced responsibilities they have, such as project and team management.
Related: Top In-Demand Skills To Develop for Career Advancement
Essential Skills For Animators
Animators must have many technical skills to perform their job, often learned from their formal training and education. Depending on their role, they may need to understand how to use particular design programs and software or perform specific activities, such as 3D modelling or interaction design. These professionals also benefit from having several soft skills, including:
Animators use creativity and artistic abilities to create original characters or images for movies, video games and more. When collaborating with a team, they often translate their colleagues' ideas into meaningful or innovative designs that engage the audience. Creativity skills also enable these professionals to experiment with various artistic styles and techniques to develop unique or innovative results.
As mentioned, animators often work within a team of creative professionals on a project. This job requires them to interact regularly with their colleagues and clients to develop project or animation requirements. Animators need active listening skills to understand stakeholders' needs and verbal and written communication skills to collaborate on ideas and information effectively. These professionals also seek and use feedback to ensure their final designs align with the project's goals or needs.
Read more: Communication Skills: Definitions and Examples
When working on animation projects, animators often must meet deadlines set by the team or stakeholders. Time management skills ensure animators know how to plan their schedules and use their time effectively. For example, they may set priorities throughout their day based on the project's needs or the time it takes to complete a task.
Read more: Time Management Skills: Definition and Examples
Attention to detail
When working as an animator, it is essential to understand how details such as colours, special effects, shapes and texture affect your work and engage your audience. For example, animators must assess details related to character design to ensure continuity in each frame. This skill helps animators ensure their designs meet the project's requirements or align with stakeholders' preferences and feedback.
Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at the time of writing.
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