Animation is the art of creating moving images. This line of work is all about creating a series of individual ‘frames’, which make images come to life when they are flicked through in rapid succession.
Previously, animation was done manually, with animators drawing multiple frames to depict a single action, i.e. the kind of animation that you witnessed during a typical scene from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon, Tom and Jerry.
Today, computer-generated imagery (CGI) has mostly replaced manual animation, but a significant amount of artistic talent is still required.
Animators are employed in various segments of the entertainment industry, including film, television and video games.
To create awesome animation, you’ll firstly need to read the script and break the story down into individual storyboards.
You’ll then be creating 2D and 3D models of characters, props and scenery before using CGI software to add movement, all the while following the script and making sure that the animation integrates seamlessly with the dialogue and music cues.
Following this, you’ll be editing the sequencing of the animation: tweaking bits, refining everything and adding extra sound effects.
In order to satisfy your client, you’ll need to complete projects in accordance with tight deadlines and budget restrictions. Consequently, keeping up-to-date with the latest developments and trends in animation technology is a good idea, so that you can keep your skills fresh and sharp.
Salary & benefits
Many animators work on a freelance basis, charging daily rates for their services which range from £50 to £200. Understandably, higher rates are likely to be charged by experienced and award-winning animators.
Salaried animators working in advertising agencies or design consultancies can earn around £15,000 to £30,000 per annum, while personnel employed in the video games industry usually start off by earning between £16,000 and £25,000 a year.
Your working hours will depend on overall project timelines and your individual responsibilities.
Since professionals in the entertainment industry are paid at daily rates for a standard eight-hour working day and receive overtime pay for extra hours, the possibility of working long hours is remote.
The work is mainly office or studio-based, with animators working alone on their assigned frames, before collaborating with other animators to put the whole sequence together.
Some travel may be required, especially for experienced and reputed animators working on overseas projects.
The majority of professional animators have a degree (foundation or undergraduate) or diploma in graphic design, animation, multimedia design, fine art, film studies or CGI and 3D modelling.
You don’t strictly need to obtain a degree or professional qualification, but it will be pretty difficult to obtain the right skills without doing so.
To really boost your chances of finding a job, you could even do one of the many specialist postgraduate animation courses which are offered by universities across the UK.
In order to get your foot in the door, you will also need to create an impressive ‘show reel’ of your work. This is almost like an audio-visual portfolio.
It’s worth getting a range of experience by working on various projects, so that you can give clients and employers a short, sharp snapshot of your best bits.
Training & progression
Training and development in the beginning stages of your career will primarily be self-initiated. However, some larger employers may sponsor you to take professional courses or even an MA in animation.
Career progression is largely driven by flexibility to move outside of the UK in search of new projects.
A well-developed portfolio of animation work, technical proficiency and relevant professional credentials are crucial elements in building a long-term and successful career as an animator.
As you progress into senior roles, you may have more strategic and managerial responsibilities and do less hands-on animation and design tasks.
Many animators work on a freelance basis and some even supplement their earnings by lecturing budding animators on the side. Some animators may even branch out into other visual media, such as theatre or feature-length films.