Computer Animator

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Computer Animator


The world of animation took a giant step forward in 2002. That was the year the Academy Awards established a category for Best Animated Feature Film. Finally, animation could come into its own as more than just a way to make Saturday morning cartoons. Animation was recognized and respected as a legitimate art form.

Animation has come a long way from hand-drawn images of Mickey Mouse floating down the river on his steam boat. While animators today still work with pencils and paper, the computer is growing in popularity. As the technologies improve, animators are turning more and more to the world of computer animation to help bring their pictures to life.

Computer animators can work more quickly than classic animators, because they have access to new effects, and can avoid having to re-draw pictures for each frame. Computer animation has the ability to work more smoothly and look more lifelike than anything drawn by hand.

Computer animators make all sorts of things. They work on movies, television programs, computer games, Internet graphics, and integrate computer-animated scenes into live action scenes. Animators often specialize, in one of these areas, however, if they work for a small animation studio or film company, they may be required to do it all.

Some computer animators are employed by medical associations, scientists, or architecture firms. Anyone who has a concept they would like to see put in three dimensions without having to build a model will be happy to have a computer animator use computer programs to work with them on more difficult projects. Often, animators who work freelance will be hired by these companies or individuals on a contract basis.

Computer animators are given ideas by clients, or they develop their own ideas for projects. They produce simple drawings by hand in order to visualize their ideas, and once the animator knows the pictures to be drawn, they can be programmed into the computer. The graphics will be developed from there.

Finally, when the pictures are complete, the graphics are animated. This can involve high-powered computer software if the graphics are three-dimensional and if there are a lot of them to animate.

Computer animators apply traditional artistic knowledge to the world of computers. They must know which colors and shapes work well together, they must know how to recreate faces, buildings, depth, and shadows. They take this a little bit further, and apply this knowledge to the world of science and technology.
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  Interests and Skills  
In order to work as a computer animator, you need to be an independent, self-motivated worker, who is able to think creatively about a whole variety of subject matter. You should be a talented artist, who understands the fundamentals of art, as well as artistic applications to computer technology. You should be attentive, able to pay close attention to details. You should have good organizational skills, and be able to work with others under the pressure of constant deadlines. You should be a good communicator, and be able to give and take constructive criticism.

  Typical Tasks  
  • Develop an initial story idea
  • Sketch a storyboard (visual script)
  • Program the sketches into the computer
  • Animate the images in sequence
  • Edit scenes together, matching them to the soundtrack of voices, music, and sound effects
  • Computer animators work with computers to create moving pictures. Their tasks differ, depending on their position and level of responsibility within an animation studio. As head animators, they develop story ideas and draw the initial characters, while assistant animators embellish the work that has already been done. They spend much of each day indoors, working at drawing boards and computers. They will have consultation meetings with clients and other animators regarding the various projects they are working on.

  Workplaces, Employers and Industries  
  • Computer animators work with animation companies, computer and video game companies, design firms, television production companies and film production companies. They work alone, or within a team of animators. All animators spend long hours in front of a computer screen and sketching at desks. They typically work longer hours when a project is coming close to the deadline.

  Long Term Career Potential  
Computer animators can advance to supervisory roles, or open their own design firms. They can become traditional animators, clay animators, comic book artists, children's book illustrators, and visual artists, as well as video game developers, and CD-ROM animators. They can also become textile artists, clothing designers, and layout designers, as well as involve themselves in network administration, and other aspects of the computer world.

  Educational Paths  
In order to become a computer animator, you should consider getting a university degree or college diploma in art, animation, computer studies, film, or graphic design. If you focus on computers, make sure you study some art techniques, as you should be able to draw by hand what ever you want to draw by computer.

Before you start school, it is a good idea to start training yourself. There are many software programs available that will allow you to play around with animation on your own. The more you practice with animation techniques, both on computer and on paper, the more likely it is you will succeed as a computer animator.

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition,
Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Employment Statistics, 2002,

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