Level Up Industry Lesson: 3D Animator

So far, we went over the career path of the Game Designer and the Video Game Producer; this time, we are exploring the career track of a 3D animator. In this Level Up Industry Lesson, we’ll be going over what a 3D Animator does, and the requirements of what it takes to become one.

Meet the 3D Animator

Breathing life into characters and creating the world through their perspective, the 3D Animator controls the way things move. The job of the 3D animator is to create three-dimensional objects and make them talk and move. 3D animators pay close attentions to the details; everything from the body language and facial expressions of a character, to the motion of the character’s surroundings.

Animators typically know how to model, rig and illustrate. They can create graphics to develop storyboards and sometimes even assist in production and design coordination. 3D animation is a natural path whether your background is in 2D animation, video editing or illustration. For all 3D animators, time management is no stranger, as a good amount of 3D animators in the field are successful self-employed individuals, or on a team working in games or film.

The 3D animator’s role may vary by studio in both the film and video game industries. Higher production value determines the budget, including but not limited to: poly count, texture resolutions and the expectations of realism of the animation. Animations for video games are typically created with the gameplay in mind, as opposed to the pacing of a scene in a film. However, the line between video game and film animation are getting blurred by the day.

Required Skills

Academy of Interactive Entertainment - Game ArtTeaching yourself new skills is paramount for animators, whether it be in games or film. Mike Belzer (Valve, Pixar) has worked on stop-motion animation for a great deal of his entire 30-year animation career. Mike would never have thought that he would eventually be working at Valve while he was working on Nightmare Before Christmas. Familiarize yourself with industry standard software, such as Maya and Photoshop Zbrush. Understand the vocabulary used in studios, networking skills, as a strong beginner skill set in this field is important.

Putting yourself out there and connecting with others is also vital for anyone who wants to become successful in their animation career. Look to your local film and video game communities, reach out to not only animators or visual effects artists, but programmers and designers. Knowing your community and building relationships will open more opportunities than you would be just sitting at your desk all the time. Besides, you never know who might be searching for the next animator to join their team!

3D Animation Career Path

It’s all about the reel. Showcase your best pieces, and not just the ones you like. The ability to honestly critique your own work takes practice, which is why it’s so important to connect with other experienced animators. Some colleges have mentors that will help guide you toward the right path, and who are willing to share the experiences they’ve had for you to learn from. Junior animators can start anywhere from wearing many hats while working at a small indie studio, to multiple freelance projects as their own boss. While some entry-level work may not be exactly what you learned, these are the necessary stepping stones toward landing your dream job.

Resources & Industry Advice

Game development might be one of the more competitive industries, but by no means is it impossible to break into. Experience is the universal language that all studios, whether indie or AAA, can understand and appreciate. In an evolving industry, it is vital for video game producers to continue to learn new techniques and learn emerging technology trends.

Being able to adapt to these constantly evolving roles is an essential art of being successful in this industry, especially since the responsibilities may vary from studio to studio. Collaborating with a team and the ability to communicate your ideas is not only required, but it is expected from an animator. We had this in mind when creating our curriculum for the Game Art & Animation program, as well as the 3D Animation & VFX for Film program. This is a major reason why our classrooms simulate studio environment, and they are all taught by industry experts in their respected field.

There are numerous paths when you’re looking to break into the gaming industry. 3D animation is just one of these paths you can take, so stay tuned for our next part of this series: Level Up Industry Lesson: VFX Artist.