How to Become a 3D Animator

3D animation is a highly technical skill that requires both artistic talent and computer knowledge. 3D animation can either be done by hand or through a motion capture process, and different types of animation requires a different set of talents. Animators need to be extraordinarily precise and patient, and often a single animation make take many months to do. Animators may sometimes work in independent studios and large studios, and there are a variety of industries that employ 3D animators. The majority of the companies within the industry produce movies, commercials or video games.

$58,510
Bachelor's Degree
None
Moderate-term
66,500
8%
5,500
Find Related CareersSOURCE: US Bureau of Labor Statistics

Many of the software systems that a 3D animator will work with are industry standard, which means those that are interested in becoming a 3D animator will need to learn these systems very well. According to O*Net Online, those within this field will usually make about $61,370 annually. The growth of this type of position is not very high, but there is a lot of mobility within the profession.

What Does a 3D Animator Do?

A 3D animator will often work with concept arts to render 3D objects. Some 3D animators will create these objects or characters themselves, while other 3D animators will work solely in animation. Whether an animator needs to work with design as well as animation will usually depend on the size of the studio. Studios that are large in size will have dedicated animation teams, and studios that are small may have a single employee for multiple tasks.

3D animators will follow storyboards to create an animation using the assets they have either made or have been provided. Some 3D animators will use motion capture devices to create more realistic animations or to aid the animations they have created. Other animators will hire actors or will act out specific scenes so they can determine how things will move and behave during the scene. 3D animation is a very precise art, because it takes quite a lot to make a scene seem realistic.

How Do You Become a 3D Animator?

Many 3D animators have either a Bachelor’s Degree or Associate’s Degree in computer graphics or animation. Usually a 3D animator will create what is called a “reel” before their employment. Reels are an animator’s best work. Some of this work is usually done through a degree program, but other reels are done on the animator’s own time. There are online degree programs that focus on creating this reel, which will serve as proof of talent to a 3D studio.

3D animators can also obtain work through internships. Internships are usually taken while the animator is in their last years of school. It can provide excellent opportunities, and many development studios that have interns will also offer permanent employment positions following an internship to the qualified candidates. Internships can also provide an excellent change to develop a reel.

How Do You Advance as a 3D Animator?

Advancement as a 3D animator usually consists of being picked up by better and more prestigious studios. Animators can do this by performing well on high quality products and consistently meeting their deadlines and acting in a professional manner. 3D animators can also eventually head their own departments and develop a reputation within the industry.

3D animation is a relatively small and tightly knit field, which means networking and forming industry connections can also be instrumental in advancing in the career. As noted by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, this industry is especially prolific in the areas of California and New York, which means those interested in advancing within the field may want to move to a major metropolitan area.

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