3D Animation Technician – Best IT Jobs of 2011 Series

Animation is fast becoming an extremely popular career choice for those interested in combining their love for art with their love for computing. With movies like Monster’s Inc. and Cars holding the attention of children and adults alike, it’s no surprise that animation technicians are becoming more sought after. Animation is the art of mobilizing pictures to tell a story or even sell a product; it’s used extremely frequently today both on television and in movies and is a great career option for those with creativity and technological acumen.

Reality 101

Animation is featured in numerous spheres of life including ad films, commercial movies and video games and involves many sub-divisions with extremely specific goals. Some of the categories include character animation, set animation, special effects and title and credit animation. Essentially, the various visual features we have come to appreciate in today’s world are pieced together by animation technicians who work hard to ensure a smooth flow of information aided by the presence of appealing characters.

Animation technicians have to work closely with the firm in charge so that the expected vision is achieved. Their role is to formulate the process of the particular video and ensure that the end result is engaging and entertaining so that people will watch and appreciate it.

A basic storyline is thus greatly enhanced by the presence of an animation technician who can add several special effects to it and make it more appealing to the masses. Animation technicians can be found in any field of employment that makes use of video as a means of expression and thus there is great scope for specialization and one can focus entirely on one’s interest when choosing the perfect place to work.

3D animation is a line of work based extensively on creativity. Animators must have an endless gamut of ideas that can be used to better a video production. Animation makes things more realistic and dynamic and is thus a tool used by industries all over to increase awareness about products, messages or ideas.

Animators use computer software to manipulate images and get them to move or behave in the required manner. This may include a wide variety of abilities in video games, particular behavioral aspects in movies and so on.

Here’s an inside look at the stages of animation:

1. Firstly, the characters involved must be created. This is done by conceptual artists that draw out the characters, adding the necessary details.

2. Next, the 3D artists who convert the sketches into three-dimensional models so that the exact features of each character can be appreciated.

3. The next step is undertaken by computer software designed to animate the three-dimensional models using complicated mathematical tools. This stage is manipulated by the animation technician who is able to see the 3D model come to life and move in real time. This stage also allows the technician to see how the model character can react to surroundings and situations. Using the software the technician can create the entire video needed.

Thus, animation is based heavily on computer software and this makes the job of the technician slightly easier. However, the ability to master the software and use it to meet demands is a skill that takes much honing which only experience can achieve.

The Inside Scoop

When you think of animation, chances are that Disney movies are the first to come to your mind. Indeed, the Disney animators Ollie Johnston and Frank Thomas created amazing visual experiences that are still remembered by everyone. They wrote a book called The Illusion of Life: Disney Animation in which they formulated twelve basic principles of animation which are the cornerstone for modern animation. These animators aimed to create characters that were life-like in all possible ways and their principles are widely lauded for being able to achieve just that.

The principles are as follows:

1. Squash and Stretch – This is the first principle and is indeed one of the most basic. Any animator will attempt to achieve a stretching motion in the early days of his career and this principle thus places great emphasis upon it. These tools convey flexibility and are used to express human emotion, in faces, or even movement, in the case of simple images like bouncing balls.

2. Anticipation – Anticipation is used by animators to prepare the audience for an action that is to happen. Thus, a diver will have to bend his legs before actually jumping. The presence of anticipation makes animation more realistic.

3. Staging – Using this tool, animators can draw attention to a particular important aspect of the visual frame, much like what is achieved in a play or movie. Using positioning or specific lighting, animators can achieve this.

4. Straight Ahead Action and Pose to Pose – This principle refers to the two different ways to advance through the drawing process. Straight ahead action refers to the procedure of drawing out a scene including all the frames while pose to pose refers to the drawing of the most crucial frames first and later filling in the gaps. Animators are encouraged to choose the method that best suits their sensibilities though generally a combination is advised.

5. Follow Through and Overlapping Action – These terms together aim at cementing the reality of the characters involved and at ensuring that they obey basic laws of physics. Thus, the various parts of a body will move at different rates and despite a stop, some parts of the body will continue moving. These terms are to be remembered by animators so that a rational visual is created.

6. Slow In and Slow Out – This refers to the placing of more frames at the beginning and end of an action to indicate a more realistic movement of the character.

7. Arcs – Thomas and Johnston believed that most actions can be expressed through arcs and that these should thus be used extensively to ensure a realistic visual experience.

8. Secondary Action – This refers to the performance of more than one action by any character to further cement its reality.

9. Timing – This is an extremely important principle that holds value throughout mediums. Timing ensures that an animated image comes alive properly and so must be maintained throughout.

10. Exaggeration – This is a principle that advocated comedy and humor in animation to make it more engaging for the audience.

11. Solid Drawing – For any animation to look good, it is imperative that the basic drawing be accurate and pragmatic.

12. Appeal – This refers to the use of tools to make characters charming and engaging. This will appeal to the audience and thus the aim of the animator will be achieved.

These principles are essentially a checklist necessary for the success of any animation. If you are thorough in the details of these principles, you should be able to succeed as an animation technician.

Sweet Sensations

First and foremost, animation offers a huge creative outlet for people who are creatively inclined. If you’ve spent all your time jumping from one creative calling to another, you should try animation as it allows you to express your creativity in a novel way that will pay the bills way better than an odd painting would!

The animation industry is well-connected to various spheres of world media and so by working in the industry you are highly likely to make contacts that will last a lifetime! Plus, imagine being able to brag about how you animated that Angelina Jolie movie!

Moreover, animation is extremely flexible and you can choose to work at whatever time you feel comfortable with; so if you’re nocturnal, this is the perfect career for you as no one will stop you from starting work at two in the morning!

Technology moves at an extremely rapid pace in this industry and this allows you to push the boundaries constantly and keep on reinventing yourself as an animator. No other industry will facilitate your artistic growth the way this one can!

Of course, the ability to take credit for a major component of any given viewing experience is a serious bragging right and thus a key advantage that comes with the job.

Hurdles and Challenges

The animation industry is a challenging industry to be a part of as it is constantly changing. The fast pace of technology does allow you to grow but it also puts serious pressure on you as you have to constantly update yourself with the latest available software in order to stay on top of the game.

Animation also demands intense endurance as every single element of characterization needs to be realistic and appealing; this is a time-consuming process that is certainly not for the impatient! The job also demands many hours seated in front of a computer which can be exhausting for many.

Fruits of Labor


According to surveys, the entry-level salaries offered range between $40,000 and $60,000 a year. The actual figure depends on which sector of the industry you are based in and what your previous experience is. As with all other IT-oriented jobs, experience is extremely valuable and so the greater your previous experience, the greater your salary. Also, if you choose to work on animation in the gaming sector of the industry you stand to earn more money as this is the lucrative sector. Lead animators can earn between $65,000 and $80,000 a year in the gaming industry while the average wage is between $40,000 and $70,000. However, other sectors are not all that far behind.

After several years in the industry you can choose to become a project manager or producer. By doing so, you can earn more than $130,000 a year based on your successes.


Like the afore-mentioned professions, animation is a lucrative career replete with bragging rights. There is nothing like being credited for your work and what better way to be credited than to have your name in the credits of a movie you worked in or a game you helped make!

Animation is also an extremely fun career path that allows you to explore various sects of storytelling. It essentially allows you to delve into a fictional world created by you and this can be quite the exciting experience.

Essential Tools

From Home

To make it as a successful animator, you need to have the following characteristics:

· You should be extremely artistic and creative and you should be able to draw what comes to mind easily. Your drawings should be realistic yet innovative.

· You should be able to complete assignments in a timely manner while still following the exact specifications.

· Knowing how to use computer graphics programs is essential so you should be well-versed in the working of programs like Maya, Lightwave and 3D Studio Max.

· You should be patient and diligent and ready to steadily get through your workload.

You should also constantly innovate and design your own animation clips. These will keep challenging your mind so that you work better when under pressure.

From School

There are numerous degrees available in animation that will provide you with a good foundation for your career. Firms always prefer well-educated employees but you should complement your education with a great deal of personal experimentation which will add to your experience. Subjects like mathematics, physics and art are good options that will give you a good grounding in the animation world.

At the Job

Meet other animators and explore various types of animation. The pool of talent is certainly not small and by experiencing the work of masters, you can improve your skills. As always, experience counts a lot and so pay attention at work and make the most of every assignment you’re given!

To Conclude

By now you’ve definitely realized that animation is an excellent career choice that is both unique and well-paying; not only will you have a great day job with useful perks, you’ll be able to afford that Mercedes in no time! Moreover, being an animator is an extremely fulfilling career and knowing that your ideas will be contributions to the evolution of popular culture is a great thrill! As technology evolves, animation is set to become even more important and it won’t be long before it is the forefront of visual media; it’s thus a good idea to get started right away so you can be a part of the change.

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