Considering a career in animation but not too sure what it’s all about?

By J&C Team

Last week saw the annual Creative Skillset Animation & VFX Showcase where recent graduates met key animation employers and many secured their first job in the industry.

The animation industry in the UK stretches across many sectors in the creative media industries with animated content on television, feature films, commercials, websites and games. There has been some great commercial success in recent years with big-budget features such as Toy Story and the first ever Oscar for an animated feature, won by Dreamwork’s Shrek.

Although it is still a relatively small sector in the UK, the animation industry, is growing[i].

Areas of work

Most of the money spent on animation is associated with the advertising industry and competition for commissions is fierce. But the UK also leads the world in the production of pre-school storytelling and design, and this area continues to attract investors. Other areas include:

  • feature films
  • children’s programmes
  • games
  • music promos
  • CD-Roms (for educational purposes)
  • adult comedy and drama

Roles in Animation:

There is a range of freelance, contract and more permanent animation jobs within small production companies, larger studios, computer-generated post-production facility houses, computer games developers or interactive media designers.

Animators employ various techniques which can be split into three general categories:

  • Traditional hand-drawn animation – every movement and facial expression is painstakingly drawn, then transferred onto film or increasingly onto digital media. Up to 20,000 drawings may be needed for a 30-minute film.
  • Model, or stop frame animation – made famous by Aardman’s Wallace and Gromit – requiring equally detailed work to bring the characters to life.
  • Computer animation or CGI – using highly sophisticated software for both 2D and 3D animations.

What will you need?
Despite constant technological development, the most important skills needed by new entrants (as well as practitioners generally) remain the fundamental ones of:

  • Drawing with creative flair and a good visual eye
  • Storytelling
  • A good sense of timing and composition
  • An understanding of motion, size, ratios and perspective

Although some people work on their own, there is increasing emphasis on teamwork and multi-tasking. A large team may be involved in the various stages of production – from raising the finance for the original idea, to script development, the creation of animated characters and backgrounds, casting the ‘voices’, recording the soundtrack, checking the design, editing and sound mixing – and the finished product has to look as if it were all ‘drawn by one hand’.

Gemma Roberts, landed her first job with Lupus working on ‘The Snowman and the Snowdog’. Gemma explains how important a mix of creative and mathematical skills are in her role as a 2D animator:  “I would describe animation in its simplest terms as ‘problem solving’. Every scene is kind of a puzzle to be solved logically, but of course creatively as well.

You have to figure out where to place your characters, how they overlap, if it makes sense, and then you have to make it look good, entertaining enough to keep your attention and most of all, believable.

Animation does involve simple maths as well, to be able to space your in-betweens properly and number your frames correctly and correspond them to the timing sheet (which is incredibly important so it doesn’t get mixed up further down the line) and of course for CGI which is all mathematics underneath the pretty renders. It’s important to learn the science of it early so you can spend more time being creative!”

What next?

If you’re interested in studying animation at university, take a look at the Creative Skillset website which provides a list of accredited courses highlighting the best practice-based courses which will give you all the technical and practical skills you need whilst ensuring you gain the right experience and abilities to succeed in the workplace:

Or if you’ve already graduated, take a look at the Creative Skillset website for more information about the animation industry and further advice on how to get into the sector:

[i] Creative Skillset Census 2012