So you want to be a 3d Animator? Part 2

So you want to be a 3d Animator? Part 2
Written by Luke Campbell & Edited by Zero Dean

Hi, my name is Luke Campbell. The following text is the result of my correspondence with some folks I contacted through Kinetix’s web site. Having read through the information on their web pages, I wrote to them asking how I should go about acquiring the skills needed to get a job in 3d graphics…

I live in Washington, 20 miles south of Seattle. My primary area of interest is 3d Animation as it relates to Film. I’m at a point where I’d like to go somewhere for training and I was hoping you might be able to help me. I believe I have a pretty good understanding of what the industry wants and the skills I should learn…(please correct me if I’m wrong)…

1. Companies are looking for a basic background in art.

2. They like you to have the ability to sketch rough designs, develop story boards, and prepare animation layouts.

3. The ability to convey emotions in your work.

4. A basic knowledge of 2d digital imaging programs.

5. Familiarity with software that mixes digital imagery with sound effects, narrations, and voice-overs.

6. A mastery of some of the following: organic modeling, rendering, and lighting. Tiled backgrounds, and character animation.

7. Be proficient in some industry standard 3d programs.

Can you tell me the best ways to pick up these skills and if there are any necessary skills I left out? And if I had all of these skills would I be qualified?

Thank you for your valuable time and advice. (Always thank the individual for their time, believe me it is valuable.)

-Luke Campbell

The following is the response I got. I’ve taken the e-mail I received and combined it into one letter that expresses everything.


Finally, someone who has done their homework! The film industry is a really tough one to break into it requires exceptional talent and the right education.

The film industry is almost entirely proprietary software (meaning you can’t learn it in the outside world, they train you on it). An additional skill you might want to attain is some UNIX shell scripting abilities. Not all places require it, but it definitely helps when you write your own shaders and set up batch renders.

The film industry uses packages along the lines of Softimage, Alias (PowerAnimator), Wavefront(Explore, Dynamation, Kinemation, 3Design, IPR), Lightwave, Electric Image (Broadcast), and 3Dstudio MAX actually, they use a combination of all these things plus their own proprietary stuff (fewer places use MAC and PC-based software).

Anyway, the film industry is always interested I compositors and character animators (think of Dragonheart, Toy Story, etc.) if you think character animation is what you’d like to be doing, then I highly suggest that you seek out a school that has a reputation for this. It is a very difficult skill to master (most will spend a lifetime trying to master it). But a good character animator will always be in demand.

Compositing is a 2D art, something that all film companies need the ability to match live action with CG footage. Nothing that involves CG in film (except for all CG films) can be done without compositor can make any scene look as though it was all real, not a mixture of film and CG (like some movie rip-offs done by TV, and the list is too long to even mention).

The best school to learn character animation, in my opinion, is Sheridan College in Ontario, Canada (but very difficult to get into they require a portfolio screening up front). If you can get in, the big studios will be coming to you when you begin looking for work. Ringling down in Sarasota, Florida is another school with a strong reputation (Disney recruits there since the program was designed around Disney’s needs). CalArts in California is another excellent choice. It offers top-notch character animation program as well as a strong film curriculum (people are recruited from the studios prior to graduation). Vancouver Film School in Vancouver, British Columbia offers a wide variety of training from traditional character animation (like Sheridan) to film to game design and computer animation. Its traditional character animation program is reputed to be in demand, but some say their computer animation program leaves a lot to be desired.

First thing, don’t skimp on your education. School “A” may offer you a cheaper alternative, but does it offer you the same education? Also, just because a place teaches Softimage or Alias, doesn’t mean that it’s the “right” school. More places than not teach you how to use the software, very few teach you what to do with it (i.e. animation). Only a handful of schools have the kind of reputation that mean something to an employer (in this biz it’s your portfolio and demo reel that sell you, not your diploma. Being a graduate of Sheridan will only make it easier to get an interview, but in the end, your talents must shine through). For information on preparing your portfolio as well as tips to getting a job see the 3D-ARK’s archives section.

Another thing to consider in the pursuit of your education is who teaches at the various schools. “Has this person done the kind of work I hope to eventually do or are they just instructors?” 99% of the work you do in this biz is never done the way the manual says to do it. These kinds of things are learned in the biz, so if your instructor works or has worked in the biz, you’ll get a better education than those merely being taught to software trust me, those skills or lack of them, will show in your reel.

Good luck!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.