How To Become a 3D Animator

How To Become a 3D Animator

What is a 3D Animator?
People who work in the field of three-dimensional (3D) animation create visual effects and animated characters for television, video games, and other electronic media. They create moving images using digital models and add details to the pictures, such as landscapes, skin textures or clothing, and portray characters by giving images emotions, habits and expression. 3D animators create drawings or take photographs/films of an actor’s movements and then use technical and design skills to breath life into their digital creations.

What is the Job?
On any given day, a 3D Animator may take on a variety of tasks to create characters, visual effects and even scenery. Different projects have different demands, but an understanding of movement and basic art principles like lines, shadow, light and perspective are always necessary.

Typical duties of a 3D Animator include:

  • Meeting with clients and key stakeholders, such as Directors, Actors, Video Game Designers and other Animators, to determine the scope of the work and project deadlines.
  • Researching subjects to ensure accurate animated representations.
  • Communicating with other Designers to ensure a cohesive vision across the product.
  • Storyboarding to develop scenes that require animation.
  • Using software to create animated characters, scenes and graphics.
  • Adjusting colours, lighting, shadows and textures to perfect lifelike appearances.
  • Integrating client and stakeholder feedback into final designs.

Key Skills
3D Animators need a feel for timing and movement, know when to edit, how men and women move differently, and what backgrounds work best for a particular scene. Following the lead of a Director or Animation Director, they will refer to existing layouts, models, designs and characters when creating the illusion of movement that will appear on the screen.

Additionally, 3D Animators should be versed in a variety of industry-standard applications, such as Maya, MotionBuilder, Mudbox, FBX, or Premiere. Experience with Cinema 4D may also be required by companies seeking Animators with motion design skills. As technology evolves — and consumers increasingly rely on smartphones and tablets — Animators with mobile skills will have a competitive edge.

While technical savvy and an artistic eye are certainly critical to succeeding as a 3D Animator, employers also want candidates to possess robust soft skills. Although not job specific, they show potential employers that you can interact with others effectively to produce exceptional work. Valuable soft skills for 3D animators include time management, multitasking and the ability to write and speak well. The best animators and motion designers are excellent communicators (for questions, edits, feedback, etc) and they work swiftly and set clear timelines for the client. Animators must also be able to collaborate and work as part of a team, giving and receiving feedback productively.

Salary & Working Hours
3D Animator salaries start at around £17,000 and rise to £35,000 with experience. 3D Animators often have full time roles with agencies or production companies with regular hours, but when deadlines are fast approaching, overtime and weekend work are often required. Sometimes there is the opportunity for 3D Animators to work from home, but this depends on employer flexibility.

How To Become a 3D Animator
Most 3D Animators hold a university degree in a concentration like graphic design, fine art, animation or computer graphics. Many companies hiring for the position desire candidates with at least five years of experience. For entry-level jobs, this can come in the form of internships or apprenticeships.

To set yourself apart from fellow 3D Animators, you’ll need a solid portfolio or demo reel. A demo reel is a collection of short clips from animations you’ve produced, which highlights your best work and shows potential employers the quality of animation you’re capable of producing. A portfolio should ideally contain a variety of pieces that illustrate your range, so include your work on different characters, types of motion, backgrounds and visual effects.

Latest 3D Animator Jobs

Where Can It Take You?
There is general growth in demand for 3D Animators as technology continues to evolve and create new opportunities for film and media.  3D Animators can go on to be Senior Animators, Motion Graphic Designers or Animation Producers.
The advancement and promotion opportunities will depend on the projects you work on and how much experience you have behind you. The more experience you have, and the more people you have networked with, the more chance you have of advancing in your career and securing roles on larger scale productions.

Become a 3D Animator
If you are ready for the next step in your career, why not take a look at the latest 3D Animator vacancies on our jobs board? You can view our latest vacancies here.