Animation

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Animation Degrees

Our animation program is designed for individuals who want a career in the field of computer animation. The animation program concentrates on fundamentals, collaborative work, and personal portfolio development. Majors will focus on computer-generated animation to develop professional skills for industry and graduate school placement. Three tracks are offered under the animation program:

For detailed information on course requirements and course descriptions for the School of Visual Art and Design, view the latest Undergraduate Course Catalog.

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Animation Careers


The Work

If you like drawing, telling stories, and working with computers, you might find computer animation a dream come true. Graduates with an animation degree can land jobs within the entertainment industry or continue studying the art form in graduate school. Alumni from the School of Visual Art and Design have gone on to successful jobs in character animation, character modeling, texturing, rigging, visual effects, compositing, gaming, commercial animation, motion design, and technical direction.

Necessary Animation Skills

Computer animation is one of the most challenging careers in the world. In order to be successful, you must perfectly balance the elements of filmmaking, cinematography, and storytelling with fine art skills like drawing, painting, and sculpture along with animation skills like acting and choreography—all while using some of the most advanced software and technology on the planet. All this and more goes into an animated production. While it is invaluable to have experience with all of these elements in today’s industry, you are also expected to specialize in a single area such as character animation, modeling, rigging, or rendering.

The Animation Industry

There are many possible positions in the animation industry, but most careers fall into one of two broad categories: artistic or technical animation. Artists in each category are integral to a production, and every studio defines them differently. Technical folks need to know their art, and artists need to know their technology. Artsy careers include concept development, illustration, and storyboarding, which draw on traditional art skills as well as more tech-savvy skills like modeling, texturing, and animation. Technical artists tackle complex visual challenges like water simulations, character rigging, compositing, or shader programming. Techies also contribute to the production process behind the scenes by writing custom applications, scripts, and plugins that help the artists work more efficiently.

Within the last five years, the industry has stabilized after a period of vigorous growth. There will always a demand for talented, thoughtful, passionate artists, but the competition can be very tough. As more studios grow and die out, the landscape continually changes. Job security is only as good as your demo reel. To be successful in the animation industry, you must work hard and you must be good at what you do. It is a small world, and reputations—good or bad—can spread quickly.

The Money

Computer animators can earn a comfortable income, but it can take a few years to get there. Experience and location are a couple of factors that control how much money a computer animator will make. Other entry-level positions in the industry can offer earnings anywhere from $30,000 to $60,000 annually, while experienced artists can earn over $80,000 within 5 years. Many animators will get a foot in the door with an unpaid internship. Internships are a great way to begin a track record and develop a professional portfolio that will serve you for years to come.

Where to Work

The industry has become increasingly nomadic. So be prepared to move around frequently before settling in at a dream job. Hopping from job to job is a great way to get ahead in the industry as well. Keep moving up, meeting new people, and adding to your professional demo reel.

There are career opportunities in computer animation all over the world, and stateside you can find work just about anywhere in the country. But the real hotbeds for animation are in regions around California, New York, Texas, and Florida. Every major city in the country has simple animation needs for broadcast design and advertising, and game studios pop up almost anywhere. However, the biggest studios like PIXAR, Disney, DreamWorks, and ILM will are predominantly located on the west coast. In the same area, smaller commercial animation houses produce animated TV ads, game cinematics, and movie trailers.

The Core of Animation

Breaking into the animation industry comes down to two things: what you can do, and who you know. You show what you can do with your demo reel. This is the number one tool to landing a job. Your reel shows all of your best work and is tailor made for the sort of job you want, whether it is animation, modeling, or rendering, etc. Second, you need to develop a network of contacts. Start early. Frequent message boards like CGSociety or Animation World Network. Be friendly and helpful — win some friends. Approximately 90% of the jobs you’ll get are through someone you know. The School of Visual Art and Design has helpful faculty and successful alumni in the field who are more than willing to look over demo reels and help recent graduates get a foot in the door.