Skills in animation
Jobs in Animation
There are a lot of roles within animation, and those employed or hired on a freelance basis may be hired for a specific specialisation. In a smaller company, it’s common for people to be adept in many skills to allow them to work on whatever is needed. Larger companies will look for specialists in rigging, character animation and modelling while production and infrastructure staff focus on the day-to-day operations.
While the job role you’d most often associate with the industry is an Animator, there are plenty of job roles if you’re not artistically minded but still interested in the industry. Producers play a big role in animation and utilise skills in management and organisation rather than art. In larger studios, there will be whole departments devoted to Human Resources or Marketing, whereas the smaller studios will still offer roles in studio development or administration. Like most companies in the creative industries, studios will often look to hire for runner positions.
Getting Into Animation
Whether you’re looking to get into 2D, 3D or stop-motion, you may want to get a qualification in a relevant field such as Animation, Illustration or Computer Sciences to help show your knowledge and dedication to the craft.
You will also need to be familiar with the software used in the industry. While the exact programs will differ between studios and people, some examples include Toon Boom for 2D, Maya for 3D modelling and Dragonframe for stop-motion. You will also want to research into the locations of studios you want to work with. The major animation hotspot in the UK is London, and there are many notable studios in Bristol, Manchester, Cardiff and Dundee.
A major decision for any creative is whether to take their work freelance or not. Freelancing typically pays more and allows more freedom with your time, but doesn’t offer the stability that traditional employment offers. There’s also other work place perks, such as pension plans, that freelancers will miss. However, many creatives find it a more desirable way to work.
A recruiter might read hundreds of applications, so when applying you’ll need to make sure your CV is as close to perfect as possible. We have a great guide for writing a CV, but for Animation you’ll want to make sure to prioritise your portfolio and experience over your academic background.
While having a degree or qualification is certainly worthy of mention, employers will be looking for those with strong skills in design and illustration. There’s definitely room to be creative with your CV to show this off – but don't let it overshadow the content!
When making an application, it’s often recommended that you “show passion”. But how does that translate into a job application? Quite simply, it’s anything that can prove how much you love animation.
If you’ve spent three years studying it at University level, that shows you have passion. Or if you’ve got a portfolio of personal projects you’ve created to practice your craft, it shows you have passion. When a studio hires you, they’re trusting that you carry a love for the craft that will show up in your work. Sometimes, the best way is simply to show them in person via a trainee or internship scheme.
Lastly, you’ll want a portfolio of work. Preferably, this will be a showreel of animations with break-downs to showcase your skills, but can also include illustrations and drawings to give an example of your artistic ability.
A showreel should ideally last no more than one or two minutes, with the last slide displaying your contact information in case it gets separated from your CV. When emailing a studio, it’s worth taking the time to find who your email will be going to. “Dear Sir/Madam” doesn’t show a studio you know them!
When emailing companies, do remember that it is a perfectly acceptable practice to email speculatively when there’s no job advertised – if you show you can be a valuable asset, they may keep you on file and contact you in the future.
Working in Animation
Animation work tends to not have a consistent work rate for the duration of a project. At the beginning of the project, animation directors and animators are more creative with their work and take their time perfecting it, but towards the end they can reach the “crunch” period. This is when the deadline is looming and a lot of work still needs to be done, causing a lot of stressful overtime. During this time, a lot of new animators will be hired and asked to hit the ground running with helping the project, which can be very daunting for those new to the profession.
Animators will also need to know proper etiquette for inside a studio. If your role has a direct superior, then all queries and problems should be reported to them rather than a Director or Producer. It’s also expected that everyone remains pleasant to their fellow animators, even during the highly stressful crunch times.
As the industry grows, new technology and trends will begin to emerge. Staying up to date with all the latest news in the industry is vital to working in animation, and can be easily achieved by attending industry workshops and seminars, and following animation blogs or websites.
No matter what industry you’re working in, it’s always wise to know where to seek legal counsel and aid if required. The Broadcasting, Entertainment, Cinematograph and Theatre Union represents some sectors in animation, providing advice and benefits for members. There is also Animation UK who are seeking to provide fairer trading conditions for UK-based animators.