Layout Artist (3D computer animation)
- Animation | VFX
- Personality type:
- 3D computer animation
- Breaking down 2D storyboards into 3D shots
- Staging every shot and plotting the action that will take place within each scene
- Ensuring that everything that is going to be animated is set up properly
Is this role right for me?
To do this role, you will need to:
- be highly film literate and able to meet the filmic needs of a production
- have proven artistic skills including a strong sense of composition and perspective, good use of light, shadow and colour
- be able to create atmosphere
- have a good understanding of editing
- have strong IT skills
- understand the principles of cinematography including use of lenses, positioning and moving the camera, etc.
- be able to apply motion capture to computer-generated models
- be able to take direction and be willing to address constructive feedback
- have good communication skills
- have good team-working skills
- be able to work with a minimum of supervision
- have good problem-solving skills
- be able to deliver on schedule, working calmly and efficiently under pressure
- show respect for the procedures and requirements of a particular studio, production or pipeline
- have knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures
What does a Layout Artist (3D computer animation) do?
In most cases, Layout Artists break down 2D storyboards into 3D shots. They use production designs and models as reference to build locations and major props, to block in the position of characters, to select camera angles and to plot camera moves. They are responsible for staging every shot and plotting the action that will take place within each scene.
They ensure that everything that is going to be animated is set up properly, including not only characters, but also any props or parts of the background that need to move (e.g. an opening door).
Layout Artists may also be responsible for establishing the lengths of shots within a scene. It is likely that the Director and Editor will view and make comments on a low resolution first pass of a layout reel so Layout Artists can make any changes before the scene is passed on to the animators.
There is a later stage of Final Layout, after the animation is complete, when set dressing is added, background models are built in high resolution and final adjustments are made to camera moves and shot lengths.
The role of Layout Artist exists within some areas of CGI and not in others. In animated features, the layout department plays an important and creative role which can be related to that of the Cinematographer's team in live action filmmaking. A mid-level Layout Artist could be equivalent to a Camera Operator.
In television, where roles may not be as specialised, the size and structure of the production dictates whether there will be dedicated Layout Artists.
They will generally work most closely with the Director and Storyboard Artists but may also work with other departments.
In post production facility houses, if the job exists at all, Layout Artists may be called Layout TDs or Set Up TDs (Technical Directors) and perform a more technical role. It is more likely that CG Animators will pick up whatever information they need about camera moves and proposed action from previs (previsualisation) than from layouts.
Depending on the size of the project, final layout can become the responsibility of Lighters/Compositors.
Will I need a qualification?
To become a CG Layout Artist, it will help you to have a degree in an art-related subject such as illustration, fine art, sculpture, computer animation, graphic design or in one of a variety of film or computer subjects.
If you are considering taking an animation or art and design/graphics course in higher education, the following courses have been rigorously assessed by the industry and awarded the Creative Skillset Tick for the high standard of education they provide and the degree to which they prepare you for a creative career:
Animation courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick
Graphic Design and Visual Communications courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick
You will need to have artistic talent and be film literate. In addition, you will need to have trained in at least one of the industry-standard 3D software packages, such as Maya, 3D Studio Max and Lightwave. A good understanding of maths and physics could also be useful.
What’s the best route in?
There is no typical career route you can follow. One of the routes to this role is to have honed your artistic talent and gained skills in the relevant software in a previous role. This could include working as a designer, illustrator, sculptor, Storyboard Artist among other roles.
Another less common route is that you could be self-taught or a recent graduate and secure a job in the layout department on the basis of an impressive portfolio and showreel.
You could apply to be a VFX Trainee through Trainee Finder, which gives you hands-on experience in the industry and helps you build those all-important contacts that are essential when competing for a job:
Where might the role take me?
You could progress from this role to be a Layout Supervisor or Layout Technical Director. It can also be a good route into the animation department.
Interested? Find out more...
- Animation Magazine - a US magazine about the business, technology and art of animation and VFX
- Animation World Network - production news, interviews, jobs and a big archive
- Shooting People – community-driven site, founded by filmmakers, and providing opportunities, news and animation jobs
- Skwigly Animation Magazine - the longest running UK based animation magazine and community. Offers news, interviews, reviews, podcasts, videos and tutorials
- Toonhound – website about cartoons, animation, comic strips and puppets in the UK
- Own-it - offers intellectual property (IP) advice, information and learning resources for the creative sector
- Animation Nation - Animation industry news and useful links
- 3D World Magazine - international magazine for CG artists, covering the fields of animation, VFX, games, illustration and architecture
- Computer Graphics World - magazine covering innovation in computer graphics technology across various industries
- Cinefex - quarterly magazine devoted to motion picture visual effects
- Visual Effects in A Digital World: A Comprehensive Glossary of over 7,000 Visual Effects Terms by Karen Goulekas (pub. Morgan Kaufmann Publishers)
- How to Get a Job in Computer Animation by Ed Harriss