Assistant Animator (Stop Motion)
- Personality type:
- Production | Stop Motion
- Supporting the Animators and helping the work of the department to run smoothly
Is this role right for me?
To do this role, you will need to:
- have a feel for movement and timing together with observational and acting skills
- be able to work in a range of stop motion animation techniques, including very good sculpting skills (if working in clay)
- have a good understanding of the principles of animation
- have good communication skills
- have good team-working skills, including an appreciation of the duties of other members of the crew
- have good organisational skills
- be methodical in your approach and pay close attention to detail
- be able to maintain and clean up models or puppets during shooting, if required
- be able to take direction and accept constructive feedback
- be able to deliver on schedule, working calmly and efficiently under pressure
- show respect for the procedures and requirements of a particular studio or production
- have knowledge of the requirements of the relevant health and safety legislation and procedures
What does an Assistant Animator (Stop Motion) do?
Assistant Animators in stop motion animation support the Animators and help the work of the department to run smoothly.
Stop Motion, also called Stop Frame, describes animation that is created by moving models, puppets or any three-dimensional objects frame-by-frame in front of a camera to create the illusion of movement. Other terms used are Model or Puppet Animation, Table Top or 3D, although nowadays 3D usually applies to computer animation.
They must make sure that the models or puppets are on set, completely equipped, clean and ready to shoot. They need to ensure that the costumes, props and sets are correct and that continuity is maintained.
To do this, they need to acquire a thorough knowledge of the project and work with other departments, such as rigging and model making. They may need to keep records and take responsibility for delivering accurate log sheets.
As they progress, they may do secondary animation on production or test animation during the development stage. In doing this, they develop knowledge and skills which, combined with talent, enable them to become Animators.
The Assistant Animator grade exists in some studios; in others, this work is done by Trainee Animators or Junior Animators and the title Assistant Animator may not exist.
You could also apply to be an Animation 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:
Will I need a qualification?
To become an Assistant Animator in stop motion animation, it will generally help you to have a degree in animation, fine art, sculpture, graphics, illustration, or another related subject.
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
Art and design/CGI/graphics courses awarded the Creative Skillset Tick
Your showreel should demonstrate your professional approach to animation. You should also have a portfolio including examples of any sculpture, models or puppets you may have produced. In some studios, good drawing skills and an understanding of traditional drawn animation will be an advantage.
What’s the best route in?
You could achieve this role from having been lucky enough to be taken on as a Trainee or you may come from another department within the same studio (in particular the model making department).
You could enter the animation industry in this role in certain circumstances and with either the right experience or a lot of obvious talent. There can be several grades of Assistant Animator and your rate of progress will depend on your individual talent.
A useful starting point for your career in stop motion animation can be to experiment at home, either using camera or video equipment that is able to record single frames or, alternatively, by recording sequential poses on a digital stills camera, uploading them onto a computer and editing them together to create the animation. You should aim to keep the lighting consistent, particularly when using a stills camera. This work can be used as part of your portfolio when applying for art or film courses or to a potential employer.
You could also apply to be an Animation 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?
Depending on your talent and ambition, you could progress to Animator, then Key or Senior Animator, and from there to Animation Director/Supervisor or Director.
Alternatively, you may become a very experienced and highly-valued assistant as a career choice. You may find that you do not have the necessary ambition for more senior roles, or you may just prefer the back-up role.
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
- Stop Motion Animation - online resources for the stop motion animation community
- Cracking Animation: The Aardman Book of 3-D Animation by Peter Lord and Brian Sibley (pub. Thames & Hudson)
- Stop Motion: Craft Skills for Model Animation by Susannah Shaw (pub. Focal Press)
- Stop Motion Armature Machining: A Heavily Illustrated Construction Manual by Tom Brierton (pub. McFarland & Company)
- Stop Motion Puppet Sculpting: A Manual of Foam Injection, Build-Up and Finishing Techniques by Tom Brierton (pub. McFarland & Company)
- The Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams (pub. Faber & Faber)
- Acting for Animators: A complete guide to Performance Animation by Ed Hooks (pub. Greenwood Press)
- Timing for Animation by Harold Whittaker and John Halas (pub. Focal Press)