Tag Archives: Animating

3D Image of a doorway in a dirty alley at night.

So you want to become an Animator? Here’s Everything you Need to Know

School is back-in-session which means high school seniors applying for college and even current undeclared college freshmen and sophomores will soon need to select a major-of-choice. If you have a passion for the arts but are not sure which specific niche to delve into, you may consider pursuing one of the more popular areas that is predicted to provide an adequate number of employment opportunities in the coming years—animation. If you are unfamiliar with this career choice, continue reading below to discover what this job entails, including working environment, the skills you need to possess to be successful and starting salary.

What does an Animator Do?

In a nutshell, an animator creates original 2-D or 3-D visual images or special effects for a variety of industries including film, television, gaming, publications and the web. While traditional methods such as hand drawings are still mildly used, the industry is more or less dominated by the use of digital tools to create animation. That said, it’s important that those who choose to pursue this career are not only naturally gifted artists, but are also a wiz with computers so they can easily learn how to use all of the digital-creating software. Some other skills a successful animator needs to possess include the following: an eye for details, excellent time management skills, strong image-editing skills, and the ability to create and read storyboards.

What are the Educational Requirements and Classes you Will Take?

Typically, you need a Visual Arts or Fine Arts bachelor’s degree with a concentration in animation to get hired as an animator. While animation is usually a concentration within a broader field, students may just very well be able to tailor their skills even further and select a specialization within their concentration, such as 3-D imaging or visual effects for example. Regardless, some sample classes you will be required to take are the following: Computer Animation and Graphic Design,  Composition and Design, Illustration, 2-D Animation, 3-D Animation and Film Making just to name a few.

What is the Career Outlook and Working Environment?

Unlike other laborious careers, animators typically work in a cool and well ventilated, lighted area such as in a studio, loft or other type of office space. They may need to do some light traveling to sister studios or visit exotic places for inspiration, but other than that they tend to stay in a centralized location. Working hours are sporadic (generally not a typical 9 to 5 job) and on a daily basis animators work with animation directors, photographers, graphic designers, and other clients.

While many careers are unstable, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics those pursuing a career in animation should see many employment opportunities within the next decade. In fact, the Bureau predicts that employment opportunities should increase about 14%, creating about 11,200 new jobs by 2018— especially in the movie, gaming and television fields. This is because these areas will demand more “realistic” imagery in the coming years, the Bureau states. Other trending popular areas include design agencies and scientific/medical research facilities (medical experts for example need animators to illustrate procedures etc.)

That’s not to say that competition won’t be fierce because it will be. But to make sure you increase your chances of employment and to beef up your resume, focus on obtaining a lot of experience via internships while pursuing your undergraduate degree or consider become a “specialist” and earning a master’s degree in the subject. While salary will depend on various factors, including place of employment, degree level and previous experience, according to the Bureau animators typically earn anywhere from $41,710 to $77,010.

How to Animate a Dodgeball Throw in Maya

Today we’ve got Prantic’s first video tutorial; How to throw a dodgeball (no, not a volleyball – that was my bad) in Maya. Now I don’t use Maya very often personally, but it’s Prantic’s main software and he uses it well. Tutorial is really good, though not short so be sure to grab a cup of something before you sit down to watch.

Here’s a quick overview of what will be covered:

  • Working from a storyboard
  • The Primary Animation of a Dodgeball Throw
  • Secondary Animation to make it all look a lot more believable
  • Constraining the ball to the character’s hand then releasing at the right time
  • Various animation timing tweaks

How to Animate a Dodgeball Throw from Heather Craik on Vimeo. Or head over to Prantic’s version on Youtube.

Don’t forget to comment and let him know what you think!

Weekend Wanderings; 2 Short Animations you Must see

This is the part of the week where I take a look at the things I saw that connected with me, made me laugh, or were just interesting in general and report back. This particular week that means I’m talking about two animations; lets get to it.


Alight is a short animation less than three minutes long about a fire boy (Sparker) and a water girl (Aquanna). It was made by over 20 people; Jason Keyser was the one that posted it online. Before I get into any more detail, watch the animation.

Alight from Jason Keyser on Vimeo.

When I watched Alight there was an instant connection with the two main characters; you understood who they were and what they were about straight away and even though the animation was short you really felt sad when things didn’t quite work out for them.

The style was beautiful, the animation well executed and seemed to breathe, and I’d recommend it to anyone.

Dream Maker

Dream Maker took four years to complete, and once featured in Siggraph (among other film festivals) winning the jury honours award. The creator, Leszek Plichta, is a short film director and CG Artist to this day and you should definitely follow him on LinkedIn after you’ve checked out this short.

DREAMMAKER from Leszek on Vimeo.

Dream Maker’s story is touching. There’s no other way to describe it really; you really want things to turn out well with the characters, the plot makes sense (both marks of good writing), and it has a happy ending. The visuals are gorgeous and you can see a lot of work and thought has gone into the whole thing.

Very well done Leszek!

If you haven’t already seen them, remember to take a quick look at this weeks posts. Enjoy the rest of your Sunday!

Tutorials from the Past

When I was just starting out in 3D (properly, I don’t count the year while I was still on a programming course) I would surf more tutorial sites than I care to count, looking for some quick, fun things to make. Fortunately, a little into this time I had the foresight (read: dumb luck) to stumble onto Delicious. As a result, some of the oldest ‘beginning’ tutorials I followed are still there.

What follows are some of the best ones.

Escalight.com – Particle Forming into Logo

One of the first tests I did was using this tutorial.  It’s simple enough to follow, though you’ll have to adapt it a bit for the newer versions of 3Ds Max (or whatever other software you’re using)…  I like particles, what can I say?  Actually, I still have the renders I was testing from this on my Youtube channel.

3D Total – Particle Fire

Beautiful, simple, and using methods I hadn’t even considered beforehand.  This tutorial got passed around class a lot too, particularly in second year.  Naturally, I have test renders of it in a whole variety of colours – again some of which happen to still be on my Youtube.

3DM3 – Subdivision Body Model

I’ll admit, I never actually finished making this one (short attention span, and as I quickly discovered I’m not a modeller) – it’s simple and easy to follow though.  Made a lovely torso and the beginnings of legs this way and the principles were extremely useful with the rest of the characters I made.

Skymedias – Making Low Poly Game Hair

I was really bad at this at the time.  The concept is simple, and unfortunately simple concepts require lots of work to get right.  Lack of patience, abandoned it for good ol’ hair and fur.  Still useful, and I may look into it again at some point down the line.

Parting Message

Are there any tutorials that you particularly enjoyed working on?  I have a ton more, though some of them have disappeared, and others were never bookmarked in the first place (organised, very).  When I find them I’ll post them up!

Just a quick reminder as well that the competition from last week is still available – extending the deadline to next week while I go rustle up some people (ie. you).  Have a quick look at the prizes if you’re interested.

Practical Tips #4; Pay Attention to Time

Vancouver clock wikimedia commons

How many times have you had to re-work something that you thought clicked really well?

I’m going to assume it’s been at least once. Probably far more times than you care to really think about! In this last week alone I’ve had to change and tweak things on a project at least three times; I’ve a feeling we can all relate to that. The next few Practical Tips are going to focus on areas of planning that can help minimize repeat tasks, starting with taking time of day and season into account. You may not really think about these and still create some amazing pieces, however this series is about polishing things and making it even better. Besides, on the off chance it does become important, wouldn’t you like to know how to start?

This tip will show you how to add context to your scenes and animations by using the time and date.

It’s good, but…

There’s a city scene in your animation; one that you’re particularly proud of actually. You’ve got your lighting set up beautifully, you have wonderfully animated people in the background, your sound effects are realistic, and your camera fly-through is nothing short of an art form. Your textures even manage to work well together and approximate realism – but better!

When your project manager (or audience/client/whoever) sees it they start asking questions. Why are there people in party clothes first thing in the morning? Why are the lights on all the cars on in full sunlight? Shouldn’t the children be heading to school instead of skipping around in the middle of the park next to the old people on the benches? Didn’t the brief say ‘Monday morning’?

Your scene is beautiful; but it’s logic is so flawed that you’ll have to go and redesign parts of it. Think of the waste!

Avoiding the ‘but’

How much easier would it be if  there had been a way to plan this sort of thing before doing all that work?  Instead of redesigning parts and tweaking for a few hours, you could have been doing something more fun, or even getting a jump-start on your next task!  Your scenes would mesh together logically, you wouldn’t have avid fans (or, worse, your boss) wondering why certain things were there, and best of all your viewers would be able to appreciate your work without getting distracted.

Also, you could be secure in the knowledge that each item or piece of your scene was there for a reason; this means you could justify it if you needed to further down the line.

Prevention is better than a cure

1. Read your brief twice. If there are any mentions of time or date on it you may not notice until the second pass; if there aren’t you’ll need to dig a bit deeper to find your information. Go to the source and ask your boss or clients. Read the context of the scene too if it’s part of a larger project, sometimes this will give you more information as well.

2. Research. I can hear the groans now… Look at it this way – an hour (or less) doing research now can save you 2+ hours later. Check the background of the location, local weather, what people do at a specific time of day or season. Find out enough so you have a basic grounding in your chosen place.

3. Find ways to work it in! This is the fun part; use your research and the information you got from your brief, and come up with the most creative way to incorporate your new ideas. It doesn’t have to be anything big or particularly thorough, just show you’ve thought about it and avoid the obvious errors. (Note: don’t obsess over this. If you start to take longer making sure things are accurate than you do working on the project there’s something wrong.)


It’s worth running through these steps whenever you’re working on a big project, or you feel time might play a factor. While you might not want to use it every time it’ll lift your work when you do, and keeping it in the back of your mind will help you add an extra layer of polish.

And if things do go wrong and you have to re-do a part? You now have some idea of where to start.

Easy 360 Animation using Splines (Video Tutorial)

Render of Example 3D Character

Need to show off a character or asset in a 360 degree animation, but when you try it looks all bumpy and unprofessional?  I’m going to show you a very quick trick I learned back in first year that’ll smooth it out and make it a lot easier than hand animating the camera.

Today we’re going to try something a little different in terms of delivery; I’ve just downloaded CamStudio so we’ve got a video tutorial instead of the standard layout.  Let me know what you think! (and yes, I know the audio gets a little messed up when I start rendering – sorry about that everyone; my computer can’t multi-task apparently)

360 Animation Tutorial

360 Animation Tutorial 3Ds Max from Heather Craik on Vimeo.

As I mentioned in the video, I was using a model created by Keir Heriot which I then textured and lit myself.  The technique for the 360 was fairly straight forward, though hopefully it was useful for some of you.

Parting Words

If you’d like the tutorials in a more standard layout as well/instead of the video then let me know in the comments below.  Any questions, please ask – it’s what I’m here for.

Last thing, the model you saw will be available as a wallpaper soon; in either green, blue, red, or purple (or all four in the same wallpaper).  If it’s something you think you’d be interested in give me a shout.  Thanks for watching, have a great day, and I’ll see you all again on Friday!