What does a Character Animator do? Where does a Character Animator work? ACR takes a look:
About Character Animators
Character animators create and design characters using animation software, 3D modeling, 2D animations, and even puppetry. These creative professionals develop characters that use movement to tell a story, whether its for film, television, video games or mobile applications.
Character Animator Jobs
Character animators create then manipulate animated characters to interact in digital environments by using computer software such as MotionBuilder 3D, Flash Professional, LightWave, Maya and other programs. They also draw storyboards, create models, and design environments. Character animators work with sound engineers to make sure movements are in harmony with sound, and they work with clients to help pitch ideas and develop concepts.
Character animators work in film and video production studios, advertising agencies, public relations firms, software publishers, computer systems design firms, graphic design firms, game design firms, web design firms, and at colleges and universities.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, a hefty 57 percent of animators were self-employed in 2012. This is the most recent figure for self-employed animators. These professionals, not just the self-employed, often work from home. Others work at film, animation or video game production studios, cartoon networks, advertising agencies, web design firms, graphic design firms, and mobile technology companies. Some work in office settings.
Schools to Consider:
Character Animator Salaries
The Bureau of Labor Statistics combines multimedia artists and animators into one career group. According to the Bureau, the current median annual wage for multimedia artists and animators is $61,370 per year. The lowest paid multimedia artists and animators earned less than $34,860. The highest paid earned $113,470 per year. At $72,680, multimedia artists and animators working in the motion picture and video industries earn the highest median annual wage of the top five industries for this profession.
Please note that salaries for multimedia artist and animators may vary by experience, type and size of company, and even geographic location. For example, Washington-based multimedia artists and animators average $76,900 per year—the nation’s second highest average salary for this profession, while Wisconsin-based artists average $48,080—one of the lowest.
The top five highest paying states for multimedia artists and animators are California ($88,150 per year), Washington State ($76,900), District of Columbia ($76,110), New York ($72,530), and New Mexico ($70,310).
Becoming a Character Animator
Competition in the animation industry is intense, so standards are high. This means, many employers will accept no less than a 4-year degree. Top degree options include a Bachelor of Art (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS) or a Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA) in Animation, Animation & Digital Arts, Media Arts & Animation, Computer Animation, Computer Graphics, Film with an Animation focus, Media Arts & Science, Fine Art, and even Computer Science (with an Emphasis in Animation). You can expect to take courses such as Drawing, 2-D Animation Production, 3-D Animation Production, and Stop Motion. Character animators should also study geometry and anatomy to study how animals and humans move in order to make character movements more realistic.
In addition to a 4-year degree, many employers look for at least 2 years’ experience in the industry, and advanced technology skills. Entry-level positions may require only a degree and experience through an internship or other support position. Senior level positions may require at least 5-7 years’ professional experience in the industry and possibly an advanced degree. In fact, more schools than ever before now offer Master of Fine Arts (MFA) degrees in Animation, Animation & Visual Effects, Animation & Digital Arts, and more. Some schools in the U.S. (and many in Europe and Asia) even offer PhD programs in Digital Arts & Animation, Multimedia & Animation, Computer Science with an Animation Emphasis and more
Job Trends for Character Animators
Employment for this group is expected to grow six percent for the 2012-2022 decade. Projected employment growth for animators and multimedia artists will be the result of increased demand for animation and more realistic visual effects in video games, films, and television. However, job growth may be slowed by companies hiring artists and animators who work overseas for lower wages. The increasing demand for computer graphics for mobile devices may counter slow growth by creating more job opportunities in the massive mobile industry.
Despite slow job growth, competition for job opportunities in animation will remain strong. The Bureau says, “Opportunities should be best for those who have a wide range of skills or who specialize in a highly specific type of animation or effect.” Still, as of January 2014, the U.S. was home to an impressive population of 68,900 multimedia artists and animators, making it the third largest career field in the world of Art and Design. At 259,500, graphic designers represent the largest group.
Job opportunities for animators and multimedia artists can be found all over the U.S. However, five states have the highest employment levels beginning with California (the highest), followed by New York, Washington, Texas, and Illinois.
Awesome Animation Fact: The music video for the Dire Straits song “Money for Nothing," was one of the first videos to make the leap into computer animation. The groundbreaking video for the 1985 hit song featured computer-animated human characters in a style still mimicked by many animators today.