What does a Key Animator do? Where does a Key Animator work?
ACR takes a look:
About Key Animators
After working as an animator for at least three years, some animators may advance to key animator—a senior level position. Also called “senior animator,” key animators typically advance to even higher level positions after holding this title for several years. Becoming a successful senior animator is the final test before being promoted to director. Although higher ranking than an animator, the key animator still does his fair share of creative work, but this position requires more management and directing than an intermediate animation position.
Key Animator Jobs
In addition to helping develop main characters, key animators guide junior crew members through pre-production. They manage pre-production by determining how animation will be executed by working with riggers and model makers to make sure models and puppets are rigged properly for action scenes. Once pre-production is complete and production begins, the key animator helps manage the entire production by working with the director to complete the project on time and within budget.
Key animators work primarily for animation studios and motion picture and video production companies, as well as gaming companies. Some may work for advertising firms.
Schools to Consider:
Key Animator Salaries
Key animators belong to the broad career group “multimedia artists and animators.” The average salary for members of this career group is $61,370 per year. The lowest paid multimedia artists and animators average less than $34,860. The highest paid artists average $113,470 per year. Multimedia artists and animators working in the motion picture and video industries average $72,680, which is the highest median annual wage of the top five industries for this profession.
It is important to note that multimedia artist and animator salaries may vary by experience and education, type and size of company, benefits, and even geographic location. For example, California-based multimedia artists and animators average $88,150 per year—the nation’s highest average salary for this profession, while Arkansas-based artists average $40,890—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 Key Animator
The path to becoming a key animator begins with the right degree. Common paths include a Bachelor of Art (BA), Bachelor of Science (BS) and/or a Bachelor of Fine Art (BFA) in Animation, Animation & Digital Arts, Media Arts & Animation, Computer Animation, Computer Graphics, Media Arts & Science, Fine Art, and even Computer Science (with an Emphasis in Animation). Some aspiring key animators may study business management if they are on the path to becoming a director.
In addition to a 4-year degree, employers look for at least three years’ experience and advanced tech skills. However, many top studios prefer candidates with five to seven years’ professional experience in the industry, business management and leadership skills, and even an advanced degree. Fortunately, 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 Key Animators
Employment for multimedia artists and animators is expected to grow six percent for the 2012-2022 decade. Projected employment growth for this group 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 group in the world of Art and Design.
Job opportunities for animators and multimedia artists can be found all over the U.S. However, five states have the highest employment levels. California has the highest, followed by New York, Washington, Texas, and Illinois.
Awesome Animation Fact: More than 600 people worked on the brilliant animated Disney movie Beauty and the Beast. Although it had one of the largest animated production staffs ever, Beauty and the Beast still took more than three and a half years to create.