The value of having clear animation goals and how to find your own.
I’d like to start this article with some questions. Why did you decide to learn animation? Do you have a goal or destination in mind?
The reason I ask is because animation is such a broad artform. There are so many things to learn and potential paths to follow that it can sometimes become overwhelming.
Even thinking about whether you want to make animation for yourself or for a studio can be a really useful place to start narrowing things down.
Now, if you are just starting out, you may not have any specific goal in mind and that’s perfectly fine. It took me a long time to figure out my own answers to these questions.
I started out as a hobbyist, just doing whatever seemed fun to me at the time. I learnt a little bit about everything before deciding that I really wanted to pursue animation as a career. Even then, I wasn’t entirely sure where I might specialise.
Because 3d animation is so complex, in a film or TV studio, most people specialise in just one area of the animation production process. This might be story, design, modelling, rigging, layout, animation, look development, simulation, lighting, compositing or editing.
Within each of these specialisms there are many things to study to become good at your craft. Taking the role of an animator alone, you will obviously need to learn some software essentials before diving into studying animation principles, body mechanics, and acting. Other specialisms will have their own requirements such as understanding colour, light, physics, cinematography, story structure, etc. The list really does go on and on.
If your aim is to make animation for yourself then, in a way, it’s simple. You’ll need to learn a little bit about everything. This can make it difficult to excel in any one area but it can still be really fun and rewarding to have a hand in every part of the process.
I went to university for three years where I did just that, I learnt a little more about every part of the process. When I graduated, I knew that I enjoyed animating but I was struggling to find work. For months I debated whether to keep animating. I started to work on a modelling showreel, I considered looking for rigging jobs, I just couldn’t decide where I should spend my time. I was spreading myself too thin.
It was only when I sat down and thought about what I really wanted to do that I started to make progress.
I realised that I wanted to animate more than anything else. Not only that, but I wanted to animate fun, appealing, character performances, not photorealistic creatures.
Having that clarity enabled me to focus all of my time on building a showreel which was specifically targeted to getting the type of work I wanted, and it worked!
Now, don’t get me wrong, even if you know that you’d like to work in a studio one day, it can be really useful to try a little bit of everything before you specialise. You may have your sights set upon being an animator, but, when you try out the different roles, you may decide that you prefer modelling or rigging characters instead. It can also be really useful to know at least the basics of the other disciplines when you are speaking to other members of a team so that you share a common language.
That was my thinking when I designed the Into the Ocean series of classes. They are a way of quickly and simply trying out the main disciplines within the animation production process without diving super deep into any one subject. Once you have more of an idea of whether you’d like to specialise, and in what discipline, then you can more easily pick a path which is right for you.
Whether you’ve already decided upon your destination or you’re still just testing the waters, I’d love to hear where you are on your journey.
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