Animators have a unique combination of artistic ability, creativity and technological ability. From high definition CGI images to two-dimensional cartoons, animation is everywhere. When we watch movies, play video games and watch television, we see the work of animators. Animation is even used in marketing, where characters are created to entice consumers to purchase a product or service.
The Animator's Job
Animators create cartoons and other animation by using various computer software, or by hand. They must conduct research to ensure their design is accurate and consistent. If the animator is creating a nature scene in Africa, for example, he will research African plants and wildlife so that his creation is realistic. Once his research is completed, he will generally design characters and draw storyboards. He then creates each frame to coordinate movement within his story. The animator also participates in meetings on a regular basis -- he must collaborate with clients, other animators, designers and directors.
To be an animator, technology skills, artistic talent and communication skills are a must. The ideal animator is also a good storyteller. It is not always essential that the animator hold a college degree if she can prove her talent through a portfolio. However, some employers prefer animators have a bachelor's degree in a program such as computer graphics or animation, particularly employers who specialize in computer animation.
Job Benefits and Advantages
Like an artist, an animator is paid to express his creativity. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the 2012 median annual salary of an animator as $58,510. The top 10 percent of animators earned upwards of $99,830. Those in motion picture and software design industries earned median salaries of more than $65,000 per year. Additionally, self-employment is common for an animator. The Bureau of Labor Statistics asserts that 59 percent of animators were self- employed in 2010. For some, self-employment provides a sense of independence and freedom, saves money on commuting costs, provides improved quality of life and provides the ability to make adjustments to work schedules.
Animators may have to work long hours, particularly those employed by a company. Their work schedule can exceed 50 hours per week and when deadlines are approaching, night and weekend work often is required to meet a deadline. Self-employment has some downsides for animators. The cost of equipment and supplies is covered by the self-employed animator. He is completely financially responsible for his business -- its successes and failures. He also must obtain his own clients, which can cause unstable pay and stress. Additionally, the job outlook for an animator is slower than the average. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that between 2010 and 2020, employment of animators will rise by only 8 percent; the average for all occupations is 14 percent.
Weighing Pros and Cons
There are costs and benefits associated with any occupation. Weighing advantages and disadvantages is a personal choice as people place different weight on individual factors. While salary may be the most important factor to one person, a flexible schedule may be most important to another.
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