Computer animation fuses computer technology and artistic creation to produce
a living creation. There are many steps along the way and computer animators
are involved in many of them.
They draw by hand and use computers to create the large series of pictures
which, when transferred to film or tape, form the animated cartoons seen in
movies and on television.
Computer animators are high-tech graphic artists. They make use of the
newest computer software on the market to create dynamic images. They may
also use model figures.
"The animation procedure consists of manipulating the models using keys
or movements, and creating a series of frames on the computer," explains Doug
McKirahan, a freelance computer animator in the San Francisco Bay area.
Computer animators, whether freelancers or employed by a firm, often use
a variety of print, electronic and film media to create art that meets a client's
needs. Technology is changing and evolving with accelerating speed. As a result,
computer animators must be vigilant to keep up with the new developments.
One way that animators ensure they don't fall behind is by watching new
animated films, reading current magazines and playing the newest video games.
Computer animation is something you can start learning about right now.
There are a number of software programs available. "The programs aren't important,
it's the concepts," says computer animator and teacher Dan Kallenberger.
A firm grasp of the basic concepts will help you adapt in this whirlwind
of a career. "Older students may be afraid to push buttons. That's where those
who've grown up on computers have a real advantage," says Kallenberger.
While it's true that computer animators are part artist and part computer
wizard, new animation technology doesn't replace artistic ability. Kallenberger
says that computer animators are "constantly drawing and sketching."
Computer animators need to have a strong sense of color, an eye for detail,
a sense of balance and proportion and sensitivity to beauty.
Many computer animators are cartoonists harnessing a new medium. They draw
storyboards -- which are like comic strip panels -- to break down action before
sitting down at a computer.
Kallenberger says drawings are a client's way of judging an animator's
thought processes before they decide to invest a lot of time and money in
animation. He had his students make storyboards of a simulated flight through
a room and over a dinner table.
"Some of them couldn't get perspective," he admits. "But they got the idea.
You need to have a clear picture in your head before you can get a clear picture
on the computer."
There are many different industries that employ computer animators. Entertainment,
business and the government are all examples of sectors where animators can
Some computer animators create logos and graphics for television and the
Internet. Kallenberger works for WTMJ-TV in Wisconsin. He designs and produces
news shows opens; mini-opens, which run within a show to introduce different
segments; animation for commercials; and various news "explainer animations,"
as he calls them.
Kallenberger has designed 3D flying logos, treated colorized video clips,
and re-created accidents in 3D simulations. "Every project I do I try to make
look different and appealing," he says.
Computer animation can be used to create animated demonstrations of products
in use -- a sort of 3D test drive! Corporate videos, virtual versions of the
traditional company brochure, also increasingly involve computer animation.
Computer animators generally work a standard 40-hour week. During busy
periods, they may work overtime to meet deadlines.
Because computer animators sit in front of computer screens for extended
periods of time, they may experience many of the same physical problems of
regular computer users -- eyestrain, a sore back and wrist injuries.