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What does a Computer Animator do?

Computer animators may work with companies such as Disney to produce family-friendly films.
Computer animators may work on television programs for children.
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  • Written By: Mary Elizabeth
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 19 June 2015
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An animator is someone who creates a sense of continuous change or progressive movement starting from still images or models. An animator may, for example, work with drawings, as the original Disney cartoon artists did, or with clay animation, as in the Wallace and Gromit® films. A computer animator creates digital animations using computer software.

There are several fields where an animator may work. The video game industry is one, and most games employ not just one but a whole team of animators. Movie and television production is, though, the area in which most computer animators are employed. Even live action movies may include 3D rendering and motion capture. Advertisers also employ animators, as animation has become an increasingly important part of certain ad campaigns for television and Internet, including talking geckos, for example.

A computer animator, sometimes called a CGI animator, uses a combination of computer modeling and computer graphics to create the appearance of movement for both 2D and 3D graphics. The field is undergoing continual evolution, so the animator has to keep up with ever-changing technology and software. This is true whether the computer animator is self-taught or has completed an academic program.

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There are a variety of software programs that a computer animator is likely to work with. Lightwave® 3D, Autodesk® Maya, Autodesk® Softimage, and Autdodesk® 3ds Max are examples. Proprietary software often used as well.

Because computer animation often is part of a complex team effort, there are other skills besides technical prowess that will serve an animator well. Besides drawing, computer savvy, and technical proficiency, all of the skills that help people work as a team will be important, especially in the midst of a tight production schedule. Because computer animation is constantly pushing the limits, both creative thinking and ability to work well under pressure when things don’t go so well the first time are important.

Computer animators can have specialties within the field. For example, an animator can specialize in textures or lighting. Other specialties include modeling, compositing, character animation, and general animation.

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croydon
Post 3

@pastanaga - I actually thought that once computers were advanced enough they would basically be able to just spit out animated sequences at will, but it doesn't seem to work like that. Even children's shows, where they use Flash animation, still seem to need a lot of time to get put together. And modern CGI and computer animation seem to take longer than traditional cell animation did for some reason.

I guess modern animators need to be not only artists but also computer programmers or they won't be able to do their jobs properly.

pastanaga
Post 2

@bythewell - Yeah, there's a reason that most computer animators work with others rather than by themselves. If you look at the end of any movie with more than a few minutes of animation there will be at least a dozen or more names. Even with modern computer technology, you still need to put a lot of work into any kind of animation to make it look good, and the better you want it to look, the more work-hours and people you need.

bythewell
Post 1

If you want to make claymation animation (or some other kind of stop-motion animation) what you need is a program that has some kind of onion-skin function. This basically means that it will allow you to overlay a transparent copy of one frame onto the next frame while it's being filmed, so that you can figure out where to pose the objects next and correct them if they are moved out of place.

However, I would encourage everyone who is hoping to work in this kind of animation to attempt a very short film first and see how they like it. Even with the most advanced computer software it takes a very long time to get even a small amount of footage and it's the kind of fiddly work that not everyone is going to enjoy.

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