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Getting the Job: Animation

Getting into the game industry can be very difficult, even with good skills. The guidance and advice section will give you more direct advice on what you'll need to be good at and which areas to concentrate on in order to significantly improve your chances.

If you're interested in a work placement please click here to find out more.

Animation Overview

See the job role sections below for specific details about getting each job:

Animator

Skills Required

  • Software: At the base level, a game Animator must have a good working knowledge of at least one of the leading 3D animation packages, such as Maya, 3DS Max or XSI. Many of these software packages have freely downloadable learning editions. As an Animator you will need a solid grasp of setting hand keyframes, editing animation curves, skinning meshes and rigging principles (e.g. how to set up FK and IK bone chains) in whichever of these 3D packages you are using. A basic grasp of MotionBuilder and how to load Motion Capture animation data would also be advantageous.
  • Understanding motion: Perhaps the most important skill required is an acute understanding of the principles of motion. The ability to accurately and creatively envision movement before drawing and subsequently animate that movement is a core skill.
  • Understanding classic animation techniques: As well as understanding how humans and animals move in reality, it's useful to understand some of the classic animation techniques that have been used over the decades to simplify, heighten and exaggerate features of movement in order to create an appealing motion.
  • Drawing skills: As with all other artistic disciplines, the ability to draw well is important. Being able to convey your ideas or pre-visualise the characterisation of an animation is essential. It's far quicker to draw the movement on paper to test an idea or communicate it to others before committing to expensive development time.
  • Anatomy: As Animators are usually the key contributors in the creation, rigging and animation of game characters, knowledge of the anatomy of human skeletal and muscular systems is invaluable.
Tips
  • The key to success in being an Animator is to get into the habit of studying how everything moves in the world.
  • Study the classic animation principles. Animation isn't only concerned with the recreation of real movement. It's also about imparting character to a movement, especially when you are animating fictitious characters or objects that wouldn't normally animate. After all, getting reference of a car walking on its back wheels is going to be impossible! This is where you as an Animator are expected to step in and work your magic.
  • Practise creating character and movement sheets. Draw objects and characters as sequences of key frames on paper in order to develop a better understanding of what you need to do on the computer later on. It's all too easy to accept the default solutions of a digital animation system but you are the Animator, you tell the software what you want, not the other way around.

Submission Guidelines

All artist submissions have many common requirements: Applicants for all artistic areas in the game industry must be proficient in the basic components of art. The ability to draw and communicate your ideas visually is especially important, as well as other core skills such as understanding colour theory, anatomy, proportion and an overall appreciation of good visual aesthetics.

Applications should consist of a covering letter, an up-to-date copy of your current CV/resumé, along with a portfolio of your BEST work and any application form if required. Artwork should either be supplied printed on good quality paper or preferably on a CD-ROM or DVD. For CD-ROM or DVD submissions bear in mind the following:

  • Images should be correctly labelled and supplied in either JPEG or BMP formats.
  • Turntable and fly-through animations should be supplied in AVI or Quicktime format and should be encoded with an easily available generic codec.
  • If you can include the codec on the CD-ROM or DVD, so much the better.
  • Make sure any materials you supply have your name and contact details clearly and legibly marked on them.
  • Include your cover letter, CV and work on the same disc.
  • Don't compress or zip the work on the disc.

It's simple: you just have to show your work in a very accessible, immediate way. If the employer has any trouble seeing your work for whatever reason at all, you are already going to be in trouble or worse still your application will be discarded! Other things to remember:

  • If the work has been a collaborative effort between yourself and others, please clearly specify your involvement in the work.
  • Only include work you are sure represents you and your best efforts.
  • Keep your CV to a maximum of 2-3 pages in length and be sure to have other people proofread it for you to remove mistakes and pass back feedback to you in order to improve it.
  • Be clear on what the job role you are applying for involves and make sure your portfolio of work is relevant!
  • If you are an artist, don't refer to yourself as a designer! A designer is a different role in the game industry, in that a designer designs the mechanics of the game - nothing like a graphic designer. Failure to appreciate this casts doubt on your knowledge and desire to enter the industry.
  • Enjoy the application process. It's a great industry - jobs are there for those who have the skills, drive and positive attitude to succeed.

Role Specific Requirements

As an animation applicant you are clearly stating that you know how to impart meaningful character based motion to objects and character. Therefore make sure that is exactly what your show reel illustrates.

  • Include the best examples you have of character animation. A varied mix of physical moves and acting examples will be the best way to prove that you have the mix of skills required to be a games Animator.
  • Show reels must include locomotion animation. Walk cycles, run cycles and dramatic short moves, e.g. falls, jumps, lifts, punches. These should be in a realistic style first and 'cartoon' second, if it is 'cartoon' only the realistic work will be missed. The cycles, weight and dramatic move animations could be submitted on any rig, downloaded or otherwise.
  • Be as original as possible. Demonstrating that you can come up with inventive acting choices will impress the industry professional reviewing your application, (who will doubtless be bored of seeing the same clichéd animation gags over and over again).
  • Where relevant, include the same animation as both a shaded rendered sequence and also a 'transparent' sequence showing the underlying skeleton. Good preparation of the skeleton with elegant rigging and skinning are hugely important.
  • Focus on quality over quantity. A five-minute epic animation is not necessary, short animations will do.
  • Include any support artwork. Of particular interest would be character sheets and drawn motion studies that relate to the work on your show reel, and life drawing or anatomical studies.
  • Let the employer know about any relevant skills outside of the job description. Things such as attendance of acting classes or the knowledge of a 3D package scripting language hint at a versatility, which may separate you out from other candidates.

Resources

For more information on specific job roles, see our Job Roles: Animation section.