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Job Roles: Animation

The game industry has matured over the last 30 years as the scope of games has rapidly expanded. Game teams can now number more than 50 people, and as such, job roles have begun to fragment into more specialised areas. Read through the job role descriptions to find out exactly what each one entails. If you are looking to enter the industry there are additional guidelines on where you need to concentrate your creative efforts to increase your chances of success in our Getting the Job section.

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Animation Overview

The role of the Animator in games is to bring life and motion to the game world. As with the 3D Artist, the term Animator is very broad. The day-to-day work of the Animator can be very varied and requires them to be flexible and adaptable. The diversity of the roles in which the Animator may be asked to operate has naturally allowed some to specialise in specific fields. Some studios look specifically for a narrower set of skills and have created more specialised Animator job descriptions, while many still require applicants to demonstrate proficiency in all of the diverse areas of games animation work.

Being an Animator in the games industry is demanding. The big payoff is that you often get incredible amounts of creative control in your work. Animation is a vital part of the game creation process and, as with all art, has the potential to make or break a game. There is pressure and great responsibility, but there are also massive creative rewards for those who can step up to the plate and deliver. Animation is a complex and very broad-based discipline. Read on to find out more.

Junior Animation

Junior Animator At entry level you will be expected to follow detailed instructions to work as part of a team to create in-game character content. You may be asked to create character animations, cut scenes or even background scenery. Wherever you begin you'll need to already have a good command of the traditional principles of animation and a keen eye for detail.

As well as being responsible for bringing your characters to life, you will also be expected to solve any skinning (and in some cases rigging) issues that arise. You will also have to solve any issues that may be holding up the development. Each project requires a different approach and you'll be expected to respect the requirements of each particular production. As a junior, your hunger to learn combined with your adaptability and the aptitude to take direction will be your greatest assets.

Animator

Animator As games have become more complex, so have the animation requirements. With the advent of new technologies and techniques, Animators constantly have to learn new methods and processes in order to achieve greater levels of quality and productivity.

Here are just a few of the things you may be asked to do:-

Character Animation - The main duty of the Animator is to create the range of animations needed for the game's characters. Animations are typically created as individual animation clips, which are then combined and blended in the game engine to create the finished motion. Whether creating a run cycle clip lasting less than a second or a complex dialogue clip lasting minutes, it's the Animator's responsibility to create convincing physical movements that also convey emotion and motivation. The Animator also has to ensure their moves look good in the game and not just inside the 3D software package.

Scenic Animation - Creating motion in the non-character elements of the game. This can involve setting up dynamic simulations or animating believable natural motion on the flora and fauna that populate game worlds. Often, scenic animation requires the Animator to create very efficient game assets, which use as few joints as possible.

Cut-scene Animation - This type of work has a lot in common with TV or film, where animations are created to a specific camera view. The Animator is often given the chance to really focus on the emotional content and acting performances of their characters. The cut-scene Animator should have good directorial, storytelling and cinematography skills.

Rigging - The rigging process first requires the Animator to study the character and decide what skeleton it requires and how it should move before creating a control system to allow other Animators to manipulate that skeleton as quickly and accurately as possible. Rigging is one of the principle tasks of 'Technical Animator' roles.

Motion Capture - motion capture animation is focused on the directing, recording and integration of motion capture data into the project. Careful planning and preparation for motion capture shoots are vital. At the shoot itself the secret of success is the ability to understand the characterisation requirements of the game and having the ability to communicate and direct the motion capture process.

Resources

For application advice and information please see the Getting the Job: Animation section.