The legendary animation director Chuck Jones, best known as the co-creator of Bugs Bunny and sole creator of the Roadrunner and Wile E. Coyote, once described his profession as “acting with pencil”. It makes one wonder what he would think of his profession nowadays, considering how much the animation industry has exploded since the great artist passed away.
In other words, gaming animation has evolved at breakneck speed over the last few decades. This is due to two key factors; the lightning fast evolution of the computer, as well as course online, which in turn caused the incredible growth of the video game industry itself. The video game industry grossed over $20 billion in 2008, now making a major contributor to the nation’s gross national product. In turn, this has created a new type of animator, one who specializes in gaming as opposed to more traditional TV or film.
For starters, a gaming animator does need the same basic skills as a traditional animator. He or she must be skilled with a number of computer graphic programs, as well as pencil and paper. While animators don’t have to be members of literary or drama clubs, they should grasp the basics of acting, storytelling, lighting and staging. It’s now almost de rigueur that young animators have knowledge of such animation programs as Flash, Photoshop and Java before they consider school.
There are also many more schools offering animation courses than ever before. Still, to get into the good ones a young artist now has to have a solid demo disk, as well as a graphic portfolio to get in. The reason for this is the schools want to see some fundamental knowledge of the production process as well as the ability to design great characters and backdrops.
Where the gaming animator differs from the more traditional TV, film or other animator is what they do with their skills. Storytelling in the video world doesn’t follow a linear path. The reason for this is the game player is in control of what’s on the monitor, and not just sitting by passively being entertained. If the player’s character wants his character to kick an opponent in the head or hand him a bouquet of flowers, there must be an animated sequence for either decision.
Financial aid for animators is pretty much on the same track as for any other art student, only with a number of studios like Disney, Sony and Dreamworks adding their revenues to the pot. It’s not uncommon for Disney to lock up a particularly promising student with a full scholarship to Cal Arts (a school they founded). For those less blessed, there are the usual routes for grants, other scholarships and loans out there. The best thing to do is consult with a financial aid advisor.
What does work in an animator’s favor though is it’s a very small field. The Bureau of Labor Statistics believes there are about 20,000 as of 2009, half them employed in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Salaries can go up to $80,000, depending heavily on where one works. California, the heart of America’s entertainment industry, pays higher than any other city. From there, one can move on to a director or producer’s job.
Since computers are such a large part of this field, earning a degree for this field at an online school will be no surprise as a great choice. Scholarships and grants for college online are a large incentive for those who are talented to get into a secure and interesting field.
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