Special effects artists and animators create images that appear to move and visual effects for various forms of media and entertainment.
3D Animator (Three-Dimensional Animator), 3D Artist (Three-Dimensional Artist), Animator, Artist, Digital Artist, Graphic Artist, Illustrator, Motion Graphics Artist, Multimedia Producer
Special effects artists and animators typically do the following:
- Use computer programs and illustrations to create graphics and animation (images that appear to move)
- Work with a team of animators and artists to create a movie, game, or visual effect
- Research upcoming projects to help create realistic designs or animation
- Edit animation and effects on the basis of feedback from directors, other animators, game designers, or clients
- Meet with clients, other animators, games designers, directors, and other staff (which may include actors) to review deadlines and development timelines
Special effects artists and animators often work in a specific medium. Some focus on creating animated movies or video games. Others create visual effects for movies and television shows. Creating computer-generated images (known as CGI) may include taking images of an actor’s movements and then animating them into three-dimensional characters. Other animators design scenery or backgrounds for locations.
Artists and animators can further specialize in these fields. Within animated movies and video games, artists often specialize in characters or in scenery and background design. Video game artists may focus on level design: creating the look, feel, and layout for the levels of a video game.
Animators work in teams to develop a movie, a visual effect, or an electronic game. Each animator works on a portion of the project, and then the pieces are put together to create one cohesive animation.
Some special effects artists and animators create their work primarily by using computer software or by writing their own computer code. Many animation companies have their own computer animation software that artists must learn to use. Video game designers also work on a variety of platforms, including mobile gaming and online social networks.
Other artists and animators prefer to work by drawing and painting by hand and then translating the resulting images into computer programs. Some special effects artists use storyboards or “animatics,” which look like a comic strips, to help visualize the final product during the design process.
Many special effects artists and animators put their creative work on the Internet. If the images become popular, these artists can gain more recognition, which may lead to future employment or freelance work.
Artistic talent. Animators and artists should have artistic ability and a good understanding of color, texture, and light. However, they may be able to compensate for artistic shortcomings with better technical skills.
Communication skills. Special effects artists and animators need to work as part of a team and respond well to criticism and feedback.
Computer skills. Many special effects artists and animators use computer programs or write programming code to do most of their work.
Creativity. Artists and animators must be able to think creatively to develop original ideas and make them come to life.
Time-management skills. The workdays required by most studio and game design companies can be long, particularly when there are tight deadlines. Artists and animators need to be able to manage their time effectively when a deadline approaches.
- Self-employed workers
- Motion picture and video industries
- Software publishers
- Computer systems design and related services
- Advertising, public relations, and related services
Special effects artists and animators typically need a bachelor’s degree in computer graphics, animation, fine arts, or a related field.
Bachelor’s degree programs in computer graphics often include courses in computer science in addition to art. Programs in animation often require classes in drawing, animation, and film. Programs in fine arts may include courses in painting, drawing, and sculpture. Schools also may have specialized degrees in topics such as interactive media or game design.
Employers usually prefer to hire candidates who have a good portfolio and strong technical skills, both of which students may develop while earning a degree.