Animator (VFX)

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What does an animator do?

Animators imbue figures with personality by making them move in ways that show their character and emotion. In VFX, they use computer-generated ‘rigs’ to help make the characters in a shot move in a believable way. They might animate vehicles or machinery too.

Animators create animation ‘frames’ (images), using the ‘rig’ (the digitally moveable 3D model). When the frames are put together in sequence, they form the animation.

In some films, a process of motion capture is used for certain characters. This is where an actor wears a special skin-tight suit with motion trackers on it, so that the movement and expression of their performance can be captured digitally and translated into a different-looking character animation model.

In the VFX industry, animators produce work to be integrated into the live-action footage of a film or TV programme. They animate 3D objects as dictated by background film plates, which means that there is footage and a set camera position that they must work to.

Animators in the VFX industry are either employed by VFX studios or they work as freelancers.

What's an animator good at?

  • Art: draw and reveal attitude, emotions and mood through a character’s movement, have spatial awareness and a feel for movement over time
  • Knowledge of animation: have a good understanding of the principles and mechanics of animation
  • Using VFX software: be adept at using relevant programmes such as Arnold, Blender, Maya, Mental Ray, Photoshop, RenderMan, Substance Painter, V-Ray, ZBrush and 3ds Max
  • Organisation: work within the production schedule, manage files and meet deadlines
  • Collaboration: be able to work with other VFX artists in the pipeline, use each other’s resources and work effectively

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