An animator is someone who creates a sense of continuous change or progressive movement starting from still images or models. An animator may, for example, work with drawings, as the original Disney cartoon artists did, or with clay animation, as in the Wallace and Gromit® films. A computer animator creates digital animations using computer software.
There are several fields where an animator may work. The video game industry is one, and most games employ not just one but a whole team of animators. Movie and television production is, though, the area in which most computer animators are employed. Even live action movies may include 3D rendering and motion capture. Advertisers also employ animators, as animation has become an increasingly important part of certain ad campaigns for television and Internet, including talking geckos, for example.
A computer animator, sometimes called a CGI animator, uses a combination of computer modeling and computer graphics to create the appearance of movement for both 2D and 3D graphics. The field is undergoing continual evolution, so the animator has to keep up with ever-changing technology and software. This is true whether the computer animator is self-taught or has completed an academic program.
There are a variety of software programs that a computer animator is likely to work with. Lightwave® 3D, Autodesk® Maya, Autodesk® Softimage, and Autdodesk® 3ds Max are examples. Proprietary software often used as well.
Because computer animation often is part of a complex team effort, there are other skills besides technical prowess that will serve an animator well. Besides drawing, computer savvy, and technical proficiency, all of the skills that help people work as a team will be important, especially in the midst of a tight production schedule. Because computer animation is constantly pushing the limits, both creative thinking and ability to work well under pressure when things don’t go so well the first time are important.
Computer animators can have specialties within the field. For example, an animator can specialize in textures or lighting. Other specialties include modeling, compositing, character animation, and general animation.