How to Become an Animator Without College

Do you want to learn 3D animation, but you do not know whether to enroll in a school or study on your own?

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This article is for you and given that there are advantages and disadvantages of each scenario, I will put it as a list of pros and cons for each so you understand it better.

Study animation in a school

Pros

  1. Generally, the school environment is great and you can grow a lot by learning from teachers and students as well as exploiting the benefits of the institution.
  2. The relationships you make at school are often very valuable and useful for personal life and career.
  3. Competitiveness stimulates the improvement of our capabilities.
  4. There are many online options that can be cheaper than face-to-face, in addition to eliminating transfers.
  5. Many of these online options provide a good atmosphere of camaraderie and international relations, in addition to the opportunity to learn from equally international quality teachers.

Cons

Obviously represents an economic outlay.

  1. It is difficult to find good schools at a fair price.
  2. Most schools or entertainment programs are very young and do not have good curricula or good teachers, but yes, many charges as if they did.
  3. Many times moving is a problem.
  4. Having a schedule can make it difficult to work and/or freelance apart.

Study animation in a self-taught way

Pros

  1. It’s usually much cheaper than going to a school unless you spend a lot on tutorials but it can even be totally free.
  2. You manage your time and you can work and/or freelance while you do it.
  3. You do not need to move anywhere.
  4. There is an IMMENSITY of quality online resources, many of them free.
  5. If you are organized and committed to achieving your dreams, today’s world allows you to advance by leaps and bounds.
  6. There are many online communities where you can get feedback and even get some of that camaraderie that a school provides you with.
  7. If you have the possibility, working for a good project for free is one of the best ways to learn and also one of the easiest ways to get into a good study.

Cons

  1. The first thing is that you will not have a paper, title, certificate, diploma, etc. And even though I lost my title the day they gave it to me and I have never needed it, it is true that in order to go abroad, especially to countries like the United States, paper helps, but it is also achieved without compensating it with a LOT of talent.
  2. If you do not find someone good to guide you, you may be lost a lot of time.
  3. It can be complicated to get good relationships that help you get into the middle.
  4. In the absence of a schedule, financial responsibility and academic commitment, it can be extremely difficult to organize to really dedicate time and progress.

From my perspective, the best thing you can do is to take BOTH paths — that is, take a course and complement your education in a self-taught manner since only fulfilling what you are asked at school will only make you an average artist. But in reality, you’re in this to become a professional.

10 tips you should keep in mind.

Animation is one of the most exciting professions in the world of design, but also one of the most demanding and dedicated. If you want to do this and be part of one of these projects, here are some tips you should keep in mind.

  • Make sure you have a passion for animation.

The job of an Animator is certainly complicated. Make sure you fit this profile so you don’t get frustrated once you decide you want to be a cheerleader, because you’re never going to stop training.

  • It fits the criticism.

One of your day-to-day tasks will be to expose your work to a lot of people who will tell you the virtues and flaws of your work. When times are tight, no one will tell you about the virtues and they will only make you see the flaws.

Nothing happens, it happens with any artistic work and it is only sought that you get to achieve a specific goal in the best possible way. But if you’re one of those who can’t take a bad review, you’d better think about doing something else.

  • Don’t stop thinking when you get feedback.

One of the main mistakes in the first few months of your animation career is that when you’re asked to make a change to your shot, you try to execute exactly what you’ve been asked to do without thinking about why you’ve been asked to do it. If you are told to add a blink to a part of the performance, do not just execute it.

Understand if you have been asked to blink to anticipate a change in the look, to indicate that the character is sleepy, that something has been in his eye or simply that he has not blinked for too long and wants to be natural. That is, keep the narrative and artistic sense of feedback, not the technical sense.

  • Seek advice from your peers.

Animation is a very absorbing and dedicated job. It will constantly happen to you that, when you’ve been working on a plan for several days, you’ll start to lose perspective on what you’re doing and take for granted things you wouldn’t accept if you were seeing it fresh.

Look to your colleagues for a point of objective view that will help you to find mistakes as well as to look for new approaches that you hadn’t thought of.

  • Learn when and how you can get off the beaten path.

A recurring problem in studies is that you don’t always know when you have to follow the execution instructions to the millimeter and when you can try different things.

The basic tools that are usually available to animate a shot are a storyboard, a layout and some guidelines set by the director.

That’s when it’s your turn to pick up the camera and start recording a performance for yourself. And this is the moment when you have to try everything you can think of, not just strictly what you’ve been asked to do.

The recording of the references is the moment of greatest creativity of an animator. Before you face the camera, make sure you have a good pile of ideas in your head that fit the needs of the shot. Your director will appreciate it.

When you present them, they will mark a stricter path that you will have to respect as much as possible.

Think of recording yourself dozens of times making different interpretations (or looking for references in other films) as a very agile process. Animating characters isn’t, so minimize mistakes and make sure what you’re doing is what you’re asked to do.

  • Worry about getting to know the technology inside out and look for new ways to use it.

Nowadays, animation has become something completely linked to technology. You can hardly conceive of doing any other kind of animation than computer animation.

This means that, apart from the artistic skills (which are the really important ones), you’re going to have to catch up with a few technical skills, starting with the animation software itself. It doesn’t matter which one you use of all the ones on the market. What matters is that you know how to use it.

The more you master it the more time you can spend on the artistic part of your work and the less you have to fight with the tools. That will make you stand out from many people who don’t think this is so important.

  • Learn from the more experienced.

Sitting next to a good facilitator for a few minutes and seeing how he works, what tricks he uses, how he uses the tools, how he solves complex situations, etc.

will give you two main things: first, confidence in seeing that, in spite of the experience, that person has the same problems as you and has to solve them anyway, only that he or she does so more fluently; and second, it will allow you to find many ways to face any situation without having to stick it against a wall over and over again.

  • Give each person the share of your success they deserve.

Perhaps the worst mistake that can be made at a personal and professional level is not knowing how to value the importance that the work of the people around you has had on your own success.

Remember who helped you achieve your goals, and don’t think you’ve achieved it all by yourself. Even a video tutorial has been done by someone you’ll have a lot to thank.

  • Worry about understanding the areas that connect with your own.

Being an animator has to go far beyond simply animating your plans. You will always be asked to deliver your work in a certain way and meet technical requirements that are not always pleasant or flexible, and may even limit you artistically.

These rules don’t exist to annoy, but because your work will be picked up by a lot of people who will have to solve dozens of problems if you haven’t met those rules.

That’s why it’s important that, instead of complaining about them, you go to the department that has put them together to understand them well, and even see if they might be approached differently.

Anyone can have a good idea for the day to day work at the studio, don’t think the rules are closed.

  • Get ready for the kind of cheerleader’s life.

Maybe this is the hardest thing to take in when you decide to do this. The animator’s working life is not exactly the most stable.

Before, if you were going to American or British studies, you were more guaranteed to continue working. But today the sector is becoming a whirlwind of production where there are more and more studios and more projects.

This has the positive side that the market is becoming very dynamic and generating many job opportunities worldwide.

But it is not so positive when you realize that many people do not stop jumping from one school to another each time a project is finished, which often involves changes of city or country.

This is because studios cannot keep up with the abysmal numbers of staff that is hired for the peaks of production, and each time a project is completed they slim down the staff by up to where they can afford it.

It’s starting to look like what happens in real image cinema, where you only work when you’re hired for a film. Until then, wait for a call. The advantage is that, when that call comes in for an animated film, it’s usually for a much longer period of time than a real picture film.

The idea is to aspire to become part of the stable staff of the studios, which always remain alive between one project and another, but get it into your head that this is not easy, so work hard to achieve it.

The 7 steps to make a cartoon movie

1. Writing the script

Without a story there, is no animation. As short as the animated film is, the initial step is the creation of the story. To build the story is part of an idea.

This initial idea develops until you have a coherent story that is written using the script format. In other words, the script is the detailed description of that story we want to tell.

After finishing the script we have an initial plan of what the movie will be. In this plane we can find:

  • The characters of the story,
  • The scenarios where the story takes place, and
  • The order of events organized into scenes and acts.

Therefore, the script will be used to design the characters, create the scenarios and draw the storyboard and animatic.

2. Design of the characters and scenarios

Image result for design character

Once we have the story, we must think about how it will look. What is the general design of the animation? How are the characters physically? How are the scenarios? These and other questions are answered at this stage. In this step, our story begins to develop visually.

To design the characters we start from the script. We make a list of the characters with their characteristics and we create sketches in different poses until we find the indicated physicist. The same is also done to design the scenarios.

The main objective of the design of the characters and scenarios is to have a continuity in how the film is going to be seen.

The character sheets that we created in this stage will be useful so that the drawings that are made of the character in the different scenes look the same.

Also, the scenarios must have a direct relationship with the design of the characters. The style of the scenarios must have the same style as the design of the characters. This will help make the animated film credible.

If, on the other hand, the design of the characters and scenarios is different, the characters will be out of place and the story will be less credible.

3. The creation of the Storyboard

Image result for storyboard

The storyboard is a sequence of images that tell us how the story is going to be told. Here we define the different cinematographic resources: The position of the camera, shots, scenes, etc. Many describe the storyboard as a comic of what the movie is going to be.

The images that we create in this stage do not have to be too elaborate. Many storyboards use very quick sketches. There are others, however, that look like works of art on their own.

The purpose of the storyboard is not to create a work but to help visually see the story that we are going to tell. The storyboard will show us the story for the first time in a visual way.

4. Recording dialogues and sound resources

As the animation, and if any film, is a combination of images and sounds, the sound material must be ready before continuing with the next step. In this stage, we record the dialogues, the soundtrack, and the environmental sounds.

It is important to record the dialogues before continuing with the creation of the animatic because the dialogues often determine the duration of a scene. We also need the dialogues to plan the synchronization of the voices and the lips of the characters to animate.

The rest of the sound resources may not be ready at this stage — but if the animatic includes all the necessary sounds, it will give us an idea of ​​how the final movie will be viewed.

5. Animatic creation

Image result for animatic

The animatic is a video that shows the sequence of images and sounds to help us plan the animation. In the animatic, we can use the images that were created in the storyboard and the dialogues that were recorded in the previous step.

The animatic will help us to decide the time of each animation, the order of the scenes and the sound function in the final film.

We could say that it is a draft of the final animated film. As a draft, we can and must make the necessary changes before starting the animation itself.

6. Finally, we come to the animation.

In this stage, we combine the scenarios with the characters generated in the design stage and we create the sequences of images that will allow us to simulate movement.

Each of these images is called a frame and the sequence of these frames is what allows us to simulate the animation.

The duration in frames is counted in the animation. There are usually 24 frames in a second, but to make the animation cheaper some frames are repeated two or three times.

Now there are many programs that help us generate many of the intermediate frames, but we still have to create the main images that define the movement. These images are known as keyframes.

It is important that the time of each movement has already been defined in the storyboard. Animation is the most complicated part of the process and a movement with wrong time can cause a great loss of time.

7. Edit the final video

Once we have all the frames ready, we must put them with the sounds and the rest of the material together. We can replace the images used in the animatic with the frames generated in the animation.

Also, the sounds that were not added during the creation of the animatic must be added at this stage. Personally, I think that all the sound material must be ready before starting the animation. Once all the material is ready, the final video is created in a process called rendering.

Each stage has its own steps which I will talk about in other blogs. For now, I want to finish this blog emphasizing the importance of the initial stages: if an animation is well planned, the result will be much better than a production where we jump quickly to the animation itself.

5 ways to improve your animation

Creating realistic or just believable animated characters is always a big challenge, even for a seasoned animator! To perfect your animation or just improve it significantly!

1). Basing on Reality

Inspiring life in an inanimate object may seem like a simple task, but it’s these subtle nuances that can help represent emotion and give a real sense of thought and consideration behind every move.

Observing people, how they interact, how they express themselves and even how they move is essential to help you gain a good understanding of not only movement but also timing and weight. You can also take a mirror and use your own face as a reference!

2). Study the movement

To really imitate someone, you must first understand their movements, not only the process of movement — but also in intention.

Do research on movement, anatomy. Take drawing classes; try to draw people who play sports, dance, etc. Understanding the process of thinking behind why we do what we do, and when, will help you share that with your animation.

3). Film yourself!

Acting on the stage yourself can give you the starting block you need. You can never have a good idea of how some animation should unfold when you sit at a desk, and online references can only help you so far.

To understand how and why a character should move as he does, why not register to perform this action?

Do it yourself, and no matter how difficult and embarrassing it may seem, this recording will give you an essential starting block to work on.

Being able to take a break, go back and examine it in slow motion ensures that you will capture all the subtleties that would otherwise be missed.

4). Study the effects of gravity

Gravity has an effect on every movement of your character. Walking, for example, is a simple movement – but much of the way we move is dictated by our own physical construction.

If you are tall and thin, you can be lighter on your feet, while someone with a fuller silhouette will have a heavier foot drop, with the waist more soaked while they try to raise the top of the body.

5). Use a basic template

Handling a high-resolution model in the display window may eventually cause stress on your system, especially when the model has to warp and move with a skeleton or other complex deformers.

This is most noticeable when you try to play the animation in real time and find that you only see one in ten images.

When working with your character’s global movements hide the high-resolution model and animate it with a much simpler proxy model.

It could be a reduced version of the character or even a few scaled boxes to fit the proportions, but this version will allow you to work smoothly on the main areas of motion before bringing the detail model back to the finer details work.