The Joyride – Animation as a Career
The world started seeing moving pictures through animation and not as live movies as per the popular notion. Sets of sequential pictures have been seen all over the world in different cultures. All Buddhist stupas have the entire storyboard of Buddha’s life left for us in accurate detail. Good enough for you to make out his life and transform into a movie or an animation.
Human beings learn maximum when the essence is delivered in terms of a story. This is especially in case of conceptual learning. To tell a story we have to put together a crew. Now sometimes our story becomes too difficult to tell when the setting is a fantasy, or if the risk involved is too much (like acting with a lion – over come in Narnia). And most of the folklore which build our character are fantasies of one’s mind. So it became important that man was able to create such imagery and animation became important.
Since the animators have to deal with such complex decisions. Art decisions are the toughest decisions and no computer has reached the point where it can take artistic decisions yet. Hence animation and storytelling require people who are artists by heart and willing to experiment and toil till they find the right answer.
Typically an animator is a person who is full of patience and reads voraciously (bookworm for the less initiated) and love literature and languages. The animator would usually be good at drawing and/ or painting. Some of them are good at acting or love to perform on stage in form of dancing. A few of these even write stories or poems. In short they are dreamers and usually can be expected to learn disciplines which give wings to their dreams. They do not care about money and are more likely to lend money on hunch than an engineer since they are emotional. This empathy is what makes them achieve emotion of screen.
To make a good career in animation you must start working on your drawing and there are some good books like “Drawing from the right side of brain” (Betty Edwards) which claim that anyone can learn drawing within 5 days. There are other experts too who claim similarly that drawing is a skill that can be acquired.
Parallely you could be working on your drama or literary skills as well. Being able to develop communication skills like these would anyway serve you all your life so do not hesitate just because your education board doesn’t know how to rate these skills and they go missing from your marksheet. I must state here that there are much more subjects you need to learn in your life that are not there on your high school marksheet than those that are on it. It can easily be stated that a little less knowledge of mathematics would not be so detrimental as a small lack of confidence that the stage can give.
Now once you’re ready to learn, there are 2 kinds of paths that you can take. One is the path of self learning that the best take (people like Gandhi, Chaplin, Einstein, Disney, Ghalib, Steve Jobs, CV Raman, Kabir, etc fall in this category). This is no way a safe path and more people fail than succeed in this path. The other is the path for lesser mortals. There are more chances of a safe career but consequently lesser chances of astounding success. However, it ensures that you go through structured learning within a reasonable time frame. However, this method is not able to keep pace with rare/ exceptional people, but is the best for the rest. Anyway not to confuse you further, mostly this path would be apt for you. Now you must choose a curriculum or an institute. If you are very clear about what you want to do, choose a curriculum and enroll for it. If you want to create a solid base go for an institute you like. Nothing but your innermost talent and passion should lead you to the course and the institute you choose. Go speak to people over there and see if you like their philosophy and they change your perspective. Try their website for more details. Typically go for a school which offers all the information including faculty on their website if all other things are the same.
The leading institutes in this field in the world are CalArts, USFCA, Sheridan, Vanarts, Seneca, Gobelins, George Mieles, Animation Mentor, Gnomon, Ringling, Savannah, USCLA, etc. Closer home in India some of the best would include IIT-IDC, NID etc. Then there’re the Arena, MAAC franchises (always research which centres are the good ones). There’re even some new colleges that are coming up and it would take some time before a college stands out from others in terms of quality.
Typically you must try to learn both the art of 2D as well as 3D animation to start with. Later on in life you may opt for one of these once you’re surer on what works best for you. Also, there’d be many options in 3D like lighting, rendering, texturing, modeling, rigging, blend shapes, animating etc. Similarly in 2D, like background artist, key animator, in betweener, in and paint artist, key compositor. There are some common areas too, like storyboarding, character design, background design, art research, compositing. There are some periphery areas too like sound design, voice artist, actors, story writers, screenplay writers etc. In fact, similarly there are many techniques of animation that you can work in – like clay animation, paper animation, light animation, sand animation, paint animation, jib jab animation, puppetry animation, pixilation etc besides the usual ones like flash animation, 2d animation, and 3d animation. There’re even periphery and neo-animation areas like Visual Effects, Motion Graphics, Web Design, Graphic Design, Matchmoving, Motion Capture, Stereography, etc.
While you are learning the art of animation do also work alongside on other creative areas like film making, photography, clay modeling, drawing, theatre, etc. Get reviews by knowledgeable people and take feedback without responding emotionally to it. Keep on visiting art galleries and improving your art appreciation ability. This would develop your creative eye and judgment. All this is immensely useful in creative decision making. Do also attend all workshops in your college and also take up paid workshop if a good expert is visiting. These workshops would help build your perspective. Try to find a faculty you resonate with and if you feel confident about the faculty do take suggestion and mentoring from him/ her. Do remember that faculty can change and do not respond personally to it, try to adapt yourself to change in environment and take everything in the right spirit. Also learn life skills by working with people you don’t personally like, when they are in your teams, especially if their skill set is good. Do also take faculty help in identifying good books and make it a habit to read a minimum of one page per day. You can mail me for a list of books if you like at firstname.lastname@example.org
Finally once you’re ready to step out of college, do build your portfolio to the desired level even if it delays your start. You can also go for an internship before going into the real market. This would help develop your skill to the next higher level. You can also form a group with some of your likeminded friends and work on a personal movie. A good movie can kick start your career like nothing. Also, if the movie wins a prestigious award you can expect to grow exponentially as the studios would not like to miss out of talent. For e.g. two of the students of gobelins school production “oktapodi” were hired for good sums and send to india to rhythm and hues to work on Hollywood films.