School follow up

This is a follow up to my previous post about animation schools.

I have been hearing about this Idea of being generalists or a specialist for a while now and I’m not sure either of them is right. It really depends on what you want to do, and how you classify them. Learning Story, Design, Drawing, Animation, and filmmaking does not make you a generalist these are directly related to a career as an animator. I consider myself not just an animator but also an animation filmmaker. Everyday I help make films; my job involves meeting the story point for the given shot. To do this I need to know where that character is emotionally in the overall story of the film, and also where the character is emotionally in a particular sequence that shot is in. These things give me clues to the acting needed to tell the story. Animation is all about story telling and story telling doesn’t end in story. All the way down the pipeline until film out the story is what drives the whole production. Story to Layout, then to animation, on to lighting, and at last film out, everything is serving one thing the Story. Even Modeling and Rigging, Art Direction, Character Design, and Shading all serve the story. No decision is made unless it serves the over all story of the film. So having a good understanding of story and filmmaking is invaluable to us as animators. Our job is not to just to move things around it’s about being able to communicate the Directors vision to the audience in the most simple and clear way. Design and Drawing are tools that help you as an animator do your job of serving the story better. Having an understanding of drawing even at the basic levels helps posing, design, your knowledge of anatomy and your ability to observe. Design is important to the overall appeal of your shot; composition, posing, staging, and movement are all effected by design. In the end we are all creating 2D animation, the final images are flat so design is super important to that final image. As an animator having an understanding of good design, and story telling may give you more room to move around with in the studio, allowing you to work in story and the art department. So this Idea of a specialist while a good idea doesn’t mean just learning maya and moving stuff around. There are other skills that are required to truly becoming a great animator.
The idea of having to know modeling, lighting,etc. really depends on the studio you work at. Working at feature film studios things tend to be more segregated. Animators generally just animate, so having an extensive knowledge of modeling, rigging and lighting are not as important as just being a good animator. Although as productions become more complex animators are getting more involved in the process of modeling and rigging. Working in video games is the complete opposite where knowledge in the whole process of modeling, rigging, shading, and animating are all important, since the animators do more than just animate.
I say cover you bases and choose to specialize in what you want even if the school isn’t set up for it. You want to be an animator then focus on that, but learn the other stuff just don’t spend as much time on it. Get in see how it’s done don’t become an expert and move on to animating. When it comes to making films, make films that show off your character animation skills. Do short character pieces rather than huge epics or foreboding art films. They don’t have to change the world. Heck they might not even have to be done, choose the parts that have the most character animation in them and finish those first, and leave the rest story boards. It’s up to you to choose your own direction you can’t leave it up to a school to do that for you.

Dr. Stephen G.