How One Animator Found His Dream Job

By Phill Powell

[Editor: We wanted to provide some inspiration for all aspiring animators out there. So here’s a collection of thoughts on the subject from a DMA curriculum developer and instructor, who’s also a pro animator with experience working as a character rigger. Check it out!]

ENTERING THE ANIMATION INDUSTRY

By Austin Broder

Animation has provided many moments of genuine awe throughout my life. I remember sitting in front of the TV as a kid, doodling in my sketchbook and watching a video of Walt Disney step through the magic process to create one of the many masterpieces that filled my childhood with joy and wonderment.

I was caught between two thoughts – that animation was all I wanted to do, and that it must be a job reserved for people in some other place with magical powers. Seeing something like the Cave of Wonders roar to life in Aladdin was mind-bending and I felt it must have been crafted in some mystical underworld.

Alladin_and_the_Cave_of_Wonders
“ROAR!!!” (Aladdin™, The Disney Company)

I’d daydream about working at an animation studio, but didn’t think it was actually a possibility. But it was something I couldn’t pull myself away from.

I’d find whatever tools were available. My first animations were in homemade “flipbooks,” filling up the corners of my school textbooks!

MY “COMPUTER AGE” BEGINS

Then, a huge step forward. I got my own computer and I was thrilled! I found MS Paint and I’d draw and draw and draw. But I needed to make motion so I would draw a character, then save it as “Animation_001.” Then I’d erase the arm and redraw it a little different, and save it as “Animation_002.”

I drew 342 frames this way and found a program that would create an animated GIF. It was so much time but it felt effortless. I was in awe of the magic that I was able to create with what I had.

And this continued as time progressed. I was lucky enough to see more and more powerful programs make themselves available as I was progressing along with them.

Untitled_Paint_project
From simple beginnings – like working in Paint – great things can develop!

KEY PROGRAMS AVAILABLE CHEAPLY NOW

What I’m hoping is that I’ve been able to share with you something that I think is easily overlooked: With animation so ever-present in our lives today (from movies, games, ads and pretty much everything else), we – already saturated with exposure to animation – might sometimes lose the ability to see the magic that animation can create.

So every now and then, remember that one animated movie you watched that really took you by surprise!

But that’s not all. Use that energy to create! Because this, right now, is the Golden Age! And you get to live in it. Unlike my experience with animation, you guys have access to everything! If you didn’t know, now you do.

Autodesk has made ALL of its major programs (e.g., Maya, 3DS Max, Mudbox and AutoCAD) available for free to students. The entire Adobe suite is available to students for only $20 a month. Unity and Unreal Engine is free for independent projects. And more and more is becoming available.

Heck, even Pixar has thrown its hat into the ring, making its rendering software Renderman available for free as well!

On top of this, there’s also a huge wealth of learning materials and tutorials available. Everything from free to inexpensive…from design to drawing…and from modeling to rendering. These kinds of educational opportunities are relatively new to the home user.

Old_man_from_Up
“Hmmmph!” says one of the great characters of modern animation. (Up!™, Pixar Studios)

So now that you’re excited (and probably already off on another tab, downloading one of these programs), go forth and create whatever it is you’ve always wanted to see made. Because that mysterious, mystical place where animations come from…has just become your own house.

Austin Broder is a DMA curriculum developer and instructor who’s also a professional animator. He is a rigging/technical animator specialist with expertise in animation, 3D modeling, and rigging, and has worked extensively with programs like Adobe After Effects, Adobe Flash and Autodesk Maya. He has served as a character rigger at General Gau Animation Studio in Boston. Click to learn more about Austin Broder animation and art.