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PHYSICAL AND VISUAL EFFECTS - Job Title: Effects Animator

Job Descriptions and Careers, Career and Job Opportunities, Career Search, and Career Choices and ProfilesCareers in Film and TelevisionPHYSICAL AND VISUAL EFFECTS - Job Title: Stunt Coordinator, Job Title: Aerial Director/coordinator, Job Title: Visual Effects Supervisor


Job Overview

The effects animator is responsible for creating noncharacter elements that enhance the shot and cannot be produced during filming. This includes tones and highlights, shadows, fire, sparks, stars, and the general enhancement of special effects, such as explosions, monsters, cloud formations, weaponry fire, and so on. For example: if footage of a spaceship and a blank sky have been shot separately and combined, the effects animator might be called upon to create the ship's shadows, or to add stars to a night sky.

Special Skills and Education:

The ability to draw, coupled with knowledge and skill with computer animation programs.

Advice for Someone Seeking This Job

An internship at places like Class-Key Chew-Po Commercials and other animation houses is a good way to get into the business. Find a freelance effects animator who is willing to teach you in exchange for your free services. “Branch out and get a couple of different skills down—don't limit yourself just to animation,” says effects animator Harry Moreau. “Learn some software packages and be versatile.”

Professional Profile: Harry Moreau, Animator and Effect Animator

“I always wanted to draw cartoons. I loved the Disney stuff. Warner Bros. was great too, but Disney was my favorite,” says Harry Moreau, who grew up in Alhambra, California, not far from Disney Studios. Fresh out of high school at age 19, he landed a job as a driver, delivering film for the Haboush Company. Owner Victor Haboush had worked as an animator on such Disney classics as Pinocchio and Fantasia. One of his animators, John Kimball, was the son of Ward Kimball, another legendary Disney animator. Moreau felt inspired just being around these men whose work he admired.

What do you love most about your job?

“I love it all. I really do. I've gotten into doing a lot of compositing and I really, really like thatit's a lot of computer work. I'm still into the traditional type animation, but the computer is kind of new for me. Animation has been my first love, but now I can combine the computer, which is a nice little addition.”Harry Moreau

One day when extra help was needed to hand paint cels, Moreau volunteered. When it was discovered he could draw, he was hired as John Kimball's assistant, where he continued to hone his timing and technical skills. He enrolled at University of Southern California (USC), but eventually quit when he realized that he was learning more on the job.

During his five years at Haboush Company, Moreau worked on numerous television commercials and the film K-9000. “It was all traditional animation, at that point. We animated on paper, then painted on the cels in color. It was a wonderful time. There were all these boutique houses and ladies that would paint the cels.”

After leaving Haboush, he freelanced for a time, working mostly on commercials and some film shorts. Doug Trumbull, a former director for Haboush, landed a job on Close Encounters of the Third Kind and hired Moreau as an animator on the film. “Stars don't show up on film, so we had to actually paint them. We spit them out of an airbrush on black paper and then shot them. The comets and little meteors, shooting stars, were all done by animation. We animated the belly of the mother ship … “ Many now-common animation techniques were devised on that film.

After Close Encounters wrapped, Moreau went to work at Apogee (which later became Industrial Light and Magic) working on Battlestar Galactica and its spin-off television series. “Unlike traditional animation, these effects had to look real because people knew what fire, explosions, and even lasers looked like … I fondly remember my time at Apogee, being surrounded by really, really talented people—the most talented crew of people.”


* Practice on your home computer and hone your animation skills. Constantly try out new techniques.

Subsequently, Moreau spent two years doing camera work at Cinema Research, moved on to compositing and effects animation at Perpetual Motion Pictures, before returning to freelance work, which he continues to do. Some of his film credits include Cats Don't Dance, Firefox, Little Mermaid, Never Say Never Again, Rover Danger field, Spirit: Stallion of Cimarron, Star Trek: The Motion Picture, and Titanic.

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