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An animator turns drawings and inanimate objects into moving, believable characters by producing a series of still shots that approximate movement when projected onto a screen flashing by at twenty frames per second or greater. Aside from standard “cartoon-style” animation, there are opportunities in stop-motion animation and digital effects animation, among other fields.
Stop-motion animators animate creatures for films and television shows by creating models (when using clay models, the process is generally referred to as “claymation”), changing their positions minutely for each individual frame of film (ideally, approximating how much movement the body would make in 1/20th of a second), and photographing each of the changes with a special camera. When projected at full speed, it appears that the models are moving in a lifelike manner. This process has existed since the early days of cinema and was popularized by the original 1933 King Kong. The process since has been improved to create incredibly lifelike movement, as seen in movies such as Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-Rabbit. Because stop-motion animation is a time-consuming process, it requires a significant amount of patience. With twenty or more frames per second of film, a stop-motion animator moves each creature several thousand times for just a few minutes of film. For example, the large team of animators creating the feature-length Wallace and Gromit film (shot at thirty frames per second, the same rate as a live-action movie) took five years to complete the project.
Animators need a strong background in art and cinematography. Computer skills are important, too. Fortunately, animation is something that you can experiment with on your own. A modest investment in equipment will enable you to learn how to make characters move properly and make your own animated films.
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American Film Institute
2021 North Western Avenue
Los Angeles, CA 90027-1657
The Film School Directory
Animation World Network
Crouch, Tanja L. 100 Careers in Film and Television. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series, 2001.
Jones, Angie, and Jamie Oliff. Thinking Animation: Bridging the Gap Between 2D and CG. Boston: Course Technology PTR, 2006.
Levy, David. Your Career in Animation: How to Survive and Thrive. New York: Allworth Press, 2006.
Patmore, Chris. The Complete Animation Course: The Principles, Practice, and Techniques of Successful Animation. Hauppauge, NY: Barron's Educational Series, 2003.
Whitaker, Harold, and John Halas. Timing for Animation. Boston: Focal Press, 2002.
White, Tony. Animation from Pencils to Pixels: Classical Techniques for the Digital Animator. Boston: Focal Press, 2006.
Yager, Fred, and Jan Yager. Career Opportunities in the Film Industry (Career Opportunities). New York: Facts On File, 2003.
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