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15 Animation Terms Every Freelance Animator Should Know

ben marvazi 2020

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While working as a freelance animator, you’ll pick up tons of general animation terms that’ll help you understand animation and navigate your day-to-day work. 

But, how much business-related animation lingo do you know? And, how beneficial is knowing this animation lingo when it comes to running a freelance animation business? 

Having a sound animation terms glossary under your belt can take pitching and managing your animation services to the next level.

In contrast, having a poor understanding of animation lingo could mean you’ll be overlooking important factors that affect the success of your animation business.

There’s a never-ending list of animation business lingo out there, so which animation terms are most relevant when it comes to understanding animation from the business side of things?

In this blog post, we list and explain 15 of the most important animation terms for freelancers to know to succeed in the animation business.

Why Every Freelancer Should Learn Animation Lingo

Animation lingo includes all the words that are used by people working in the animation industry to describe various elements of animation.

There are general animation terms that apply across all types of animation. There are also animation terms that relate to business and specific types of animation—like 2D animation terms and 3D animation terms.

Since it’s developed and used by industry professionals, keeping up with animation lingo can help you keep the proverbial finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the industry.

This includes keeping up with animation trends and emerging animation markets. But, animation lingo can also provide up-to-date insight into legal aspects at local and international levels.

an animator realizing professionals and others in the animation industry have standards and terminologies

GIF by TinaCanDim via Tenor

It’s unlikely that any freelance animator would want to be left behind when it comes to practical or legal aspects, so staying on top of animation lingo is pivotal. 

Of course, employing someone to take care of all the business-related animation terms and procedures for you is one option. 

However, this approach runs the risk of the freelance animator falling completely out of the loop of the business side of things—and having creative and business processes that aren’t in sync. 

It may also be impractical to hire someone to do this for you if you're just starting out in your career and don’t have the capital.

Our list of the top 15 animation terms for freelancers will take you through the most important animation terms to know so that you can begin to cross the ts and dot the is yourself. 

an animator learning different animation terms and lingo

GIF by Simpsonsworld via Giphy

The Top 15 Animation Terms Used in the Industry

1. Animation Assets

Animation assets are resources owned by an animation business that are expected to generate cash flow. Assets can include equipment, inventory, and property. 

2. Animation Demo Reel

An animation demo reel is a visual demonstration of an animator's work that serves the same purpose as a resume or cover letter. A good demo reel can be a great asset to your business as it can help you hook new clients. 

You can find tips for creating the best demo reels in Sir Wade’s video: 25 Tips to Create an Animation Demo Reel.

3. Animation Style

As a freelance animator looking to land new clients, your animation style will speak volumes. 

Since you’re not linked to a large studio—whose work is probably well-known—your animation style will have to portray something special in a short period of time when pitching to clients. 

Get set to whip your animation style into shape by reading our blog post: 4 Ways to Develop Your Own Animation Style.

4. 2D Animation Terms

If you’ve been hired as a freelance animator to work on a 2D video, you’ll strike a more professional chord when you use appropriate 2D animation terms. 

For example, use well-known terms like pre-production and post-production on invoicing, but don’t use overly technical 2D animation terms when talking to a client with no background in animation.

These are some of the 2D animation terms that you can use in conversation and on documentation and why they’re applicable:

5. Animatic
animatic is an important term for an animators lingo

GIF by Alex Boya via Giphy

Use this term to describe the rough draft of the animation you’d show clients to give them an idea of the final product.

The term “animatic” will indicate that the client will initially receive a draft—and not a time-consuming and detailed animation—to sign off on before detailed work begins. 

6. Aspect ratio

Managing expectations is key for any freelance animation work you’ll do. Defining the width and height dimensions (i.e. aspect ratio) early on will ensure that what you’re planning and what the client is expecting match up. 

7. Background

Use the animation term background to distinguish between the characters in a scene and supplementary illustrations (i.e. background). 

When your client understands that the background and animated characters are worked on as separate entities, they’ll have a better understanding of what you're up to when they check up on your progress. 

8. Clean-up

Clean-up is the process of refining draft images that have been approved. Specifying what clean-up is and when it comes into action will help clients follow the production pipeline and feel confident that rough drafts will be turned into top-quality animations. 

Including clean-up when invoicing also allows you to group technical and arbitrary animation tasks into one category, which makes pricing easier. 

an animator saying they will do a clean-up of their work is a must know animation term

GIF by Lucifer via Tenor

9. Frame rate

The speed at which frames are played (i.e. frame rate) influences the smoothness of animations. 

Of course, more frames per second mean more work for the freelance animator. So, being clear on a frame rate and how the addition of frames influences pricing is important. 

*3D Animation Terms

Most of the 2D animation terms listed above can be applied as 3D animation terms too.

One major difference that comes into play in 3D animation is that more of the work will usually be done on a computer instead of being hand-drawn. 

To show that you’re clued up in the 3D space, use specific 3D animation terms where applicable.

For example, for 3D animation, focus on movements instead of frames when describing the flow of the animation. 

It’s also a good idea to understand the ins and outs of the animation software you’ll be using so that you can field production queries with ease. 

Animation Business Liabilities and Expenses 

Liabilities refer to the money that an animation business owes other parties. This may include monies owed on business loans, to suppliers, or for account payments. 

Expenses refer to the money an animation business spends on operating costs, such as utilities, salaries, and raw materials. 

By keeping a close eye on your liabilities and expenses, you can manage your cash flow better, and avoid any surprises. 

animation terms for business liabilities and expenses

Image by Karolina Grabowska via Pexels

10. Upselling and Cross-selling Animation

Upselling and cross-selling are marketing techniques that can add to your animation business’s profits. 

Upselling your service means encouraging clients to buy a higher-end product than they were planning on buying. Cross-selling refers to encouraging clients to buy complementary products together. 

These techniques can help you grow the revenue of your company even when you’re just starting out. 

Read more about upselling and cross-selling in our blog post: How Animators Can Upsell and Cross-Sell More Services.

11. Animation Business Revenue

The revenue of your animation business includes all the income generated through operations and activities. 

Keeping a healthy balance between revenue, and liabilities and expenses is key in making a profit as a freelance animator. 

12. Animation Project Deliverables

A deliverable refers to a finished product given to a client. Defining deliverables and deliverable deadlines play an important role in running a professional animation business. 

Animation Business Best Practices

Every industry has accepted, standard methods that are preferred when completing a task, and the animation industry is no exception. 

Do thorough research on animation business best practices and ensure that these are the standards you operate according to. 

knowing your animation terms ensure that your animation business follows the best practices

GIF by NBC via Giphy

13. Business to Business (B2B) Animation

When one business sells goods or services to another business, the transaction is defined as B2B. 

14. Business to Consumer (B2C) Animation

When a business sells goods or services to consumers or end-users, the transaction is defined as B2C. 

You’ll use different approaches when selling services to businesses and consumers

15. Return on Animation Business Investment

If you’re wondering how well your animation business is performing, you can measure it using your profits and investments.

When you calculate your return on investments regularly, you can monitor if your business is making the financial gains you were hoping to or not. 

How Understanding Animation Terms Adds to Business Success

Armed with a sweeping animation terms glossary, you’ll feel more comfortable engaging in the technical side of your animation business. 

an animator finding success as knowing animation terms helped them navigate the industry

Image by Anna Shvets via Pexels

By continuing to build on your business acumen, you can manage your animation business in a way that aligns your creative processes, business processes, personal and professional goals, and business ethics. 

Knowing all the relevant animation lingo also means that you’ll be able to keep up with well-informed clients and industry professionals who make use of these terms in business transactions. 

Including official animation terms in your pitches, deliverables, and invoicing will also bring a more professional edge to your business interactions and add to your reputation as a top-quality freelance animator. 

How to Keep Up with the Most Common Animation Terms

Businesses have moved from bite-sized local dealings to global transactions of titanic proportions. 

To keep track of all this, many industry leaders publish lists of the most relevant business-related terms for reference. 

Take a look at these comprehensive lists of business terms by Fundera, Suitably, and Workspace

You can keep up with the most common business animation terms by following these steps:

  1. Start off each new business year by searching “business terms”.
  2. Open at least three different lists of business terms from reputable sources.
  3. Compare the information in each list to get a good sense of the animation terms you need to know.
  4. Search the animation terms that are new to you or those you need to brush up on. 
  5. Make use of reputable resources—articles, videos, podcasts, or other resources—to gain a good understanding of animation terms. 
it makes sense that animators should know various animation terms before entering the animation industry

GIF by The Tonight Show via Tenor

Make an effort to use animation terms in your everyday work so that you can come to appreciate their application and importance. 

Put Learning Animation Terms at the Top of Your To-Do List

learning animation terms before entering the industry as an animator is important

GIF by Syar’i Design via Giphy

You can’t separate being a successful freelance animator from understanding animation business terms.

Prioritize learning animation terms today so that you can put your best foot forward in every aspect of your freelance animation business. 

Start growing your business know-how by joining our free masterclass, downloading our free marketing handbook, and reading our blog post on “How to Start an Animation Studio”!

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