“Luckily, I went to school at CalArts and then ended up at Disney, starting in the Animation Building and working my way up. I started as an animator, and then did character designing and storyboarding, and eventually, directing.”Chris Buck, Film Director, Frozen 2
Animation roles, artistic abilities, and computer and technical competencies vary slightly and significantly, depending on the production requirements and the animation styles an animation studio specializes in.
Beyond animation artists, there are directors, creatives with business skills, and producers who organize an animation pipeline and raise funds. However, many more roles that many never knew existed are the secret behind a successful animation studio.
This blog looks at the fascinating career roles in an animation studio, the truth about how an animation studio works, how to land a great career in an animation studio, and what different positions in an animation studio pay.
Fascinating Animation Roles In An Animation Studio
Photo by IAMAG
A career in animation should cohere with your natural abilities and personality to be successful in the long term.
Think of animation careers in horizontal and vertical contexts where you either broaden your creative arsenal or aim your position for the top. Nevertheless, you must balance your passion and your skills.
Animation Roles To Secure A Successful Animation Career
The producer is the studio authority, negotiating with investors, ensuring that the production remains within the project budget, organizing the animation workflow or pipeline, and assuring that the animation team runs smoothly and efficiently.
Provides creative leadership for the project and directs all its visual, design, and narrative decisions. Directors are involved with the project from the beginning, holding authority over how the project develops from the script.
Creative Director or Animation Director:
Animation or Creative Directors deal with sourcing, casting, and creating the various animation teams.
In large studios, the different directors work together to ensure that the project is within the production team's schedule and budget requirements while maintaining exceptional quality, style, and continuity.
Animation demands word creativity that can bring imaginary conversations to life! Scriptwriters and editors work closely with directors and vocal talent during animation production.
The highly creative animation role involves designing the animation characters and, sometimes, helping create the concept and assisting in the modeling process.
The objective is to sketch beautiful characters capable of manipulation to the degree that animation demands.
The storyboarding animation team is responsible for sketching how the animation should look, shot by shot, i.e., the script becomes a visual story.
The director and scriptwriter closely relate to this process, forming the first mock-up of the animation to ensure that the story makes sense.
Modelers and model makers are responsible for modeling characters, props, and environments in a three-dimensional space.
CGI modelers accept concepts from the animation design team and hand their models to riggers, who prep them for the animator to put in motion.
Physical modelers build their animations on a stop motion skeleton rig directly, so no further rigging is necessary.
Character rigging gives a 3D model its "skeleton" before animation occurs, giving animators the "ligaments" to grab and manipulate for specific parts of the model to be animated.
Animators create and deal with everything relating to animations and visual effects while maintaining design and style consistency. Generally, animator teams in large studios include 2D and 3D computer animators, 2D hand-drawn animators, stop motion animators, and assistant animators supporting them.
Texture artists give character models an extra layer of visual authenticity using an arsenal of textures (e.g., hair and nails) to "texture map" the models with depth, complexity, and realism.
Lighting Technical Directors:
Lighters are some of the most significant animation roles in renowned studios, ensuring that the lighting, mood, and color balance are consistent throughout a shot or a scene.
Inbetweeners are the people who pose in-between the vital poses of an animation sequence to foster the illusion of movement.
Compositors construct the final image by wrangling together the several project material layers. Their job involves adding motion blur, finalizing shadows, matching colors, rotoscoping, and keying where required.
Voice Over Artist (VOA):
Hiring VOAs usually involves recruiting a freelancer instead of a studio-bound role—they have a sound room for their recording sessions, several studios share their talent, and generally hire them for a single animation project or series.
A sound designer can double up as a composer or conduct everything about audio during production, including soundtracks, sound effects, and mixing.
Animation studios, like offices, have an "office manager" to take care of the usual activities, bills, and obligations to keep the show going.
They perform the daily support tasks of the studio, such as keeping track of materials, maintaining studio equipment, and other ad-hoc functions.
The Truth About How An Animation Studio Works
Illustration by Yans Media
An animation studio undergoes several animation production stages involving different types of animation roles to produce an animation. A rigid and detailed framework or animation production pipeline is needed to execute such a complicated process efficiently.
Feature film observes script development, pre-production, production, and post-production. In stop-motion, model makers work at workstations creating clay characters and scenery, while rendering and image manipulation take an equal amount of thought and planning for studio animators.
An animation production pipeline is like an assembly line where each member of the animation project team completes their part and hand’s it over to the next until the entire project is final. The production management department ensures the smooth sailing of ideas and assets through the animation production pipeline.
Idea generation, script drafting, budget planning, and defining the overall vision and target audience occur here. The core team involved in the initial stages of animation development includes:
- Director or Animation Director
- Script Editor
- Art Director
- Technical Director
- Legal Department
- Production Assistant
- IT Specialist
After securing funds for the production and the legalities are sorted, the green light is authorized, and pre-production commences. Writing the script, storyboarding the animation, and designing everything in the manuscript happen at this stage. Priority animation roles included here are:
- Production Manager
- Production Coordinator
- Production Assistant
- Production Secretary
- Studio Supervisor
- Script Producer
- Script Writers
- Script Coordinator
- Storyboard Artist
- Animation Director
- Reference Animator
- Art Director
- Character, Set, and Prop Designers
- Background Painters
- Colour Stylists
- Voice Talent
- Lip Sync Specialist
- Recording Director
- Recording Technicians
- Sound Reader
- Sound Engineer
This stage involves building assets, character & animation rigging, adding visual effects, sorting out rendering problems, compositing the layers, and assembling a rough edit.
2D production includes the above-stated roles, plus:
- Head of Compositing
- Camera Operators
3D production includes the above-stated roles, plus:
- Lead Modeler
- Lead Animator
- Technical Director(s)
- Lead Texture Artist
- Texture Artists
- Lead Special Effects Artist
- Render Wrangler
- Motion Capture Team
- Network Administrator
The final animation editing, music installation, rendering, color-correcting (graded), and quality control happen during the post-production stage.
- Animation Director
- Post Production Supervisor
- Sound Editor
- Music Editor
- Sound Designer
Distribution (Sales and Marketing)
The sales and marketing team generates audience attention and traction for the animation project once it is complete or near completion. They communicate with film distributors and are responsible for the marketing campaign involving trailers, billboards, and merchandising.
- Marketing Executive
- Sales Executive
- Marketing Manager
- Licencing Manager
- Marketing Assistant
- Sales Agents
Own An Amazing Animation Role: Significant Decisions To Make
You can hone your animation, computer, and graphic design skills through self-study, although some schools have specialized degrees like interactive media and game design.
With modern technologies like Virtual Reality animation, 3D Printing, and Artificial Intelligence only in their infancy, the animation industry remains exciting with ever-increasing career opportunities, especially at the famous animation studios and video gaming industry.
The animation industry blends creative and technical mastery, for which there is no right or wrong approach. Current and former Pixar employees’ academic backgrounds include unfinished degrees, certified courses, and diplomas. However, most employers prefer animators with practical experience reinforcing the theoretical knowledge from a degree.
Qualifications for Certain Animation Roles
Generally, professionals in animation need a bachelor's degree in computer graphics, animation, arts, or related fields. Art and computer science curricula are majors for a computer graphics degree. Mentoring and training are the priority for animation courses, and fine arts programs comprise painting, drawing, and sculpturing.
Showing strong teamwork and time-management skills can advance an ambitious animator to a supervisory position responsible for one aspect of an animation team. Some artists can progress to leadership or executive roles like art director, producer, or director.
Excellent Animation Role Qualifications
- Bachelor of Design (B.Des.) in Innovative Animation and Visual Effects
- B.Des. in Animation and Interactive Media
- Bachelor of Fine Arts in Animation
- Bachelor of Arts in Art 2D and 3D Animation
- Bachelor of Creative Arts in Animation and Motion Capture
- Bachelor of Film, Television, and Animation
- Master of Arts (MA) in Animation specializing in Motion Graphics
- MA in Illustration and Animation
- MA 3D Computer Animation
- MA in Technical Animation
- Master of Science (MSc) in Animation and VFX
- MSc Digital Visual Effect
- Ph.D. in Animation and Visual Effects
- Ph.D. in Creative Arts and Media
- Ph.D. Informatics focusing on either: Robotics, Computer Vision, Computer Graphics
- Ph.D. in Animation Design
- Ph.D. Animation and Multimedia
- Ph.D. Animation and Digital Arts
Important Qualities To Excel In A Given Animation Role
- Artistic talent: Animators should have an artistic mastership of animation styles, a good understanding of color, texture, and light, and reliable technical aptitude.
- Communication skills: Animators work as part of a team and interact with clients and should know how to respond to criticism and feedback.
- Time-management skills: Animation studios and game design companies can require long workdays. Animators need to manage their time effectively when a deadline approaches.
How Much Do Different Animation Roles Pay?
GIF by SpongeBob SquarePants via Giphy
According to income data from special effects artists and animators, the top 10 percent of specialists earned more than $131,370, the lowest 10 percent earned below $46,000, and the average annual salary was $78,790 in 2021.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics further mentions the per year average wages for the following animation roles:
- Producer: $79,000 per year
- Director: $79,000 per year
- Creative or Animation Director: $100,890 per year
- Scriptwriter: $69,510 per year
- Storyboard Artists:$78,790 per year
- Animator: $78,790 per year
- Texture Artists: $78,790 per year
- Lighting Technician: $49,050 per year
- Compositor: $60,360 per year
- Voice Over Artist: $23,48 per hour
- Sound Designer: $ 85,020 per year
- Studio Manager: $60,360 per year
- Runner: $23,48 per hour
Choose The Best Animation Role Made For You
You'll find plenty of valuable information to better prepare for success as you delve into the various professions within, and related to, animation. It's not unusual for an individual to work across multiple animation roles and have a spectrum of skills within a small studio.
In a large studio, people often specialize after years of practice and training. Hence, the number of steps to produce an animation video can vary significantly, depending on the animation studio and the project scale.
If you don't have a degree but are passionate about animation, you can start by being a runner, build your animation studio, or develop your practical experience through freelancing.
Visit our blog on How to Start an Animation Studio, check out the Business of Animation free masterclass, and download a copy of our free marketing handbook to grow your animation skills.