Advice for Careers in Animation – Part 1: Programs

13 July 2015Written by AIT Crew
AIT animation teacher Nik Sutila attended the 2015 Melbourne International Animation festival to get inspired and seek out new tips for his aspiring animation students. Nik will share what he has learnt over the coming weeks to help aspiring animators realise their potential!

This is the first part of a 2 part series where Nik will share some things he learnt from this animation conference.

Watching a seminar presented by the Holmesglen Institute, I absorbed and digested some really inspirational advice for aspiring animators. As someone who has worked for a long time as an animation teacher and been fleetingly involved with industry projects, it’s enlightening to hear some valuable advice cutting straight to the chase of what matters when looking for a career in animation.

To begin, a panel of industry members displayed student character sheets and discussed different aspects of what should really concern aspiring animators on how to crack into the industry. Of the strategies discussed, it was agreed that networking is a very important aspect to getting seen. Word of mouth can go a long way and it was put forward that working abroad can help your career very much.

What programs should I learn?

According to the panel, being familiar with a variety of software is a good idea. They mentioned that studios that have used Flash are transitioning to Toon Boom. While Toon Boom is much more feature rich, it has a steep learning curve. Flash, having a dirty name (due primarily to its insularity in website application and incompatibility with Apple products), is still a cheaper option that can be used to create decent frame by frame animation and can export to an image sequence or movie and be taken to After Effects, unlike the new Adobe Edge software which does not even feature drawing at all.

There are many people who insist on animating with Photoshop’s timeline feature. While this can and does yield amazing results, it was discussed that this method may have timing issues for the uninitiated. They recommended a tutorial for animating with Photoshop by Alex Grigg.

After Effects is a very useful ingredient to add to this mix (and in my opinion necessary) in order to composite and apply visual effects to animations. It provides the ability to produce motion graphics which is a huge part of animated presentations. As After Effects is part of the Adobe Suite, an animator who uses Flash and After Effects together can produce quicker animations for cheaper, while Toon Boom remains quite expensive.

Another name that was mentioned was TVPaint. “TVPaint keeps popping up,” mentioned one panellist. I felt proud about this since TVPaint has been my personal program of choice for animation for a few years now. TVPaint is a French developed, bitmap based animation program originating on the Commodore Amiga. Now up to version 11,  it contains a lot of features important to animators that are overlooked on other software packages (such as a very complex configurable onion skin tool)  and is highly customisable and even scriptable. I was glad to hear that RMIT has adopted it. It is great for really professional level traditional animations without the glaring vectorish “webtoon” look a lot of animations have succumbed to these days.

After conversing and discussing the differing features of the programs, the panel agreed that the choice of program doesn’t matter too much. After all, the student work on display used paper.

Read: Melbourne MasterTalk with Costa Daniel Kassab

Being a good animator is not about what kind of technology you have or what kind of cutting edge automation your computers can afford you.

If you are a computer whizz, it doesn’t guarantee that you will be a valuable animator. Primarily, your knowledge of the animation principles is of key importance and software is just a way of expressing it.

Teacher Bio – Nik Sutila

Nik Sutila is an AIT Animation and Concept Art teacher. He has a Masters in Animation from UTS and has created animation for such companies as MTV, Sydney Opera House, FujiXerox and Google. His passion as a teacher is helping his students achieve their artistic goals.

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