The success of James Cameron’s blockbuster film Avatar has elevated the status of computer animation and visual effects to an entirely new level. With the aid of computers, Cameron has showed us that it is now truly possible to visually recreate the unimaginable depths of the human imagination.
Computer Animation is the art of creating moving images through the use of computers and is generally regarded as a subfield of computer graphics, visual effects, and animation. A computer-animated film commonly refers to feature films that have been computer-animated to appear three dimensional on a movie screen. While traditional 2D animated films are now done primarily with the help of computers, the technique to render realistic 3D computer graphics (CG), or 3D Computer-generated imagery (CGI), is unique to using computers.
CGI short films have been produced as independent animation since 1976, though the popularity of computer animation (especially in the field of special effects) skyrocketed during the modern era of U.S. animation. The first completely computer-generated television series was ReBoot, and the first completely computer-generated animated movie was Pixar’s Toy Story.
Visual effects (Visual F/X or VFX)often involve the integration of live-action footage and computer generated imagery (CGI) in order to create environments which look realistic. Most often creating these environments would be dangerous, costly, or simply impossible to capture on film. Visual F/X have become increasingly common in big-budget films, and have also recently become accessible to amateur filmmakers with the introduction of affordable animation and compositing software.
Computer Animation Degree Programs
Computer animation schools train students to work in film animation or specifically in the digital field with computer animation and visual effects. The best computer animation schools offer a variety of 2-D and 3-D animation courses, which will allow students to find work as an illustrator in many different types of media. Schools for animation are available for students with all levels of experience, so be sure to explore your options. All the computer skills in the world can’t mask a bad artist, however, so make sure that you find a program where you’ll spend the long, necessary hours to hone your craft.
Computer Animation school graduates can choose to focus on classical animation, film animation, digital animation, or specialize in a specific area of computer animation. Some arts and animation programs are offered online and these courses can be a great option for students that are self-motivated and are able to manage their time and make course work a priority in their lives. While in school, your goal: build a compelling digital portfolio that shows exactly how skilled you have become in bringing your characters and storytelling abilities to life.
Animation has evolved into a lucrative career path and earning your art degree can go a long way toward helping you succeed in your chosen career. Growth in the multimedia industry has been brisk in recent years as more and more people are playing video games and watching computer animated films. Meanwhile the Internet, cable television, and other emerging media continue to drive demand for multimedia entertainment. Most animators start out as assistants on their way towards a successful career in computer animation. It may seem unimportant, but this beginning role in a company gives students a new, refreshed perspective on learning the necessary skills of that particular company. Other entry-level positions may include digital artist, special effects artist, texture mapper, or storyboard artist.
Outlook & Salary
Choose an animation school that will give you a good grounding in the basics to take this path. Most arts and animation schools will have information on their faculty prominently displayed on their website. There are many different courses offered throughout the world via online schools, universities and specialized art and animation schools that will prepare a student for a career in the dynamic fields of web design, video game art and animation, advertising and graphic design.
Films such as Avatar prove that the computer animation field is growing and expanding rapidly and need more qualified people than ever before. According to Cameron, Avatar is composed of 60% computer-generated elements and 40% live action, as well as traditional miniatures. Avatar has since gone on to break several box office records during its release and to become the highest-grossing film of all time in North America and worldwide, as well as the highest-grossing 3-D movie of all time. Avatar was nominated for nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture and Best Director, and won three, for Best Cinematography, Best Visual Effects, and Best Art Direction.
The salary for a student with a bachelor’s degree in Computer Animation can vary depending on the size and location of the company. According to the U.S. Department of Labor, www.bls.gov, animators can expect to earn a yearly salary between $29,030 and $94,260.
Top Schools Offering Computer Animation Programs
If you want to pursue an exciting career that is in high-demand, consider a Computer Animation Bachelor’s Degree. Here are a few of the top animation schools now offering computer animation programs to students in 2D Animation, 3D Animation and Video Game Design.
* New York Film Academy
* Full Sail University
* Westwood Colleges
* The Art Institutes
* Virginia Colleges
* International Academy of Design & Technology (Chicago)
* Center for Digital Imaging Arts at Boston University
* Rocky Mountain College of Art & Design
* Digital Media Arts College