Taking Your First Steps Into Animation

With animated content being thrown onto virtually any digital platform available nowadays more and more people are interested in getting a foot into the door. Web, games, film, TV shows: animated content is everywhere, and the Pokemon Go craze just raised the heat.

It is however difficult to enter a profession without knowing where to start from, especially if the discipline is highly technical and can only be described by using its own lingo.

You can start looking into software, free open source packages can be good starting point. Though unfortunately, learning how to use the software on your own can be a daunting experience. Furthermore, although you could learn the tools, learning how to use these efficiently is often an entirely different matter

In any case, animation and VFX artists need more than just software skills in order to achieve good results. Acute observation, visions and ideas, an eye for aesthetics, planning, mastering of colour, volume and light are all necessary virtues that go hand in hand with the software. One could even go as far as saying that software is ever only the tip of the iceberg.

Unlike many other career paths, animation and VFX rely heavily on material that is actually produced. A company wouldn’t even consider calling somebody in for an interview who just submitted a CV without including any portfolio or showreel. It is easy to see how this is a chicken and egg situation: how can I display a good standard of work if I have never worked before? The answer is that you have to pull up your sleeves, learn the tools and the skills and self-produce some portfolio and material.

You could do it on your own, ask friends or acquaintances in the industry for suggestions, or enrol into a class. It is usually faster and more efficient to have someone point you in the right direction though, as it is very easy to waste a lot of time hammering your head against a wall, either trying to use software in a way it wasn’t designed, or producing material that companies won’t even consider.

The best thing is always to have an idea, a vision of something you want to realise and get someone more experienced to give you advice in the difficult moments: that will give you the energy to overcome the initial frustration.

A good idea could also be to enrol on a short-course. VFX is a rapidly evolving industry and many students simply do not know what it is they would like to do in VFX until they get there. The intensity of a short-course that covers a lot of ground quickly is a good initial solution. You’ll get to learn something new every day, which offers great variety. Such courses usually have limited entry requirements; however, some basic preparation will go a long way. Getting your head around file formats and picking up some basic Photoshop skills will help you to hit the ground running.

For those looking for a longer training programme, undergraduate degrees in animation provide both a solid foundation in the discipline as well the opportunity to specialise later on. Developing a specialism after completing a short-course or a BA can be a big boost to your career, but given the financial and time investment involved it’s important for students to know that they are ready for the commitment.

Having said that, the most important thing is to choose a course that will help you build a showreel, or at least give you the means to do so. Look for a course taught by industry professionals with plenty of contact hours – as this will give you the time and space to ask questions on techniques and practices you would not necessarily find online.

So, roll up your sleeves, and enjoy the journey into animation.

This is a guest article from Amedeo Beretta, Programme Leader, VFX & Animation, Met Film School.

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