Elizabeth Koprowski :
Some of the skills needed to be an animator, or multimedia artist, are innate. Gifted animators will have the ability to see how things and people move and be able to recreate that movement in their drawings. But there are still things for future animators to learn, and that's where animation studies and film schools come in. Here's a glimpse of the coursework you might expect to find in an animation program:
Instruction in dance, expression, and choreography to aid in understanding movement - a critical skill for a future animator!
Production, music, and narrative classes help animators enhance their story-telling skills
Technology and computer courses - most modern animation and editing is done on computers, and there are some critical programs to learn
Classes are generally small, and many film and animation programs have strong links with the industry. Instructors are often professionals, and students have plenty of opportunity for hands-on learning and work experience, including internships. Studies range from full-degree programs (including B.A., B.S., M.A., and M.F.A programs) to short-term courses and workshops aimed at developing specific skills or continuing professional development. Some programs are broad and offer a well-rounded approach (including liberal arts courses), while others are more focused on specific areas of the industry, like architectural design or video games. There are animation degree programs all over the world where a budding multimedia artist can find just the right niche in a diverse and exciting industry.
The skills and coursework required to become an animator are so varied because the industry has many needs. Professionals use animation in everything from films and special effects, to 3D-mapping and advertising. So what can you do with a degree in animation? The possibilities are endless, but here are a few ideas:
Film/TV/Advertising: Corporations like Disney, Pixar and Dreamworks use animators for many things, including traditional animation, stop-motion animation, and computer-generated images (CGI)
Video Games: The video game industry is a huge employer of animators, and companies like Electronic Arts (EA) and Nintendo employ thousands of people.
Law/Medicine/Military: Animators might specialize in recreating crime scenes, or work as a team designing simulators for medical or military procedures
Many animators work in production offices or film companies, but according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics nearly 60% of animators are self-employed. And while many self-employed animators choose to base themselves in cities or regions with thriving film industries, the wide range of applications for a degree in animation means you could live and work just about anywhere.
What are the best destinations to study animation?
Clearly, a degree in animation offers a wide range of opportunities. But where should you earn that degree? Many countries have thriving animation industries and schools, but we've narrowed the list down to four of the most exciting:
Canada is a leader in animation and graphic design technology and has some of the best animation schools in the world. Canada is also big in video game development and production, making it an attractive destination for students who want to work in the gaming industry. One of the reasons Canada can boast such a thriving animation industry is the quality of its institutions. Canada's art and design schools, like Max the Mutt College of Animation, Art and Design help students to develop strong industry-related skills, while encouraging creativity and innovation.
German precision and exacting standards don't just apply to its auto industry. Germany is swiftly becoming one of the most dynamic and productive hubs for game development, with the northern port city of Hamburg at its center. Germany feeds its thriving animation industry with graduates from top-tier animation and digital effects schools like the Institute of Animation, Visual Effects and Digital Postproduction at the Filmakademie Baden-Wuerttemburg, which offers programs in both English and German.
Japan is almost synonymous with animation, and Tokyo is the epicenter of Japan's animation innovation. Schools in Japan encourage creativity and cultivate talent, and Japanese animators are truly passionate about their careers. Studying and working in Tokyo is highly competitive, but you'll be among some of the most prestigious artists in the field.
Denmark is a small country with a big drive towards innovation and technology, and Danish animation schools reflect this. TRUEMAX Academy, in conjunction with The National Film School of Denmark, works to prepare students for the competitive and ever-changing industry of 3D CGI. Danish students learn skills that are applicable in traditional animation fields, like film and game development, as well as in science, medicine, and architecture.
Where are the best destinations to work in animation?
Canada, Germany, Japan, and Denmark are great destinations for students and employees, but here are a few other locations with vibrant animation industries and exciting opportunities for new graduates.
Animators who prefer traditional styles can thrive in France. While Paris has plenty of plenty of game and CGI companies, other French cities like Nantes have been known for being the home of innovative, artistic films with deep narratives. Competition for jobs is steep, but the City of Lights is full of inspiration.
2. South Korea
Gaming is South Korea's national sport, so it's no surprise that animation is a huge industry. Animation is also a huge part of the culture, with the Seoul Animation Center acting as a hub for both civilians and professionals. Prepare to work hard and compete - the country's impressive institutions churn out thousands of talented graduates every year.
Iceland hasn't always topped lists as a destination for animators, but the country's animation and gaming industry is thriving and growing. The country is also a great place to live and work. The country ranks high for quality of living, gender equality, employment, and life expectancy.
Indian film isn't just Bollywood, and the country's tech-boom is more than just silicon. Animation is a huge industry in India, and cities like Bangalore are attracting big transnational firms anxious to tap into India's skilled workforce. Film and animation are a big part of the culture as well, making India a great place to find inspiration and keep up on the latest trends.
(Elizabeth Koprowski is an American writer and travel historian. She has worked in the higher education system with international students both in Europe and in the USA).