How to Become a 3D Animator? | Techniques, Tools, and More

Woman Graphic Designer

Pursuing a career in 3D animation might only require a few years, months, or even weeks. It’s an ideal career path for those who are passionate about art. Recognizable 3D animations include iconic works such as Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and Cars.

Becoming a professional 3D animator can be confusing, frustrating, and above all, difficult at some time. But if it is something that you want to pursue, you can overcome it all. If you have enough commitment and discipline, nothing can hold you back. As of 2020, the average salary of a 3D animator ranges from $37,000 to $172,000, which is enormous enough to enjoy a good lifestyle with the family.

In this article, we will help you gain enough understanding of what it takes to become a 3D animator. All of these steps will push you to success in no time. However, you must remember that big companies require their animators to finish at least a Bachelor’s degree. But if you do not have any degree but have an impressive, there will still be a high chance of obtaining an animation position.

So, what does it takes to become a 3D animator? Let’s look further and find out.

What Are the Top 3D Animation Tools?

3d animation

  1. 3DS Max

Compatible with: Windows

Formats: stl, 3ds, ai, abc, ase, asm, catproduct, catpart, dem, dwg, dxf, dwf, flt, iges, ipt, jt, nx, obj, prj, prt, rvt, sat, skp, sldprt, sldasm, stp, vrml, w3d xml

3DS Max is one of the famous and most reliable computer programs to develop computer graphics. It has a robust toolset that contains everything that every 3D artist needs. Throughout the years, this software has been used by architects, TV commercial studios, and game developers. Autodesk owns 3DS Max together with AutoCAD and Maya.

3Ds Max is widely used for animation and character modeling. It is known for rendering photorealistic images, objects, people, and buildings. This software is unmatched when it comes to simplicity, quality, and speed.

It can handle all stages of the animation cycle, including layout, modeling, cameras, texturing, animation, rigging, lighting, VFX, and rendering.

  1. Motion Builder

Compatible with: Windows

Formats: asf, amc, bvh, c3d, fbx, htr, tr3

MotionBuilder is also a 3D character animation software that came from the Autodesk Company. It is known to be used for motion capture, virtual cinematography, and keyframe animation.

Throughout the years, big companies have used this software for television production, games, film, and other multimedia projects.

This software features motion capture devices, facial and skeletal animation, ragdoll physics, and inverse kinematics.

  1. Maya

Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Linux

Formats: ai, aiff, dae, dxf, dwg, eps, fbx, maya, mel, obj, stl

Maya, which also came from the Autodesk Company, is a 3D computer graphics application that is compatible with Linus, macOS, and Windows. Throughout the years, it has received several awards, including the Academy Award for Technical Achievement in 2003, 2005, and 2008. This software was used to develop the famous Disney movie in 2000 called “Dinosaur.” Other producers also reported that it was used in films such as Ice Age, Star Wards, Spider-Man, and The Lord of the Rings.

Maya is one of the most versatile software for aspiring 3D animators like you. It is sure to become a helpful tool in nailing down the special effects and animation of your characters and objects.

  1. Blender

Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Linux

Formats: 3ds, dae, fbx, dxf, obj, x, lwo, svg, ply, stl, vrml, vrml97, x3d

What is Blender? Blender is an open-source software application that you can use to make visual effects, 3D games, and animated movies. It is written in C, C++, and Python. Therefore, this software allows the users to write a custom extension to Blender using any of those programming languages.

NeoGeo Animation Studio and Not A Number Technologies developed Blended in 1998. As of today, it is available for Linux, macOS, and Windows. With this software, you can do rigging, 3D modeling, fluid dynamics, photorealistic rendering, keyframed animation, and video editing.

  1. Cinema 4D

Compatible with: Windows, macOS

Formats: 3ds, dae, dem, dxf, dwg, x, fbx, iges, lwf, rib, skp, stl, wrl, obj

Cinema 4D is a popular all-purpose 3D software program created by Maxon in Germany. It became popular due to its impressive motion graphics called MoGraph. It also features C4D, which is intended for product visualization, advertising, film, TV, and game industries.

Moreover, this software also offers sculpting, UV edit, body paint 3D, and xpresso. It is one of the biggest competitors of Autodesk.

What Are the Important Qualities of a 3D Animator?

Qualities of a 3D Animator

  1. Artistic Talent

Let us be honest. Before pursuing a career in animation. Make sure you are creative enough to have a good understanding of lighting, colors, and textures.

  1. Communication Skills

Animators will be working with several multimedia personnel. Therefore, having an average level of communication skills is required so you can respond to other’s feedback and critics accurately.

  1. Time-management skills

You must be aware that being an animator requires several hours in the studio, especially when you are working for big companies. Animators must know how to manage their time wisely and effectively, mostly in approaching deadlines.

  1. Computer skills

When you became an animator, you will be using different software. You might be needed to use computer programs and learn some programming codes. Therefore, you must also prepare yourself for this one.

  1. Creativity

Artists must be able to think something unique. They are required to develop original ideas that can make their work stand out.

How to Learn 3D Animation?

Step 1. Get a relevant degree.

Bachelor’s degree is the most recommended program for students who want to enhance their efficiency in animation. It is also the most required degree by employers. Courses will include art, design, multimedia, and 3D animation. You must take a Bachelor’s degree that will tackle web design, films, videos, and video games. Some certificate programs can help you learn new things in animation.

Step 2. Build an impressive portfolio.

Your employer’s decision will heavily be based on your portfolio. Therefore, make sure it is an impressive one. For 3D animation, you can bring a DVD that contains your works, or you can provide a link of your portfolio online. A portfolio is your way to showcases your best outputs. It will also emphasize your style and skills in animation.

Step 3. Practice your skills.

To attract more opportunities, make sure to practice your animation skills every day. Concentrate on your outputs and check the things that you are still missing. When you repeat this activity regularly, you can reach your goals faster. You must focus on your outputs at all times since it is the secret key to growth and mastery.

Step 4. Get experience.

To become a professional 3D animator, you must be willing to participate in internships and work as an animation for on-the-job experience.

Nowadays, more than half of 3D animators are self-employed. They prefer a contract basis to gain more experience in different industries. If you have enough experience, you can apply in full-time positions. However, make sure that your skills match the required qualifications to avoid issues with your employer.

Step 5. Continue your education.

Employers always expect their animators to stay updated with the latest upgrades in animation. It allows them to provide the newest technology for their animation projects. Therefore, you must take short courses to enhance your skills and maintain your competitive edge and proficiency in animation for the next following years.

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