Job in animation

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Tina Sharp is a key animator based in Bristol. She is working on the first feature length film. This technique involves using plasticine puppets.

Can you describe your role?

I create the animation, by moving and sculpting the puppets into different positions. That brings the characters to life, makes them appear to move and speak, and gives them emotions and personalities.

What does the work involve?

An animation is made up of individual pictures (known as frames) which, when run at the correct speed through a projector, give the appearance of continuous movement. In stop-motion animation we place the puppets in position on the set, take one frame, move the puppets just a fraction, take another frame and so on. It is a lengthy process and it often takes a whole day to make two seconds or less of finished animation.

Who else do you work with?

The director explains exactly what they want the character to do and what emotions that character should portray. We sometimes even act out the shot ourselves and record it on video so we can look at gestures we may want to include. I also work with the lighting department and director of photography, discussing camera moves with them and helping to find solutions for things like lighting and focussing problems.

What qualities does an animator need?

Timing, observation and a feel for movement and expression are all very important. So are sculpting skills. You need organisational skills to make sure that the right things happen at the right time. Concentration is another important skill – animation takes hours and is very repetitive.

What hours do you work?

I work 40 hours a week, usually from 9.30 am to 6.30 pm, but there is often overtime on top of that.

How did you become keen on animation?

I tried animation for the first time while I was studying for a degree in illustration. I really loved it, so I made a few short films for my college projects and made and animated some puppets.

What was your first job?

I applied for a job as a trainee model maker at Aardman. I did enjoy model making, but I was really keen to get into animation, so after a year I did a week long audition for the role of assistant animator. I spent about a year as an assistant animator on the film, Chicken Run. I helped the animators and was able to do a little animation myself. After that I did some in-house animation training and was promoted to my first animating position.

What do you enjoy most about your job in animation?

It's great when a piece of animation works. The process itself can often be really fun and absorbing. Seeing the finished film is also really exciting – you feel you have helped to make something special.

What are your ambitions?

I'd like to take on some supervisory or teaching responsibilities within the animation department one day. Many animators would like to be directors, and while I am not sure I have the right skills yet to direct a major piece of work, I would like to make a short film.

Tina's steps to her job in animation

  • A level Art.
  • One-year foundation course at art college.
  • BA in Illustration.
  • Began work at Aardman.

Tina's animation tips

  • Make your own animation (and possibly models) to put together a tape of your work to show to potential employers.
  • It is hard to break into animation, and work experience will help you make contacts and find out more about the job.

Animation related jobs

Salary of an animator

  • An assistant second animator could earn £23,000.
  • As a second animator you could be paid £28,000
  • A key animator might earn £31,500.

How to become am animator

  • If you would like to try animation, short courses are available in many areas of the UK. Some of these are specifically aimed at young people.
  • Qualifications in animation include HNCs and HNDs, OCN, Foundation Degrees and Access courses, degrees and postgraduate qualifications.
  • Many Bas in Art and Design, Illustration and related subjects also include animation modules.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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