Taking Animation to the Next Level

Animators need different skill sets to create good quality animation. However, to be hired as an animator, you need to have the minimal animation skills and standard. If you are a graduate and had send out hundreds of application with no reply, it’s high time to polish your demo reel. Here are 4 critical skills an animator should possess:

  1. Animation Quality - Animation needs realism and entertaining value that can be use immediately (by a company). High animation quality can be achieved if your demo reel covers the 12 principal of animations.
  2. Software skill - You must be well verse in operating the animation software in order to create animation exactly how the storyboard wants it to be.
  3. Speed and efficiency - You are able to complete your animation within a reasonable timeline given by your lead animator or director.
  4. Creativity - You demonstrate creativity in your animation on top of the given storyboard which resulted in a higher quality visualization.


If you are able to achieve the above standards, you should be easily employable. Hah! That’s easier said than done! Only a few fresh graduates, mainly the top students, can achieve the above requirements and these students are mostly head hunted before they graduate. As for the rest, many became jobless, some switched career or some starved to death while waiting to be hired. So what can fresh graduates do without much industry experience? I’m here to share with you a very important tip: you do not necessarily need to good in these 4 areas to be employable.


If you need a job urgently, you can get yourself a job in a SME (Small & medium enterprise) when you display the minimal animator’s requirement in your demoreel. To take your animation to the next level, you must prioritize which animation skills to improve on so that you can progress in your animation career and at the same time learn and improve your animation skill while working. Here is how you can prioritize your animation progression:


A. Internship level, should at least demonstrate the following skills:

1. Basic Animation Quality,

a. Easing,
b. Follow through & overlapping motion
c. Squash and stretch
d. Anticipation

2. Basic software skill

Able to operate the animation software and create animation, achieving the basic animation quality.

3. Speed and efficiency,

Seriously, they don’t expect much speed as long as you do not create errors and trouble for them to clean up.

Producing quality animation is the most basic yet important aspect a company will look for in hiring an animator. They need people who are able to meet the basic needs of the company by creating animation so they can complete their project requirement.


It is always good to find a company who is willing to guide you and at the same time pay you. However, bear in mind that having someone to train you to meet their daily operation is an expense, so do not take it for granted from the company. Do take an extra effort and be initiative to learn and try new things. Employers love people who take initiative to contribute more, but make sure you still accomplish your basic tasks.


There is not much creativity contribution at this stage. The employer have yet to assess your capability on handling basic task. Nevertheless when opportunity comes, do try to suggest relevant ideas to see how well people respond to your creativity.


B. Animator entry level, should possess internship level and the following:

1. High Animation Quality,

Able to apply almost all principal of animation at the right situation.

2. Advance software skill

Able to operate the animation software with ease and create animation, achieving high animation quality.

3. Speed and efficiency,

Learn to communicate clearly and understand the project’s scope as much as possible.

By now, you should have a demoreel that showcase high animation quality with believable and high entertaining value. Again, quality is always the critical key to getting the job, even if you spend many months to create it. Employers need people who have at least achieve good quality animation and able to distinguish what is a good and bad animation. They need animators who can make good judgement.


Advance software skills enables you to create quality animation with ease. If you are doing 2D and 3D animation, you should try to avoid “frame by frame” animation as much as possible unless it is the project’s requirement. This is because when changes arises, the amendment speed is crucial. If you are not able to make use of technology, you are putting yourself at risk of re-doing your animation shot, which can be painful, demoralizing and stressful.


Communication plays an important role in your production efficiency. Drawing and descriptive writing can be subjective and ambiguous to different people. Many times animators re-do their animation not because their animation is bad, but because they interpreted the storyboard wrongly. This is why we have to take the initiative to make drafts or animatics to make sure we are taking the initial step in the correct direction. Once mutual understanding is establish using drafts, chances of creating error is low and more time can be spend on other shots.


C. Veteran Animator level, should possess entry level and the following.

3. Speed and efficiency

Good communication with team mates and sometimes you share animation tips to help other team mates.

4. Creativity

You demonstrate your own style of animation that goes inline with the storyboard and value-add to your given task.


Employers appreciate good teamwork because when the team works with the same frequency they produce high quality work and this boost their morale and motivation. Sharing and communicating well with the teammates often helps you in covering certain blind spots. There are times where everyone’s work is interlinked. If you had known a process that is required down the pipeline, you could have included that while animating, saving you the trouble to re-visit your animation again.


Inputting some creativity and good personalized acting skill could highly value add to the story or animation shot. This could greatly boost your work quality and making you outstanding. However, do provide some creativity mock up or seek for approval before injecting additional creative elements in the production. Sometimes the story might just need that animation to be plain because that’s just how the story is planned.


To conclude..

So are other skills are not as important during internship? This is not true. They are still as equally important to an animator but it takes time and experience for you to be good at it. If you have the time and savings to stay jobless for a while (can be a month to a year or more), you should improve your animation skills until you master them all. Unfortunately not everyone is in the ideal environment when reality struck. When that happens, you can actually start to contribute to a studio company and earn a salary to keep yourself alive and learn while you are working.
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