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Character Animator

What does a character animator do?

A character animator specializes in bringing 3D characters to life by adding nuance and personality through their movements, gestures, facial expressions, and interactions with their environment and other characters.

An animator creates movements and trajectories, which are then translated into mathematical equations and fed into software for rendering. The final animation is produced by a graphics processing unit and presented as a 'playblast' for review and approval by supervisors, directors, and clients.

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Character animator job description

A character animator's role is to produce believable, engaging, and relatable animations — taking rigged 3D characters and instilling ‘humanity’ through expression, pose, body language, etc to evoke empathy in the audience or player. These can be humans, animals, machines (Cars), robots (WALL-E), insects (Bug’s Life), etc.

This role requires a strong understanding of acting and human and animal anatomy to create believable, empathetic characters. Character animators often also use motion capture, or act out the scenes themselves to the camera, to replicate human movement. Character animators can work on films, TV shows, advertising, and video games.

Role & responsibilities of a character animator in film and games:

  • 'Breathing life' into 3D rigged character models

  • Researching visual style, genre, and technologies to produce each project

  • Applying motion capture to enhance performances

  • Identifying key scenes and sequences

  • Transforming storyboards into animated sequences

  • Managing files, animation libraries, and updating procedures documentation

  • Integrating sound and syncing dialogue

Skills required to become a character animator

This role is highly specialized and not usually an entry-level animation job. Consider taking an animation course to learn the skills you need to get started as a 3D animator, then narrow your focus once you've built up some experience and high-quality character animation work to show potential employers.

Film and game studios may look for the following skills in character animators:

  • Ability to visualize 3D iterations of two-dimensional storyboards and artwork

  • Great instinct for timing, movement, and editing cuts

  • Highly experienced working with 3D models and rigs (provided by 3d modelers and riggers, respectively)

  • Understanding of acting techniques, cinematography, and visual storytelling

  • Understanding of anatomy, how limbs move, the effect of weight, and the behavior of skin and flesh

  • Knowledge of film and animation genres, and ability to work within these styles

  • Advanced concept of visual language - perspective, point of view, proportion, color, composition, framing, etc.

  • Working knowledge of the laws of physics - gravity, acceleration, and the laws of energy

What software and tools do character animators use?

Character animators work with computer software. Some film and game studios work with their own customized software, so animators must be fast learners.

Character animators may need knowledge of a combination of the following software:

  • Maya

  • Unreal Engine

  • Substance Designer/Painter

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