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Jobs in 3D Computer Animation

3D Computer Animation, or CGI, takes place in a variety of different contexts. Therefore it is important to remember that different companies will have different interpretations of what a job role entails.

Some jobs will exist in one studio but not in others. For example whilst a Storyboard Artist is a very key role within feature production, the same job rarely occurs within a Facility House as storyboards will be provided by the client.

UK Facility Houses tend to call all roles TDs (Technical Directors) rather than the title of the specific job. This means there are TDs in all specialities with varying levels of skills.

When considering a career in Computer Graphics it is a good idea to think about whether you see yourself more as a creative or a technical person. Many jobs will require both attributes but most favour one or the other. Some will be almost entirely creative but others are exclusively technical and may require knowledge of Maths or Physics.

The Development stage broadly involves the conceiving and identifying of ideas and designing initial concepts. Pitching the product and securing funding and intellectual property rights are also important at this stage.

The Development stage very much requires a strong understanding of the target market and any commercial constraints, opportunities and competition it presents.

Jobs in Development:

Director Producer

Pre Production
In broad generalised terms, the Pre Production stage involves fleshing out the idea to make it ready for production, typically involving writing the script, drawing the storyboard, designing character turnarounds, designing layouts/backgrounds and creating an animatic. For post-production companies much of this work will be undertaken by the client.

Jobs in Pre-Production:

Production DesignerLayout TD (several levels)
Art DirectorLayout Supervisor
Concept Artist * (often 2D)Layout Artists (Rough and Final) *
Character Designer (often 2D)
Environments DesignerStoryboard Supervisor
Effects DesignerStoryboard Artist
.Storyboard Assistant *
Head of Tools (R & D)Pre-Vis Artists (3D) *
Tools Writer
R & D Artist/Look Dev Artist

In CGI the production stage involves building, rigging and texturing models, animating characters, and setting up and lighting scenes. Rendering is also undertaken to output the animation sequences ready for compositing and editing.

Many of these activities can be undertaken either by manually manipulating objects on the computer screen or by using software-scripting languages to automate the process, and frequently involve combinations of both approaches.

In fact animators represent a fairly small proportion of the crew, many fewer than in 2D. It is significant that CG is often more sequence led than character led. Each animator can be asked to animate all the characters within a shot; whereas in 2D, a lead animator may handle a character throughout a project. This practice can vary from project to project.

Jobs in Production

Assistant DirectorEffects (FX)Supervisor
Visual Effects (VFX) SupervisorEffects (FX) Artist/FX Animator
Director of PhotographyEffects (FX) TD (several levels)
CG SupervisorCloth Simulation FX Artist
Fur/Feathers FX Artist
Modelling SupervisorWater FX Artist
Modelling TD
Modeller3D Tracker/Match Mover *
Shading/Texture SupervisorDigital Painter
Shading TDMatte Painter *
Shader Writer
Texture Artist/Texture PainterLighting Supervisor
Lighting TD / CG Lighter (several levels)
Rigging Supevisor
Rigging TDFixing TD
Character TDRendering Supervisor
Rendering TD
Shot TD (Facility Houses)Renderer
Render Wrangler *
Set Dressers
Runner *
Animation Director
Lead Animator (Supervising Animator)Systems Administrator
AnimatorIT Support *
Character Animator
Junior AnimatorProduction Secretary
Production Assistant

Post Production

Post Production involves collating assets e.g. filmed footage, digital animation sequences and special effects into the finished film. It includes editing, scoring the music, quality checking and outputting the final product into the required formats.

Some animation companies focus exclusively on post production and deliver special effects for film, TV and commercials.

Jobs in Post Production

Compositing SupervisorEditor
CompositorEditing Assistant
Roto Artist *
Scanning TD
Scanner/Recorder *
Wire Remover*

* entry level with appropriate qualifications

Suggested Reading

Planning a career in animation? You may find some of the books listed here useful.

Read More

Animation Glossary

NCCA -T Edwards image

This is a short selection of words and phrases commonly used in UK Animation.

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