What does a Movie Animator do?

An animated feature film’s artwork is created a movie animator. This work can be done in two-dimensional (2D) or three-dimensional (3D) animation, and the style chosen will have a significant impact on the type of work an animator does. While some animation principles remain the same, movie animators for 2D projects will do very different work than animators for 3D projects, and will often require very different skill sets.

Ink and paint were traditionally used to create images on clear pieces of thin plastic for 2D animation. Individual images, known as cels, were then put together to create images using persistence of vision. Modern 2D animation is almost always created on a computer, but the process is essentially the same. Regardless of whether he or she is working on 2D animation or 3D animation, a movie animator in today’s animation industry will almost always use computers to create the artwork.

Today’s 2D animation is typically created on a computer, but it is still done one cel at a time. These individual images are then combined into a moving image playing them one after the other. When working on a 2D project, a movie animator will usually create an entire scene and hundreds or thousands of frames of animation to be played together. While some animators specialize in background animation and others in character animation, the movement of a character in a single scene is usually created a single animator. For major projects, the animator may only create key frames and delegate the rest of the motion to someone else, but the animator will still be responsible for the majority of the motion.

In 3D animation, however, multiple animators will frequently collaborate to create a single scene. Because scenes in 3D animated works are more complex, a single movie animator will likely concentrate on a single aspect of the scene. One animator may work on the large motions of a character or characters, while another adds smaller details such as facial expressions and mouth movements for dialog. Another movie animator might work on background details, such as an object swaying in the wind or moving in response to the characters’ interactions with it.

The final 3D animated scene is the result of all of this work. Because computer animation allows for the creation of incredibly detailed 3D objects, animators must often consider and include numerous minor details to keep the scene looking realistic. Though this has changed how animators collaborate, it has remained a collaborative effort involving hundreds of hours of work from many animators.