With clients like Apple, Marvel & McDonalds, Epic Digital knows a thing or two about how creating a successful business in the animation world. Learn the necessary skills to become a successful animator, tips to break though the industry & more.
Q: What are a few necessary skills to succeed as an animator? Any software programs an animator-to-be would have to know before even jumping into the field?
A: I can tell you we definitely still utilize Flash. Flash has become a lot better in exporting components for usage in media that needs to be mobile compliant through HTML5, using other components in Adobe’s catalogue.
After Effects is another REALLY important tool for new students to get comfortable with. Its incredibly important for projects that do not require full frame-by-frame animation, and is also a swiss pocket knife for things like particle effects, title animation, motion graphics, or sequencing audio/video pulldowns. Even on the Flash projects, we end up utilizing a lot of AE in order to fill in spots or things that we need.
And frankly, the last bit is 3D. I stayed away from 3D for the longest time, because I didn’t want us to look like traditional 3D (on specific projects), but these days you really can do a lot in Maya or 3DS Max, utilizing 2D elements exported from elsewhere. You’d be surprised how many major network animated TV shows that look 2D are actually animated in 3D, but with “2D looking” models and rigs.
For me, the biggest thing we always look for from recent graduates or new people in the industry is an attention to detail and quality control. That is super important, and unfortunately it is increasingly rare in the industry with new people.
And of course a desire to work hard.
Q: How were you able to work with companies like Apple, McDonald’s, NBC/Universal and Disney? What was your role in these projects, and for what campaigns?
A: Epic Digital has played a lot of different roles with those companies that spawn off of animation. Whether its mobile applications that require a heavy amount of animated components and design, or animated digital textbooks, or Augmented Reality animations that play on mobile devices when reading a book. Its all over the place. Animated media in 2014 is less about the animated insurance commercial, or even large animated TV contracts (though those are there), and instead now about being competent in those realms in addition to how animation is used in new media.
For Marvel for example, we did animated media that played on mobile devices as part of their AR initiative, where consumers could scan pages of comics right on the new release wall, and see animated trailers or additional content. Kind of like “DVD extras”, but also a handy marketing tool.
For Apple and their partners, we helped create a lot of animation that was used in digital textbooks. A lot of it.
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Q: What are three main tips you have to offer professionals trying to break into the animation realm?
A: Really, it depends on their entry level. There are animators who work for like 3 years on animated TV shows or movies, as a contractor, and then when that's up they still have to utilize those good credentials to get their next big gig. And as always, the simple “employer/employee” stuff really does factor in. Are they pleasant to work with? Are they on time? Do they create HR problems? Are they the kind of individual that understands the arduous process of production deadlines? These are all super important.
At the same time, we also deal with animators who are either recent graduates with great portfolios, or maybe have just some off of an internship with a major TV/Film project. In those situations, its almost best to treat it like networking in the entertainment industry to begin with. Meet people. Don’t get too crazy. Be professional. Make sure your work is all good, pleasant, and ready to go.
The key at that crucial part of your career is have faith that you will find a good place, and work hard. Because luck is where opportunity and being prepared meet.
Q: What is something about being an animator that most people might not know?
A: It bears more of a resemblance to production than anything else. That’s probably not a huge surprise. But the people I enjoy working with most understand that animation is now being used in a lot of different ways, and so a lot of the same positions as “video production” exist. You have to still be able to export media in a way that an AVID editor can utilize without a headache. Leave tails so they can edit it like they were editing a live action movie. All of that.
We always handle animation the same way I would handle making a live action commercial or something similar. However, there is weird flexibility in some stages of the production process, and then a lack of flexibility in others. For example, just like in live action you want to nail your script, spend time on the storyboards, do an animatic. Spend a lot of time on “pre-viz.” However, unlike live action, you do not want to use up animators COUNTLESS hours animating lips and stuff when someone decides “Hey lets Judd Apatow this and improv a new line.” You don’t want to do that at the animation stage. You want all of that improvisation and flexibility done at the pre-viz level.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about the Epic Digital team and company?
A: We’re about 45 strong right now. We have divisions to work on large projects for TV and Film, and do a lot of great work there, and more is on the way. But at the same time, we also do a lot of “commercial” or “marketing tool” projects for other clients who are outside the normal realm of animation.
We’re currently fundraising for a really big project. If people are interested in more information, we have an email setup for those inquiries temporarily at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the biggest things for us in 2014 is emerging into a realm of utilizing some of our artist’s great intellectual properties for creative project releases. I’m greatly interested in transmedia, releasing projects simultaneously through really collaborative means in animation, publishing, mobile apps, etc. And we’ve got some exciting projects coming out direct to consumers in 2014. We’ve done some preliminary testing in these arenas throughout the years (mostly just to test the market and see if we’re nuts for trying to attempt it), and its been a big success. So I’m excited for our first OFFICIAL releases that put us right in touch with the consumer.
Learn more at: Epic Digital
Content and Images courtesy of Epic Digital.