An animator produces multiple images called frames, which when sequenced together rapidly create an illusion of movement known as animation. The images can be made up of digital or hand-drawn pictures, models or puppets. Animators tend to work in 2D animation, 3D model-making animation, stop frame or computer-generated animation.

Computer-generated animation features strongly in motion pictures (to create special effects or an animated film in its own right), as well as in aspects of television work, the internet and the computer games industry. The basic skill of animation still relies heavily on the animator’s artistic ability, but there is an increasing need for familiarity with technical computer packages.

Producing animation involves a number of stages including generating ideas, building models and rigging lighting. Computer animation uses software known as CGI (computer-generated imagery). Tasks typically involve:

liaising with clients and developing animation from their concepts;
creating storyboards that depict the script and narrative;
drawing in 2D to create sketches, artwork or illustrations;
designing models, backgrounds, sets, characters, objects and the animation environment;
using a range of materials, including modeling clay, plaster, oil paints, watercolors and acrylics;
developing the timing and pace of the movements of a character or object during the sequence of images (called the animatic) and ensuring they follow the soundtrack and audio requirements;
using technical software packages, such as Flash, 3d studio max, Maya, Lightwave, Softimage and Cinema 4D;
building up accurate, detailed frame-by-frame visuals;
recording dialogue and working with editors to composite the various layers of animation (backgrounds, special effects, characters and graphics) in order to produce the finished piece;
working to production deadlines and meeting clients’ commercial requirements;
team working as part of a broader production network, which might include liaising with printers, copywriters, photographers, designers, account executives, website designers or marketing specialists;
dealing with diverse business cultures, delivering presentations and finding funding.

Much of the work involves pitching and being proactive in selling your ideas and work to prospective customers and clients. This applies across the board, whether you are self-employed, working freelance or employed within a business.