In order to understand what skills and training you need to become a 3D animator, you may first need to understand what 3D animation is. The difference between 2D and 3D animation is that 3D gives that extra dimension; it is that which gives characters their ‘reality’, their hair blowing in the wind or the ripple on the water for instance. If 2D offers a two dimensional view of an object, then 3D animation allows a view from every side. 3D animation incorporates digital modelling of each character, and the steps taken to achieve this starts with sketching, modelling, building scenes, adding texture, lighting and camera angles, all computed and simulated with the aid of precise mathematical functions.

There is a lot to be said for formal training in 3D animation. Not imperative, but very valuable. Firstly, you need to have drawing skills. 3D Animators spend their lives sketching; therefore drawing and artistic skills are imperative and will be honed and improved with the help of training. You need to have more than just a working knowledge of computers. 3D animators cannot do their jobs without the aid of computers, and because the packages used are often advanced, computer skills are also imperative. Of course, once again, formal training will help, but without an aptitude, you may find this side of the training difficult.

Studying 3D animation usually takes between 2 -3 years for a degree or diploma. Certificates may cut down on your training, but if you want to get the best training you can possibly get, it is advisable to go the distance. Training in 3D animation will also encompass 2D training as well as a lot of drawing, but will also cover the commercial applications of 3D animation. Animation practices are also taught along with techniques, 3D programming, 3D graphics, video and effects. These are considered basic training – and you need to master them.

Classes will most likely also include such things as the principle of designing, art history, lighting and sound effects, generating and combining images, designing games, mastering Desktop Applications such as PhotoShop, video effects and perhaps even kinematics. The more you know about the various specialisations the better you will be able to choose which route you want to pursue in your career.

So, apart from having and understanding the fundamentals of art and being able to draw, 3D animators need to learn how to direct software and instruct it to do the work for them – all a computer can do is express and showcase your ideas, artistic abilities and creativity. Remember though that your skills do not end with your computer. You will need people skills too. You need to not only get on with teams of people but also be able to contribute to the team with suggestions and ideas.

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