3D animation is becoming part of many industries.
With continuing advances in computing technology, three-dimensional animation has branched out into a variety of different fields, such as gaming, cinema, engineering, advertising and education. To meet this demand, various companies are continually creating 3D animation programs of various levels of complexity, and secondary education institutions offer courses of study specific to this area of expertise.
3D computer animation first became popularized in the 1980s with music videos such as “Money for Nothing” by Dire Straits and movies such as “Tron” and “The Last Starfighter.” Since then, the demand for 3D animators has grown, as 3D animation has gone from being a niche market icon to the very foundation of numerous industries.
The first feature 3D animation film was Disney’s “Toy Story.” Following its huge success, a number of other companies such as Dreamworks and Square Pictures have released a significant number of successful 3D animated features, and countless feature-length movies and television shows have used 3D animation to illustrate sequences that would otherwise be very difficult to put into film. In addition to film and television, 3D animation has become a staple of the gaming industry ever since the onset of 32-bit gaming systems. Aside from pop culture and entertainment, professional industries such as aerospace, mechanical engineering, and architecture have come to rely heavily on 3D animation and animators for design and simulation purposes.
Most of the basic skills needed for 3D animators who work for the entertainment industry and 3D animators who work for other industries are still largely the same; “3D animation” has come to be generally synonymous to “game design.” Since the more prestigious universities tend to focus more on game design, it is generally smarter for an aspiring 3D animator to go to one of the top-ranked game design programs over anything else. According to the Princeton Review, the most prestigious of these is the program offered through the Interactive Media Division at the University of Southern California.
A full range of 3D animation software programs are in the mainstream, vying for users at various skill levels. Some focus on the actual animation of people, animals, machines and other moving figures, while others focus more on 3D illustration of landscapes and terrains.
As demand for 3D animators is still very high, a 3D animator who has graduated from a reputable program can count on making from $40,000 to $60,000 a year for a company that is serious about 3D animation. If an animator is involved in a project that turns out to be hugely successful, he or she can quickly start making six figures per year.