Nowadays, 3D animation is seen in everything from television to movies to video games. The use of computer-generated images has made it possible for artist and filmmakers to create settings and characters for their work that would have been impossible before the advent of computer-generated imaging (CGI). Many specializations exist within the 3D world, such as riggers, models, and lighting specialists. But one of the most valuable skill sets to have is character animation. Character animators ensure that the movements of the figures in the scene are as smooth and realistic as possible. Acquiring these skills can land you an extremely interesting and profitable position.
1. Sign up for online sites that specialize in 3D graphics and animation, such as Renderosity or 3D Resources (see Resources). These sites often have articles, tutorials, and forums where you can learn the basics of 3D animation. Other site members are usually happy to answer any questions you might have.
2. Buy books on the subject (see Resources). Although you can learn a great deal about this subject online, there is no substitute for a solid manual explaining the process step by step. Many of these books come with CDs or DVDs containing more useful information. Some even have demo versions of animation programs included on the disk.
3. Download demo versions of any programs that might be useful, such as the Maya PLE or the Vue Infinite PLE. Download Daz3d’s Daz Studio. Daz Studio allows you to work directly with premade figures so you can learn the basics of figure posing, keyframing, and tweening (a process by which the program fills in the blank frames for you). The best part is that it is freeware.
4. Practice with the demos using some of the tutorials you have found in step 1. Render out practice animation. When you are ready, create a portfolio of your work and burn it to disk.
5. Send your portfolio to an academic program with degrees or certificates in this area (see Resources). If you are accepted, take as many courses as you can in character animation. You should also take some courses in the other areas of CGI animation, such as rigging or modeling, to better understand the problems or requests of the people with whom you will work.