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What does an Animator do?

Animators bring drawings or computer generated characters to life on screen. They produce multiple images called frames, which when sequenced together 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.

An animator’s tasks typically involve:

  • liaising with clients
  • creating ideas, planning the project and finding funding
  • creating storyboards that depict the script and narrative
  • using computer or stop-frame animation to create movement and personality
  • drawing in 2D to create sketches, artwork or illustrations
  • designing models, backgrounds, sets, characters, objects and the animation environment
  • recording dialogue and working with editors to composite the various layers of animation
  • adding the soundtrack and producing the finished piece
  • working to production deadlines and meeting clients’ commercial requirements
  • working as part of a broader production team.



What qualifications do I need?

Some animators are self-taught, but many start by taking an animation or art-related course to develop their skills. It’s useful to have a good mix of creative and technical skills in animation. You could also start in the industry with qualifications in other relevant subjects such as: illustration, graphic design, computer programming, model making or sculpture, 3D design, maths or physics, and multimedia design. The majority of the learning is gained through doing in-service training with a professional animator.

What subjects do I need?

Contact each institution for their specific requirements, but these subjects are recommended: 
• Visual Arts


Where can I study?

False Bay TVET College
National Certificate: 2D Animation NQF L5

National Electronic Media Institute of South Africa (NEMISA)
Animation Programme

SAE Institute
Higher Certificate: Animation and Visual Effects

Prestige Academy
Diploma: 3D Design and Digital Animation

Boston Media House

University of the Witwatersrand
Bachelor of Engineering Science: Digital Art; Bachelor of Arts: Performing and Visual Arts (Game Design)

Where can I get more info?

Artslink – www.artslink.co.za
Animation South Africa – www.animationsa.org
National Film and Video Foundation – www.nfvf.co.za


Interview with an Animator

Sarah-Jane Williams | VISUAL SUPERVISOR | Triggerfish Animation Studios

Sarah-Jane Williams | VISUAL SUPERVISOR | Triggerfish Animation Studios

Why did you choose this profession?
I chose animation after being inspired by watching Disney classics as a child.

Animation is an unusual career. What is it that you actually do?
A visual supervisor is the middleman between a director and the 3D artists. I’m responsible for maintaining the overall look of the animated film and ensuring all work from artists is of the best standard, to keep the directors happy.

What training did you undergo and where?
I did a 3D Animation course (three years) at The Animation School in Woodstock, Cape Town.

Describe a typical day on the job
Mornings are spent reviewing artists’ work internally, ensuring that the quality is good and all the director’s notes have been addressed. Reviews with the directors then take place in the afternoon. In between this, I prompt the look of the film by interpreting the look of assets through visual boards and other references in order to guide the artists creatively.

What do you enjoy most about your work?
Being surrounded by such creative and talented artists means that I find every day inspiring.

What don’t you like?
Stressful deadlines sometimes mean working long hours.

What hurdles have you had to overcome?
Much of film-based work is contract based/short term, which makes long-term planning a little tricky. I find the work/life balance is also a challenge when you’re a creative.

What’s been the highlight of your career to date?
Sitting in a cinema watching people enjoying a film that I have worked on.

In your line of work, is experience as important as formal training?
Formal training is great for getting a solid foundation, but 95% of my learning was done within the working environment.

Is there a type of personality best suited to this work, or certain traits one should have (or not have)?
Having an ego as an artist is the quickest way to ruin teamwork. Show interest in those you work with, as it makes working together as a team more effective. Be open-minded to continual learning and critique, as these will help you grow as an artist.

What advice would you give to someone starting out in your career?
Research. Having realistic expectations about the career, and the nature of the industry is important. Be humble and absorb all you can from those around you.

Describe your job in three words
Fun, creative and rewarding.