Just as the art director ensures quality and a consistent aesthetic through the delivery of all art assets, the animation director is tasked with overseeing the staff of animators who work in video game development.
Among the animation director’s chief responsibilities: quality production of animation, timely delivery of assets, and attentive monitoring of technical and logistical concerns. At the onset of a game’s production, the animation director assigns or casts a member of the animation staff to a particular character; this person will hand-key the movements of a character through stages of gameplay and/or cut scenes with attention to emotion, fluidity of motion, and realistic gestures. With the necessary characters assigned, the director continuously reviews the work created by the staff and offers critiques. He or she establishes the budget for animation production and advises on technical concerns like storage capacity, rendering time, and porting of assets through the pipeline. The animation director sets forth the workflow for the department, and ensures effective communication between animators, programmers, level designers, and the creative director.
In addition to this person’s creative and technical responsibilities, the animation director is also charged with interviewing and hiring animation staff, advising on the implementation of new third-party or proprietary software, and communicating with other senior staff on the progress of the animation department in meeting deadlines. Depending on the studio, he or she may contribute very little actual animation, but rather serve as a supervisor guiding the work of others. Nevertheless, the director is expected to be a master of his or her craft, with several years of experience in game development or animation for film and television.
Skills & Education
A bachelor’s degree in computer animation, game art, or a related field is highly recommended, as the number of college-educated candidates vying for a coveted animation job increases every year. An animation director must have a post-secondary education or equivalent professional experience, with the addition of at least five years of employment in a lead or senior role. Coursework in fine art is a necessary component of a formal education to develop inherent talent and understanding of traditional art techniques; classes in anatomy are especially useful in animating humanoid characters or fantasy creatures. Additional experience in computer modeling, character rigging and programming is also helpful.
What to Expect
The role of the animation director is the most senior position in the animation department, and as such is ultimately responsible for the quality of animation in the game and the on-time delivery of assets. Therefore, you must be equipped to critically review the work of your staff, offer constructive advice, and identify strengths and weaknesses among staff. The animation director must also be especially comfortable managing a budget, allocating work, and identifying areas where innovation can improve productivity. Understanding of the production process within a video game studio is achieved through several years of employment experience. You should aim to start your career in the art department as a junior animator, character artist, lighting/shading artist, or another related position.
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