An animation modeler creates the CG character, environment, and hard surface models of an animated feature in three dimensions. They work closely with art directors to be sure that all models conform to the intended design and visual style of the animated film.
Animation modelers are essentially computer graphics sculptors. They usually work under the lead animation modeler and are responsible for the creation of everything that is shown on the screen of an animated feature: environments, props, sets, and any hard surface models, according to the needs of the production. (Sometimes they work on characters as well, but many shows hire specific character modelers. If they work on characters, animation modelers attempt to build characters that show personality and mood.) The animation modeler determines whether certain design elements are feasible or practical for the film, and provide solutions that adhere to the director’s vision. A wireframe representation of each 3-D object is created using software like Maya and 3ds Max. “Patch modeling” is used most often to produce curved objects like furniture, cars, or buildings. “Box modeling” is best for developing characters and models based on living things. “Poly modeling” is the most time-consuming method for creating 3-D objects on screen; however, it is also the best and most lifelike.
Skills & Education
Above all, an animation modeler requires a strong artistic ability and a high level of creativity. They must be able to communicate effectively with other members of the production team and pay attention to detail. A solid understanding of anatomy, proportion, and mechanical functionality is a must. Preference is usually given to those with a bachelor’s or equivalent degree in computer graphics, industrial design, fine arts, or a similar field, but a strong portfolio is the most important factor in hiring an animation modeler. Experience in 3-D CG for film digital animation or visual effects is usually desired. Employers especially look favorably upon those with expertise in organic, hard surface, and procedural modeling. Animation modelers must be comfortable with computers, obviously, and willing and able to learn new programs and software as needed. Proficiency with 3-D animation software such as Maya is usually a requirement to become an animation modeler. Also, learning Linux/UNIX platforms will greatly enhance your marketability.
What to Expect
Animation modelers are chosen based on the quality of their portfolios and the extent of their knowledge about 3-D animation. Once hired, you will probably work under the supervision of a lead animation modeler: Pay attention to his or her feedback and learn. You may get to attend dailies, where the production team reviews the progress of your work; and you may spend a large amount of time making the requested changes to your models. This can sometimes be frustrating, since it requires you to undo work that you have spent quite a bit of time on, but suck it up—it’s valuable training. Because animation modelers work on strict deadlines, you will probably work long hours in front of a computer in order to meet the requirements of the pipeline; just hope you get paid overtime.
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