From full 3D production applications like Blender to animation-specific tools like iClone, more casual computer users are becoming animators and/or modelers. These tools take a lot of the hard, tedious work out of 3D opening it up to a larger userbase. Every month more people download the software and start on their 3D journey.
If you have no idea what it takes to be an animator, then don’t worry. With enough time, effort, and patience you can become an animator. Whether you become a great animator is another story altogether.
When you have no basis to understand the information you read on 3D websites or forums then it’s almost impossible to make an informed decision without misunderstandings. Marketing will tell you how easy their software is to use and while this is technically true, what the newbie sometimes misses is the fact that this means it is easier to do now than it used to be. Doesn’t mean that it is “easy” by some definitions.
To get to the point, there is no “Easy Button” for quality animation. While many applications are automating parts of animating like point and click to move a character or prop, this doesn’t mean that it will do so smoothly or without some sliding issues. While these areas are greatly improved by yesterday’s standards and will improve with some new releases coming soon, that is as simple as it will get for now.
If you want great animation, that is smooth, like Pixar, then for most productive applications, you have to learn curves and become proficient with a curve editor. Modern software is making this easier, but it is still not “easy” and requires some intermediate to advanced knowledge with transitions, physics, and proper timing.
Back to the prior example, it is easy to walk a person down a path but, it is not easy at all to make that walk look natural, turn natural, pause, or stop naturally. There are still a lot of nuances that go into making a good animation no matter how advanced the software is, at least at this stage.
If you are stringing premade motions together you still have to work out smooth transitions between motions with no jumping around (clip alignment). This is another area that is improving and will improve more in future releases that are under development now but in the meantime… you are stuck with some manual keyframing to sort things out.
What is keyframing? Simply put it’s a way to store pose changes, movement, and other animations. If you want a ball to roll across half the screen, you will save a keyframe at the first and last positions on the timeline corresponding with the beginning and ending positions of the ball. Then you need to set a transition from one keyframe to the other like linear, smooth, ease in, or ease out.
While this may change in the future, right now it is pretty much a standard workflow for many3D animation applications.
No easy button yet.
Don’t be discouraged though, you can animate something within hours of downloading the software of your choice, but DreamWorks won’t be calling you up after your first release. Some people look to animation to be a way out of a bad economic situation, and it can provide income if your skills are good enough to market like selling props and characters in the various marketplaces.
Animation can be a great hobby, particularly if you are creative or good at storytelling and this could lead to income opportunities, but you need to temper those expectations with reality. This can be fun, earning income, or both but it takes experience to produce quality animation and assets that people will want to view or buy.
M.D. McCallum, aka WarLord, is an international award-winning commercial graphics artist, 3D animator, published author, project director, and webmaster with a freelance career that spans over 20 years. Now retired, M.D. is currently working part-time on writing and select character development projects. You can learn more about MD on his website.