NYFA Congratulates the 2017 Annie Award Winners

In the midst of awards season buzz and entertainment industry busyness, the animated entertainment industry gets a chance to shine every year during the Annie Awards. More than 30 categories of animated television and film entertainment grace the nominations ballot, begging to take home a coveted award.

The year, Disney’s “Zootopia” swept the 44th Annie Awards by taking home six trophies, including Best Animated Feature. Disney had secured 11 bids before heading into Saturday’s ceremony at UCLA’s Royce Hall in Los Angeles. NYFA was honored to welcome “Zootopia” animator Darrin Butters as a guest speaker last year. In addition to winning Best Animated Feature, “Zootopia” took home Best Directing, Best Writing, Best Character Design, Best Storyboarding. Jason Bateman tied with “Moana” star Auli’i Cravalho for Best Voice Acting. “Moana” had been presented to NYFA students in a special sneak-peek guest speaker event with Disney animator Eric Goldberg.     

While “Zootopia” scored the most nominations and secured six awards, “Kubo and the Two Strings,” came in second with 10 nominations, but only took home three awards. Disney’s “Finding Dory” and “Kung Fu Panda 3” were nominated, but the sequels didn’t take home any awards.

Here’s the complete list of 2017 Annie Awards winners:

  • Best Animated Feature: “Zootopia”
  • Best Animated Special Production: “Pear Cider and Cigarettes”
  • Best Animated Short Subject: “Piper”
  • Best Animated Television/Broadcast Commercial: “Loteria ‘Night Shift’”
  • Best General Audience Animated Television/Broadcast Production: “Bob’s Burgers”
  • Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production for Preschool Children: “Tumble Leaf, ”episode: “Mighty Mud Movers / Having a Ball”
  • Best Animated Television/Broadcast Production for Children: “Adventure Time,” episode: “Bad Jubies”
  • Best Animated Feature-Independent: “The Red Turtle”
  • Best Student Film: “Citipati”
  • Animated Effects in an Animated Feature Production: “Moana


  • Animated Effects in a Live Action Production: “Doctor Strange,” Mirror Dimension
  • Character Animation in a Television/Broadcast Production: “Dreamworks Trollhunters,” episode: “Becoming, Part 1”
  • Character Animation in a Feature Production: “Kubo and the Two Strings”
  • Character Animation in a Live Action Production: “The Jungle Book”
  • Character Animation in a Video Game: “Uncharted 4: A Thief’s End”
  • Character Design in a TV/Broadcast Production: “Dreamworks Trollhunters,” episode: “Win, Lose or Draal”
  • Character Design in an Animated Feature Production: “Zootopia”
  • Directing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production: “Pearl”
  • Directing in an Animated Feature Production: “Zootopia”


  • Music in a TV/Broadcast Production: “Pearl”
  • Music in an Animated Feature Production: “The Little Prince”
  • Production Design in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production: “Pearl”
  • Production Design in an Animated Feature Production: “Kubo and the Two Strings”
  • Storyboarding in a TV/Broadcast Production: “DreamWorks Trollhunters,” episode: “Win, Lose or Draal”
  • Storyboarding in an Animated Feature Production: “Zootopia”
  • Voice Acting in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production: “The Mr. Peabody & Sherman Show,” episode: “Ponce de LeÛn”
  • Voice Acting in an Animated Feature Production (Tie): Auli’i Cravalho as Moana in “Moana” (Walt Disney Animation Studios) and Jason Bateman as Nick Wilde in “Zootopia”  
  • Writing in an Animated TV/Broadcast Production: “Bob’s Burgers,” episode: “The Hormone-iums”
  • Writing in an Animated Feature Production:“Zootopia”
  • Editorial in a TV/Broadcast Production: “Disney Mickey Mouse,” episode: “Sock Burglar”
  • Editorial in an Animated Feature Production: “Kubo and the Two Strings”

Did you get a chance to watch any of these animated television shows or films? What was your favorite? Let us know in the comments below!

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What Aspiring Artists Can Learn from The New Yorker Cartoons

In The New Yorker you’ll find fiction, poetry, reportage — you name it. But if there’s one thing we can’t imagine disappearing from one of the most popular and successful American magazines of all time, it’s the cartoons. Below are a few things every up-and-coming animator, designer, and visual artist can learn from the cartoons that have been making people laugh and think since 1925.

Find Your Voice


Of course, learning which style brings out the best of your skills and creativity is only part of becoming a professional visual artist. You also need to find a way to set yourself apart from the rest so that people see something fresh and satisfying in your work. This is by far one of the toughest things to accomplish, and many animators take several years and hundreds of drawings to do so.

Three New Yorker cartoonists who developed iconic voices are Roz Chast, Michael Maslin and Peter Arno. Despite providing countless popular cartoons for the famed magazine, one can tell the subtle yet particular differences between their cartoons. Finding your voice means allowing your own personality to reveal itself and unfold through your work, whether you are animating a film or creating graphics for a client.

Stay On Top of Current, Popular Trends

One of the biggest reasons New Yorker cartoons have remained popular for nearly a century is because they’re made for you and me. In other words, the artists hoping to get their cartoon published make sure their work relates to cultural trends and what’s going on today. They speak to the times, as well as the culture.

The lesson to learn here is that every aspiring animator should have an understanding of what companies and clients are looking for. If your portfolio is brimming with work that’s contemporary and speaks to the technology and trends of the moment, you’ll better demonstrate your ability to speak to a specific audience.

The Career Path Is Competitive


It’s no secret that getting your work accepted by the New Yorker is an accomplishment worthy of celebration. They receive thousands of cartoons each year from hundreds of artists looking to make a name for themselves, and yet, only a few will be published. And even cartoonists who do secure coveted space for their work in the prestigious magazine will likely tell you that their success was hard-won, and built upon a pile of rejection letters. The moral of the story: the visual arts are competitive, and you will need determination, patience, and openness to criticism as well as talent in order to succeed.

Even the most focused, adaptable, and talented illustrator will sooner or later face rejection. The key is to have persistence and thick skin, which means never allowing a failure to keep you from moving forward and plugging away to secure and create great work.

Try Different Styles

Whether you’re looking to work in comic books, fashion, design, visual effects, or film, the best thing any artist can do is equip themselves with different tools. Part of becoming a diverse, flexible animator is learning to try other techniques and approaches, even if it’s new territory. The worst that could happen is that you discover your strengths and weaknesses, which is valuable information to help you focus on strengthening your professional skills.

This is why you’ll find all sorts of styles while skimming through the best New Yorker cartoons. Bob Mankoff, one of the most famous cartoonists in America, had over 500 cartoons rejected before he found success with “Surely You Jest,” which was made with a pointillist style consisting of dots to create the images. Although this cartoon served as his first step toward making cartoons for a living, he didn’t stick to this style alone and went on to make countless others via different techniques.

What inspirations have you drawn from The New Yorker cartoons? Let us know in the comments below!

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How to Animate a Film for an Older Audience


Each year, animated films give viewers of all ages something to anticipate and enjoy. If you’re an aspiring animator, one of the most important skills to foster is the ability to create animation for any and all ages. If you’re particularly interested in producing content that speaks to adult viewers, consider the following strategies while planning your film:

Use Themes That Make the Audience Think



There’s nothing more powerful than a story that leaves you with both emotions and thoughts. Adults appreciate thought-provoking films because they offer a whole new level of engagement, discovery, and experience. Whether a story includes philosophical elements or asks questions about how technology may affect us one day, a thoughtful theme is a great hook to secure the attention of mature audiences.

A great example that includes both themes we just mentioned is “Ghost in the Shell.” This cult animated classic tells the story of a cyborg police officer named Motoko who struggles to keep order in a futuristic city. As a being with both organic and mechanical parts, the rise of a powerful hacker eventually causes her to question her own humanity and existence. And the film certainly appeals to its intended audience. When animating for mature audiences, choose themes that will allow your animation to evoke intriguing concepts or questions and engage your audience on many levels, both emotionally and intellectually.

Analyze Your Content and Storytelling


There are a lot of reasons why “South Park” has remained one of the most popular cartoons on television, from it’s quirky animation to its sly, timely humor. One important element of the success of “South Park” is its abundance of adult-oriented jokes. As an aspiring animator, know there is permission and precedent for creating animation specifically for mature audiences. Risque, controversial, and violent animation also has its place in the entertainment industry.

Of course, it takes more than mature content to make a successful animated film for an older audience. It also takes strong storytelling. For example, while Seth Rogen’s “Sausage Party” had all the mature language you could ask for, it was the storytelling that won the praise of critics and propelled the film to become the highest grossing R-rated animated movie of all time. If you choose the route of animating content that speaks particularly to an older audience, also remember to include excellent craftsmanship and thought-provoking themes in your animation.

Include Fun, Meaningful Stories


You don’t have to animate for older audiences alone — you can also choose the route of animating films that have broad appeal. Both Pixar and DreamWorks have proven that animated movies can simultaneously appeal to all ages. From “Up” and “WALL-E” to “How to Train Your Dragon” and “Kung Fu Panda,” there are plenty of animated movies that viewers of all ages can enjoy. And aspiring animators can learn a lot from tackling the challenge of crafting fun, meaningful stories for all ages.

“The Incredibles,” for example, looks like the perfect film for kids. It has heroes that appear ripped straight out of a comic book and boast amazing powers any kid might dream about having. But along with that you have a story that illustrates a strong message that family is more important than anything else, including fame and glory. This meaningful story has the potentially to appeal universally to all ages. Whether you make an animated film only for adults or for people of all ages, don’t forget that almost all humans love stories with meaning.

Do Something That’s Impossible to do Elsewhere


The power of animation is its ability to let us tell stories in a unique way that simply can’t be done in any other medium. For example, Dragonball Z has remained one of the most iconic animes of all time, and yet every attempt to recreate Toriyama’s world in live action has failed. Also think of all the best claymation and beloved anime films, which create visual worlds and characters so unique and specific that it’s hard to imagine them any other way. Animation offers unique possibilities.

And whether you’re animating for youngsters, mature viewers, or all ages, we hope these tips help you at the drawing board.

How do you prepare when creating animation for audiences of different ages? Let us know in the comments below!

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3 Disney Renaissance Lessons on Animation


The Disney Renaissance changed the way the world experiences animation. Of all the companies that need no introduction, Disney is perhaps at the top. Boasting one of the world’s greatest libraries of highly marketable intellectual property, Disney will no doubt continue as a household name for years to come. What can aspiring animators learn from this company’s continuing success?

There are many answers to that question, but today we’re focusing on lessons from the Disney Renaissance — a time period that led to the creation of some of the most iconic Disney films. From 1989 to 1999, Walt Disney Animation Studios was putting out hit after hit that to this day still serve as some of the best animated films of all time. In fact, many of them are receiving anticipated remakes, including a live-action version of “Beauty and the Beast.”

Below are three things both animators and the industry as a whole can learn from the team of animators responsible for the Disney Renaissance era:

1. Animation Is Competitive, and That’s a Good Thing


It’s easy now to look back and see how successful Disney was during this period. But before the studio began their creative resurgence, they found themselves in a tough spot. Disney struggled for a while; some of their films (like “The Black Cauldron”) failed while new rivals emerged. One of these rivals was Don Bluth Productions, which was founded by an ex-Disney animator who left with 17% of the animators working on “The Fox and the Hound” at the time.

Don Bluth’s team began producing successful films like “An American Tail,” “The Land Before Time,” and “All Dogs Go to Heaven.” This put pressure on Disney to compete at the box office. Many believe the intense competitiveness with Don Bluth Productions is one of the reasons Disney pushed hard to create memorable classics. Though Don Bluth Productions closed its doors in 1995, Disney clearly benefitted from the competition thanks to the work of individual animators who clearly wanted to prove they were the best in the industry.

2. Never Settle: Instead, Do Better


Of course, those animators we just mentioned wanted more than to simply “beat” the competition. They also strove to surpass their previous work, which is why so many films released during the Disney Renaissance period seemed to have just as much creativity and passion, if not more, than the last.

Imagine releasing “The Little Mermaid,” which earned a whopping $84 million during its initial release, and then being told to do it again — only better. The Walt Disney Animation Studios team did just that, releasing “Beauty and the Beast” two years later, only to follow that up with with “Aladdin.” The next six films of this era, which include “The Lion King” and “Mulan,” were also great box office hits. The lesson? No matter how well you do, try to do better next time.

No matter what field or industry, success can sometimes be a studio’s downfall. Pressure to repeat the same success can be devastating, but it can also push animators to new heights. As an aspiring animator, follow in the footsteps of the animators of the Disney Renaissance era and work to always do better than before, whether your last work was a success or failure.

3. Animate Because You Love It


Even though Walt Disney had passed on decades before the Disney Renaissance era, his influence is arguably one of the reasons Disney has continued to grow. In fact, many of his principles are still applied throughout every Disney branch more than 50 years later, including his motto: “Do what you love.”

Disney himself began as someone who enjoyed drawing in his spare time. When he decided he wanted to do what he loved for a living, he had to go through many random jobs — including working as ambulance driver for the army during World War I — just to fund his passion. With a desire to draw for a living as his focus, Disney pushed ahead until he had his own animation studio. His love for animation fed his perseverance.

We’re confident that the animators during the Disney Renaissance era felt the same way. Despite growing pressure to release success after success, they simply went on doing what they loved and didn’t hold back. Now, Disney is one of the largest and most successful companies in the world. Coincidence?

What great lessons have you learned from the Disney Renaissance? Let us know in the comments below!


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How to Do Comic-Con Without a Badge

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It’s only been a week since Comic-Con and if you couldn’t make it you’ve been poring over websites, blogs, and social media trying to absorb the copious amounts of information coming out of San Diego. But here’s the thing… for less than $500 dollars, and a three-hour road trip, you too could have attended the convention. Not just attended the convention, but made lasting connections.

Here’s how…

Comic Con Isn’t Just Hall – H

Look, Hall – H is the sexy part of San Diego Comic-Con. It’s where the Game of Thrones cast meets up every year to mourn the dead. Hall – H is where the first was announced and where we learned Tom Hiddleston was going to be Loki. Fans spend days in line for one of those coveted seats. But, there’s more to the convention than Hall – H.

There’s so much more to explore. If you’re lucky enough to get a badge there are a great number of panels, demonstrations, signings and screenings. It’s not just the big new it’s about the exhibits.

In 2016, just outside the convention center, there were two separate carnivals, a South Park photo staging center, NBC had an entire plaza announcing their new season of shows, Amazon had a giant tent highlighting The Man in the High Castle and other forthcoming shows, Warner Brothers hosted a Suicide Squad virtual reality seminar and Wonder Woman’s invisible jet for family photos. None of these exterior events required a badge and most were completely free to attend.

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Business is Flourishing

The convention center is only open from 10 AM to 7:30 PM. Once the doors are closed all those industry people have to go somewhere. This is your chance to mingle with the crème de la crème of producers, writers, actors, editors, and financiers looking for their next big project.

You can take advantage of this opportunity. Go to any hotel bar after doors close order a virgin drink, and listen intently. Wait until you hear about a latest project or passion and chime in. You’ll be surprised at how friendly and open attendees are. Everyone is here to promote so they’re eager to share their stories, advice, and experience.

Soon there will be an opportunity for you to talk about what you do and where you’re hoping to go. You might not get offered a job, but you’ll walk away with some new knowledge and a new contact. Make sure to email your contacts right away, thanking them for their time and let them know you intend to stay in touch. Anytime you have a project, a GoFundMe, or get a great job, let this person know. They’ll be rooting for you and when they’re ready to hire you’ll be the first person they think of.

Industry Parties are Everywhere

Every major entertainment news outlet, blog, publishing company and production company hosts a party at San Diego Comic-Con. Getting inside can be tricky but the experience trying to get in can be memorable. Usually, there are lines wrapped around the building. When you find one, hop in line and begin a conversation. Get to know those around you.

Once inside, take the opportunity to circle the room. Then find a place where you feel you’ll fit in. Make conversation. Pro tip: don’t talk about business. This is an opportunity for those hired by the company to blow off steam. The last thing they want to do is interview you for a position or explain why they like their company. Instead, talk about your passions. Ask them about their past convention experience. Or, just dance. Just being a cool human being can be the best kind of networking.

So, bring a lot of business cards, a positive attitude, and some samples of your work. Soon you’ll be hobnobbing with the best in the industry. Even if you don’t walk away with your dream job, you’ll have made memories and contacts that can last a life time.

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The 4 Most Epic VFX Moments That Owe It All to Green Screen Backgrounds

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The average person walks into their local theater and walks out mesmerized by the incredible visual effects. They talk with friends about how vivid a specific place looked or how lifelike a fictional creature appeared as it interacted with real actors. The legions of pleased moviegoers have shown us that although there’s still room for special effects in the industry, it’s thanks to CGI and green screen that we’ve experienced cinematic moments that are otherwise impossible to share.

But perhaps you’re different than most moviegoers. As an aspiring animator or filmmaker, maybe you leave the theater wondering how they made the fake backdrops and monsters look real. Sometimes, it was clever to use a technique that’s almost as old as cinema itself — green screen. Below are some of the greatest uses of VFX that to this day look fantastic.

1. We Enter the Great Elven Realm

Film:  “Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship Of the Rings” (2001)


It’s hard to believe that it’s already been 15 years since Peter Jackson’s 2001 film took the world by storm and made everyone a fan of elves, dwarfs, and, of course, hobbits. The later Hobbit trilogy was criticized for using too much CGI (so much that Ian McKellen had a breakdown onset), but the first three films set in Middle-earth used the perfect combination of the green screen along with forced perspective, clever camera tricks, and even the use of miniatures

“Best Effects, Visual Effects” was one of the many Oscars this film won at the 2002 Academy Awards. And while there are plenty of great scenes to choose from, few are as breathtaking as the first reveal of Rivendell. The gorgeous waterfalls, glowing trees, and beautiful Elven architecture all work to make you feel like you’re really standing in an Elven sanctuary.

2. The Final Battle

Movie: “Avatar” (2009)

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James Cameron’s epic sci-fi film still stands as one of the most respected and critically praised films of all time and currently holds the record as the most financially successful film, with a worldwide gross of $2.7 billion dollars. The movie earned every dollar thanks to innovative new special effects that made the planet of Pandora a sight to behold.

With all the new tricks and technology at his disposal, Cameron often relied on the tried-and-true method of a green screen. This allowed him to merge the characters and environments together, creating a captivating movie experience. There are few better examples of this than during the final battle of the movie where, despite the heavy use of VFX, the scene still feels intense and emotional.

3. Pretty Much Every Fight Scene

Film: “The Matrix” (1999)

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Show a young viewer today “The Matrix” for the first time, and they’ll probably see it as just another sci-fi action movie. Maybe they’ll comment on how cool the unrealistic kung fu and physics are, but that’s about it. Yet those of us who were there during its original release know just how big a deal these incredible special effects were.

While plenty of 3D computer models were used during certain sequences, most of the time it was real actors fighting in front of a green screen background. Whether they were hanging from wires or on flat ground, the awesome combat scenes revolutionized the filmmaking industry and helped evolve it into what we have now.

4. Welcome to Jurassic Park

Film: “Jurassic Park” (1993)

These days, the people in post-production have more work than ever before in the movie industry. Where before only a few dozen VFX shots were taken, today’s film averages around 200 shots. While there are benefits to ever-evolving technology, sometimes it’s all about quality — not quantity.

No movie is a better example than “Jurassic Park,” which used no more than 40 special effect shots. Arguably the most memorable scene in this acclaimed film is when Alan Grant and Ellie Sattler first set their eyes on a pair of Brachiosaurus making their way out of a lake. In the video above, you can see how this scene was put together in order to make the audience feel like they too are standing in John Hammond’s “promising” theme park. <

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The Average Animator Salary and How Its Changed Over Time

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If there’s one profession that has continually grown in demand each year, it’s animation. More and more aspiring animators dream of creating worlds as captivating as the ones they grew up with. Now, schools all over the globe offer all kinds of degree programs in digital art, 3D animation, visual effects, and more.

Of course, it takes more than just passion and imagination to get the dream job of creating jaw-dropping video game environments or lovable film characters. That is why New York Film Academy designed their 3D Animation & Visual Effects School to equip graduates with the skills and knowledge needed to stand out in a competitive job market.

But the question on the mind of many future animators is the same: can I make a good living as an animator? The answer is, yes! In fact, the need for talented animators has led to a growth in annual salaries over the past several years … and there’s no sign of it stopping.

More Demand = More $$$ for Animators

Animators today are getting paid more than those from 20, 10, and even five years ago. This is because advancements in animation and visual effects technology have allowed for better tools offering more realistic graphics. All it takes is one look at a video game from the year 2000 and one from 2016 to see that animation is bigger and better than ever.

At the same time, costs for animation projects have also gone up. For example, “Toy Story” was released in 1995, made on a budget of $30 million with 27 animators. It is still the cheapest movie Pixar has ever produced. In comparison, “Toy Story 3” was released 15 years later on a budget of $200 million— more than six times that of the first movie.

So why are animated films and 3D video games more expensive to make today than ever before? Simply, more animators are required for projects — and those animators are getting paid more. As visuals grow more complex, so too do the tools needed to make it all come alive. Companies want to hire individuals who have mastered the necessary skills and can work quickly without sacrificing quality.

And they’re willing to pay good money.

The Average Salary Today

As of May 2015, the Bureau of Labor Statistics has “Multimedia Artists and Animators” earning an estimated median annual wage of $63, 970 and an hourly wage of $30.76/hour. Median means that half of professionals in this field earned less than those numbers while the other half earned more. Not including self-employed workers, these averages were taken from the salary of 30,250 animators and multimedia artists.

It’s important to remember that the industry you work in affects how much you can make. The top paying industry for animators is Travel Arrangement and Reservation Services, with an average hourly wage of $41.22 and annual wage of $85,750. However, there were only 30 reported people working in this field. So even though the average annual wage of someone working in motion picture and video is less ($73,270), it has a higher level of employment.

The motion picture and video industry employed 9,930 artists and animators in May of 2015, the most of any industry. When comparing numbers from 2014 and 2015, people estimate that animation jobs will grow up to 7 percent, which means more than 4,000 more positions.

(Source link for more info.) 

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8 Movies Where Miniature Special Effects Trump CGI

From the stop-motion animated works of the legendary Ray Harryhausen to that White House scene in Independence Day, effects involving miniatures have long been a part of cinema’s rich history…though some examples have aged a lot better than others.

In this age of rampant CGI, miniature work is an art form all unto itself and today we’re going to celebrate the finer set pieces that have endured in popular culture. Presenting:

8 Famous Movie Miniatures

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King Kong (1933)

Although stop motion had seen use before this point (most notably in 1927’s Metropolis and the works of Georges Méliès), it was the era-defining monster epic King Kong which really showed off the potential of miniatures.

In the above climactic scene, King Kong scales the Empire State Building in what could be the most iconic movie scene of the 1930s.

Naturally the effects employed 80 years ago have since been eclipsed by modern techniques, but the scale of what was achieved in this classic was nothing short of impressive even in retrospect. Marcel Delgado was commissioned to create four different scaled-down models of Kong (which was then known by the slightly less snappy moniker “Giant Terror Gorilla”) as well as a huge bust of the creature’s head and upper chest to use during close-ups, operating by three workers operating it from within.

Alien (1979)

Miniatures saw a lot of love during the sixties and seventies, particularly within the sci-fi genre. Star Wars, 2001: A Space Oddyssey, and Star Trek all made extensive use of miniatures to depict a huge sense of scale at a lower budget.

Featurette on bringing the Alien universe to life using miniatures.

The introduction of the intricately designed Nostromo in Ridley Scott’s Alien is a premier example of this, and as you’ll hear in the “making of” clip above, the amount of work that went into the miniature effects on this movie was unprecedented at the time.

And really, the term miniature for something so huge doesn’t seem particularly apt. The separate landing leg model—used in scenes where the ship touches down on LV-426—measured an impressive 42 feet high and, like the main ship itself, was moved into shot using a forklift truck.

Blade Runner (1982)

A production steeped in mythology, inter-crew fighting, and bad blood, Blade Runner may have left a sour taste in the mouth of many of those who made it (including Harrison Ford, with whom Ridley Scott frequently butted heads) but to sci-fi fans it remains one of the most visually impressive movies ever released.

Creating an entire city with miniatures and forced perspective, back when 3D computer modelling wasn’t an option.

A huge amount of miniatures were used to bring Philip K. Dick’s dystopian vision of Los Angeles to life (and one which the writer was reportedly very happy with on seeing test footage shortly before his passing.) The model work can be seen most prominently in scenes involving the Spinner vehicles and establishing shots of the city, but we can also thank Imgur user Minicity for uploading this huge collection of behind-the-scenes shots earlier in the year.

Back to the Future Pt. II (1989)

The second installment of Robert Zemeckis’ quintessential trilogy raised the bar for a lot of special effect techniques (digital compositing and motion control cameras in particular were used to great effect in Part Two.)

Miniatures only saw limited use, but when they do appear, you’d still be hard-pressed to identify them let alone figure out how they did some of the shots. Consider this one, for instance, which has the 3-foot scale model of the DeLorean touch down from the sky, pull into the driveway, and then…people get out of the model?

You can re-watch it a few times and still probably not figure it out, but because it’ll drive you wild if we don’t reveal the trick, pay close attention to the street lamp. This is in fact two separate yet perfectly matched shots, with the lamp providing the nearly imperceptible seam between the two.

GoldenEye (1995)

The first Bond flick to feature CGI, but it’s the miniature work that stole the show.

GoldenEye was the final movie worked on by special effects master Derek Meddings, to whom the movie is dedicated. Incredible miniature work was a defining quality of Meddings’ career, and he certainly pulled out all the stops for Bond’s 19th outing—here, fellow visual effects designer Nigel Blake discusses his colleagues work on the movie (featuring some pretty mind-blowing shots of the GoldenEye miniatures without the forced perspective you see in the final cut):

Independence Day (1996)

The aforementioned “Time’s up” scene in ID:4, because it’d be virtually criminal not to tip one’s hat to it while talking about ultra-memorable miniature set pieces:

Everyone’s day gets ruined in Emmerich’s iconic disaster flick.

Miniatures were also used (alongside CGI) for the aerial fight scenes, as well as the skyscraper explosion. In fact, the movie still holds the record for the most miniature model work to appear in a single title (and with the dominance of CGI, it may well hold the title forever.)

An interesting facet of the production is that those destruction shots were filmed with the models placed sideways—naturally, flames go upwards but Emmerich wanted them to appear as if they were exploding towards the camera (as explained in this “making of” segment around the 14:00 mark.)

And as you can imagine, they only had one shot to make sure those explosion scenes were a success, otherwise a lot of model makers would have been on overtime to recreate all the miniatures again (with the original, 12” wide White House model costing around $50,000 to construct.)

The long-awaited sequel nearly ended up on our list of movies that’ll never get made, but it looks all but certain that we’ll get an Independence Day 2 next year. That said, you can bet your bottom dollar that the follow-up will eschew the kind of miniature work that won the original an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects in favor of heavy CGI.

The Lord of the Rings Series (2001 – 2003)

For Peter Jackson’s landmark achievement in the world of special effects, lead actors were digitally altered to hobbit proportions… and conversely, the miniature cities were blown up to epic proportions.

The LOTR team on making the “bigature” photography look realistic.

And the team in charge of the miniature special effects had their work cut out for them, working longer than any other SFX crew during the entirety of the production. Coining the phrase “bigatures,” many of the cities seen in the final cut were shot from beautifully crafted models (including Helm’s Deep, Osgiliath, Minas Tirith, Isengard, and the Black Gate.)

Further complicating the work of the special effects and model making teams was the varying height depictions of the characters; Bag End, for instance, was built at two different scales—one which allowed Elijah Wood to walk through doorways of a seemingly appropriate size, and another which had Sir Ian McKellen having to stoop in order to enter them.

The Dark Knight (2008)

Huh? They used miniatures in Christopher Nolan’s Batman epic?

They sure did, and extensively so… though as is the measure of all good visual effects, most audience goers were none the wiser.

Visual effects supervisor Nick Davies discusses the practicalities of using miniatures on the set of The Dark Knight

That incredibly impressive scene in which the tumbler slams into the garbage truck at high speed was all miniature work (as were most of the chase scenes involving the tumbler on the streets of Gotham.) We’ve got New Deal Studios to thank for this seamless piece of work, who also masterminded the miniature shots of the opening plane scene in The Dark Knight Rises.

So there we have it—eight exquisite examples of miniatures proving they’ve still got a place in the world of special effects. 

Of course, there’s plenty more that we’ve not covered here; got any favorite scenes missing from the list? Head on down to the comments below!

[su_note]Learn more about the School of 3D Animation & Visual Effects at the New York Film Academy by clicking here.[/su_note]

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CGI Animation History: Defining (and Awesome) Moments in Cinema

When done well, computer generated imagery can allow the filmmaker to achieve results that would be impractical (if not impossible) to recreate by other means.

Done badly, and it can totally undermine an otherwise fine movie.

We could fill an entire post with examples of the latter, but today we’re looking at notable movies that executed computer effects to a superb level, despite the fact that CGI barely existed at the time. And be sure to check out our previous post looking at CGI’s effect on the evolution of special effects.

characters in original tron movie

And we’ll start off with where it all began:

The Vision of an Android (Westworld)

When talking about movies that revolutionized special effects, Westworld is typically the first on the list. The raster graphics used to simulate the titular android’s vision would only take an animation school student fifteen minutes with modern software but it was an entirely different story back in 1973.

Deciding it’d be cheaper than animating the effect from scratch, two computer masterminds instead took the unprocessed footage, separated each frame into tri-color, converted them into blocks, then used a computer to combine it all back together adding basic tone values for each block.

Laborious for sure, but the result is the 2:31 origin of computer-aided effects that you see above. The sequel, Futureworld, also broke new ground by being the first movie to feature a CGI-rendered 3D object (which was actually created four years before its 1976 release):

More interesting still? The gentleman who created that CGI head and hand, Ed Catmull, went on to become the co-founder and president of Pixar.

And speaking of wireframes…

The Trench Run Briefing (Star Wars: A New Hope)

Just after the first appearance of 3D CGI in a movie (and long before Jar Jar Binks arrived on the scene) came an iconic piece of cinema that really got the ball rolling: the briefing scene in which the rebel alliance is coached on how to take out the Death Star, courtesy of some wireframe wizardry.

Here it is in isolation:

Given the extensiveness and detail of the sequence (in 1977, no less) it’s of no surprise that the imagery took weeks of non-stop work to produce at the University of Illinois. Ridley Scott went on to use the same technology in 1979’s Alien, where the Nostromo’s monitors display landing simulations onto the surface LV-426.

But forget CGI being displayed on the odd monitor. Next up, we’ve got a milestone in computer-aided imagery used across an entire movie…

Tron (1982)

CGI animation mixed seamlessly with wireframe graphics, rotoscoping, cel-shading, backlit animation and live action was the order of the day for what was to become a cult favorite.

And it’s a wonder it ever got produced in the first place. So original was the vision for how Tron should look—not to mention how expensive and painstaking it would be to produce—that Disney very nearly passed on the project (especially given that the producer and directors were both first-timers.)

Despite a muddled reception from critics, it did go on to win the Academy Award for Technical Achievement…

…fourteen years after its release.

Not bad given they only had a 2Mb computer with just 330Mb of storage to work with.

CGI progressed onward from this point as computing power increased, with a few attempts to further integrate it into live-action over the 80s. Some were good, some not so good, but it was the nineties that really saw the genesis of CGI as we know it today.

The T-1000 (Terminator 2: Judgment Day)

The go-to example whenever the debate concerning “sequels that are better than the original” crops up at the bar, Terminator 2 got a lot of things right and its use of CGI was one of them.

Of course, we are talking about the visual effects that went into bringing the T-1000 to life; a terrifying nemesis with a liquid metal body that could morph into other shapes (or stab a foster parent through the throat while he’s drinking milk.)

Mimicking liquid is difficult in a computer-generated imagery, as is rendering real-world reflections in metal. Doing both at the same time nearly 30 years ago? That’s cinematic history in the making.

Toy Story (1995)

Very few would have guessed that the first-ever fully-CG feature film would age so well, let alone kickstart an entire industry.

That said, given it was created on a relatively tiny $30 million budget by a very small team (half of whom reportedly didn’t know how to use a computer), it’s a wonder Toy Story ever got off the ground in the first place. This goes doubly so when factoring in the brutal development negotiations between Pixar and Disney, which nearly hamstrung the entire project

And that brings us to the final entry in our round-up of notable early CGI sequences in cinema…

Bullet Time (The Matrix)

Because it’s easy to argue that CGI history can be neatly divided into two eras…

… everything before the Wachowskis’ bullet time, and everything that followed afterward. Join us next time as we look at some of the most remarkable CGI achievements in the post-Wachowski era and please let us know of any movies or moments we forgot to include in the comments below!

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Computers Killed the Video Star: Did CGI ruin SFX?

It’s an argument as old as the hills. Did the advancement of ubiquitous CGI kill the art of moviemaking, and has it rendered many of the old school methods of visual effect creation obsolete? Moreover, has CGI sold us down the river as audiences, and taught us to accept digital fakery?

It’s fervent and important for both cinema lovers and those trying to find the right balance at producing school since it’s widely accepted that terrible effects—be it CGI or traditional—can severely hamper an otherwise great movie.

Today we’ll be looking at both sides of the coin with the unpacking of:

CGI vs. Traditonal SFX: The Common Arguments


“Traditional Effects Look Better than CGI!”

There are many examples that people commonly point to and say, “Man, this scene really benefits from the realism; I’m glad they didn’t use CGI to do Benjamin Button’s makeup, and that they made an actual Iron Man suit for Robert Downey Jr. to wear during scenes when he’s not flying around.”

Nope. That’s all CGI, too.

The only suit Robert ever wears on the set of an Iron Man flick is a green screen suit, and 95% of the aging effects in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button are achieved with CGI, not makeup artistry. Sandra Bullock wasn’t suspended by expert rigging in amidst of generated scenery in Gravity—for much of the film, Bullock herself was composited into the scene.

In short, we tend to credit a lot of CGI successes to traditional SFX, and give a lot of bad rap to CGI when it goes wrong.

Which Really Ages Worst?

There’s a common charge against CGI that it ages a lot quicker than traditional effects. We’ll probably need a few more decades of cinema before we can say either way whether or not this is the case. At the moment, however, it depends on which examples you cherry pick—The Mummy Returns is a classic example of terrible early CGI, but Gladiator and Terminator 2 still hold their own all these years later.

Similarly, the traditional animatronics behind the original SFX may have aged beautifully, but nobody can claim the Ray Harryhausen-style effects preceding it are convincing to anyone (despite how innovative they were at the time).

CGI Has Created a Whole Industry…

Speaking of movies that have aged well, Toy Story would never have existed without advancements in computer animation, and arguably nor would the slew of evermore-impressive animated features which have come since.


Of course, the argument from the other side is that the prevalence of CGI has created a massive over-saturation of family animations and bombastic action flicks; but a counter to this could be that the industry needs these revenue-pulling staples in order to fund traditional (and more subtle) movies.

This leads us neatly on to…

Job Creation and Destruction

If a thousand-strong crowd can be shopped into a stadium, what’s the point of hiring extras? If Benjamin Button’s face can be manipulated with digital effects, why bother recruiting a makeup expert?

The pervasiveness of automata replacing human labor is something that is concerning to just about every industry. In Hollywood, CGI partly replaces many roles such as set creation, modeling, makeup artistry, stunt work, armory and pyrotechnics. All very worrying for those struggling to find work in an already cutthroat industry.


In the latter cases, however, one positive aspect of CGI is that it can serve to reduce danger on set. It has also created brand new fields of work that never before existed—data wranglers and software developers, for instance. Though it’s unlikely that the amount of work created by CGI exceeds the number of jobs it makes redundant.

CGI is Hard to Act Opposite

Sadly for the CGI supporters, this one is hard to refute given that countless actors and actresses have spoken up regarding the challenges of acting in heavily-computer generated environments (and especially when acting opposite characters who literally aren’t there during the shoot).

Worse is that to the viewer, the mixing of live human actors and CGI creations usually looks a little disjointed in the final cut, ruining the suspension of disbelief that enhanced effects should bolster, not detract from.

If there’s any consolation here, it’s that this merging is getting more and more seamless as time goes on, and acting opposite CGI is now a standard, so whether you are in acting school, or a seasoned performer, this is something you should be prepared for.

Over to You…

As we can see, there’s no straightforward answer as to whether or not CGI is, on balance, a force for good in the field of moviemaking. There are a lot of good arguments on both sides.

Where do you stand on CGI vs. traditional SFX? Any strong opinions on either, or arguments we may have missed? Let your voice be heard in the comments below!

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13 Groundbreaking Shows In TV Visual Effects History

TV has come a long way over the years. There have been some incredible highs that have almost literally gotten the whole world talking, as well as some abysmal lows populated with shows that are better left unmentioned.

As things have progressed, so too has the job of the visual effects artist, a job which has changed dramatically over the years and appears to be following an adaptation of Moore’s Law; where the future lies is open to speculation, but it’s always worth taking a minute to review what lead us to where we are today.

So, without further ado, let’s begin our tour of visual effects by going right the way back to the late 50s…

Visual Effects in Television: 13 of the Most Groundbreaking Shows
 TV visual effects

The Twilight Zone (1959 – 1964)

Almost every episode of the enduring pop classic, The Twilight Zone, saw the visual effects becoming increasingly inventive, being driven by ever stranger storylines that pushed the effects team’s abilities to the very limits of what was achievable.

More often than not, they met their mark and set the bar high for sci-fi to follow, especially in an age when nobody was convinced a sci-fi/speculative fiction show would work.

But of course, along came…

Dr. Who (1963 – present)

In the early 60s, a little sci-fi show featuring a time-traveling telephone box appeared on British screens on the same day as John F. Kennedy’s assassination. It arrived with little fanfare – partly due to the breaking assassination news, partly because half the country suffered a power outage that evening – and came very close to being permanently axed from the BBC’s production schedule.

Given the long-lasting impact it would have on not just sci-fi serials and the visual effects therein, but also pop culture in general, the world would be a very different place if it had been dropped in the first series all those decades ago.

Thunderbirds (1964 – 1966)

In the mid-sixties, children’s television was undergoing something of a revolution in the U.K and the release of Thunderbirds marked its apex.

Subsequently released in over 60 countries, it was arguably the most popular British TV export at the time (since Dr. Who had yet to find an overseas audience) and went on to inspire numerous other “supermarionation” shows, none of which quite lived up to the bar set by the original puppeteers.

Star Trek: TOS (1966 – 1969)

While all of the Star Trek series could be considered as boundary-pushing when it comes to TV visual effects, it was the 1966 magnum opus that laid the foundation for what would become one of the most popular and influential shows ever made.

As with all of the early entries in this list, you’ll need to apply a little historical perspective to fully appreciate how mind-blowing the effects were to a TV audience of 50 years ago, but The Original Series was way ahead of its time even in the 60s.

Cosmos (1980)

From iconic explorations of a fantastical universe to the very real one we find ourselves in, the original Cosmos series was a landmark in public science education. Bolstered by the late, great Carl Sagan and special effects that beautifully brought abstract concepts and cosmological events to life, Cosmos set a precedent that hadn’t really been met until the show’s gorgeous resurrection last year (under the helm of Sagan admirer Neil DeGrasse Tyson).

It’s little wonder the 80s show looked so exquisite, either – the 13 part series was given a $6.3 million production budget, which in today’s money equates to around $20 million (or one and a half million dollars per episode).

The Simpsons (1989 – Present)

While animated sitcoms go back as far as the 1960 (kickstarted by such Hanna-Barbera shows as The Flintstones and The Jetsons), it was a little short debuting on The Tracey Ullman Show in 1987 that would thrust the genre into the mainstream, and revolutionized animation made specifically for TV.

The Simpsons is now the longest running U.S sitcom and animation, and arguably the most celebrated with The A.V. Club dubbing it “television’s crowning achievement, regardless of format.”

Twin Peaks (1990 – 1991)

We could fill volumes discussing the cinematography merits and visual effects mastery in Twin Peaks, but it’s best summed up – and left – with three simple words…

… It’s David Lynch.

Buffy the Vampire Slayer (1997 – 2003)

A seminal 90s series that brought makeup artistry to the forefront of the small screen, and even earned numerous Emmy Awards for Outstanding Visual Effects and Makeup during its run.

Sure, it may look a little hammy by today’s standards, but it’s the humor and acting that have aged a lot more than the visual effects that brought the occult to our screens like never before (provoking critic Robert Moore to proclaim “TV was not art before Buffy, but it was afterwards”).

Band of Brothers (2001)

By many measures, Band of Brothers was quite possibly the finest WWII miniseries of the past few decades, and particularly when judged upon its dedication to real (and often harrowing) visual effects.

Then again, could we expect any less from Steven Spielberg?

24 (2001 – 2010)

The premise behind 24 was bold, and the set pieces peppered throughout the groundbreaking show even more so.

Often overshadowed by the incredible performances, the ingenuity displayed by the special effects team who have worked on the past nine seasons is particularly worthy of praise: from the all-too-realistic portrayal of Jack Bauer lopping off a guy’s hand to the makeup department stepping up to the plate for every brutal interrogation scene, 24 is a visual feast that will endure for some time to come.

Peep Show (2003 – Present)

From seemingly out of nowhere came a small-budget, British comedy which fully realized the art of POV-shooting as a regular feature in a way never before (or since) mastered, becoming a huge cult success in the process.

At the time of writing, the longest-running comedy on the UK’s Channel 4 is currently filming its ninth and final series, having been at the risk of cancellation due to low viewer numbers (and saved through high DVD sales) since the very first episode.

Daredevil (2015)

While it sagged a little in the third act of the series, it’s been heralded by many as a near-perfect example of how superhero-centric TV shows should be executed. Particular praise was given to Daredevil for its grit and masterful cinematography (which was very reminiscent of Wally Pfister‘s work on The Dark Knight trilogy), as well as the visual effects employed throughout the show.

Perhaps the beauty of Daredevil‘s visual effects is they were fairly understated. Fully-blown CGI sequences are traded with simple effects that demonstrate how the blind Mat Murdoch’s “powers” work, and fight scenes are driven by nothing more than excellent choreography and stunt performance than overwrought trickery.

Take for instance the 3-minute, single shot fight scene that had many a Netflix viewer picking their jaws off the carpet. If this doesn’t make Daredevil a worthy addition to this list, we don’t know what does:

If anything, Daredevil will hopefully see the action TV genre following suit and going back to basics, which is a savvy tactic if you don’t have $6 million dollars of budget to blow on each episode…

… and speaking of which:

Game of Thrones (2011 – Present)

From a visual production standpoint, TV shows don’t get much bigger than this, and it’s likely to be quite some time before we see a rival fantasy series of this scale…

… and the scale is indeed huge, with the last two episodes of the fourth season being formatted for IMAX (the only TV show we can think of which has had the super-big screen treatment.) Given that it’s officially the most expensive TV show ever produced, we can safely shut the book on the age old argument “what costs more: the cast of Friends or CGI dragons?”

So there we have it – a whistle stop tour of the finest shows to have advanced special effects in television. Any particular titles that you feel should have made the cut? You know where to drop your suggestion… see you in the comments below!

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Five Best Options For Free Graphic Design And Animation Software

Creating 3D, manipulatable models without the need to get arms-deep in clay is an attractive idea. Forking over $1,500 every year for a subscription to Autodesk Maya, however, is not.

Given that the price range for professional-grade modeling suites can be eye watering, many amateurs, and even professionals, find themselves looking for free 3D modeling software alternatives. Luckily, there are more than a few free and open source options available. Even with the lack of a price tag, many of these are up there with the best.

If you’re a graphic design school student or attend animation school, check out the below options and we can guarantee you’ll find something that fits your needs.

Free 3D Modeling Software: 10 of the Best

1. K-3D

A mercifully stripped-back, no-nonse piece of software that doesn’t skimp on features. K-3D is centered around a plug-in driven procedural engine for handling polygonal modeling and animation, with one of the most brilliant and unique benefits being the ability to mirror the object you’re working on; add curves and NURBS to one half, and the other half with follow suit with a seamless join in the middle, creating a fully manipulable subdivision surface.

Also comes with support for RenderMan.

2. Blender

One of the most recognizable names on this list, Blender is incredibly popular due to its versatility. Everything from animation and video games modeling to 3D applications can be created, and graphic designers will love the simulated visual effects that can be implemented to a project effortlessly. It’s free and very much open source, with much of the development being driven by the lively Blender community.

Features within Blender include 3D modeling, texturing, particle simulation, UV unwrapping, skinning and rigging, animation, liquid and smoke simulation.

3. POV-Ray

Vision Raytracer, more popularly referred to as POV-Ray, is an entirely free and open source ray tracing software available for pretty much any platform you can name. It has been in development, in one form or another, for over thirty years and has even been used on the International Space Station. To boot, it’s longevity as a program means that there is a huge amount of 3rd party support for the software.

Features Turing-complete scene description language (SDL), a library of ready-made objects, textures and scenes, several kinds of light sources and atmospheric effects, surface patterns and radiosity. This one is highly recommended for graphic designers in particular given the impressive results that can be achieved with it.

4. Google SketchUp

Quickly becoming common place within the modeling and graphic design community, Google’s SketchUp is geared towards open-ended sharing. Either working from scratch or by using a ton of free, pre-built objects, it’s a great tool for projects that will be worked on and shared between multiple team members. While it has something of a learning curve for beginners, the amount of support and tutorials available is unparalleled, and it also boasts an incredibly large and active community base around the globe.

5. Art of Illusion

Highly recommended for beginners or traditional graphic designers who only want to model occasionally, Art of Illusion offers an intuitive user interface and is stripped back of any distractions. At the same time, it does offer a few bells and whistles that aren’t prevalent in the other software listed on this page; the free access to online repositories, a live chat function which lets you tap straight into the fantastic AoI support community and an array of view modes.

Other features which come as standard include: Boolean operating; wireframe animation (complete with weight systems, constraints and reversed kinetics), texture mapping by face or vertex, fully customizable light refraction and scattering.

Know of any other free 3D Modeling Software we should be checking out? Don’t hesitate to share with the group via the comments below!

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Disney’s Next Live-Action Rehash: Winnie the Pooh?

News has just surfaced that Disney Studios is continuing with its slew of live-action adaptations of old, cherished animations, this time with Winnie the Pooh coming at an unspecified date… and the Internet hasn’t reacted too kindly.

Winnie the Pooh live action

Although many are decrying the live-action retelling of the A.A. Milne classic, which is particularly noted for its 2D animation style, the news probably shouldn’t have come as a surprise. The recent slew of adaptations have proven extremely viable from a commercial standpoint, even if critical reception has been hit-or-miss:

The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, 2010. Cost $150m to make, took $215m at the box office. Scored at 42% on metacritic review site Rotten Tomatoes.

Alice in Wonderland, 2010. Production budget of somewhere between $150m and $200m, went on to bring in an incredible $1.02 billion despite only receiving a 51% approval rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

Maleficent, 2014. The live-action Sleeping Beauty derivative took $758.4m against a budget of $180m – Angelina Jolie’s highest grossing film – and gaining a 49% approval rating from critics.

Into the Woods, 2014. Based around numerous fairytale sources, the star-studded musical quadrupled its budget with $204m in takings against it’s $50m budget. Fared well on Rotten Tomatoes with a 71% rating.

Cinderella, 2015. Still screening at the time of writing, but has so far grossed $397m at the box office and a budget of $95m. Currently stands at 84% on Rotten Tomatoes.

The current wave does not represent the first time that Disney have given classic animations the live-action treatment. For that, look to 101 Dalmatians released in 1996 and the 2000 sequel, both of which did notably well at the box office.

An unsubstantiated rumor about a Cruella de Vil movie being planned (a la Maleficent) is also doing the rounds, but that’s a story for another day.

Cruella Dalmations live action Disney movie

With profit margins like this, it’s little wonder that Disney Studios are planning on plumbing these depths for as long as the numbers hold strong. Of course, other studios are following suit given that a lot of the source material (namely Brothers Grimm and Hans Christian Andersen) is out of copyright and open game.

As for Winnie the Pooh, it’s historically been one of the most profitable intellectual property licenses on Disney’s books and they have put out a few feature-length, theatrical releases in the past. Sadly, they’ve never quite hit the financial heights that were hoped for and the most recent 2011 Winnie the Pooh movie, which was traditionally animated. It only took in $44m against a $30m budget. Again, in light of this it’s no surprise that Disney are giving the franchise a lick of live-action paint for the next release.

Winnie the Pooh live action remake

In a nutshell, the reason for the current trend is all down to cold, hard cash (as it often is). But let’s stop looking back, and instead turn our attention to the live-action remakes that are scheduled for the next few years:

The Jungle Book: April, 2016
Alice in Wonderland, Through the Looking Glass: May, 2016
Beauty and the Beast: March, 2017
Dumbo: Unknown
Mulan: Unknown

Dumbo and Mulan are both being directed by Tim Burton. No doubt this is due to the financial success of the first Alice in Wonderland movie (its 2016 sequel has been entrusted to James Bobin). In addition to all this, Sofia Coppola is set to direct an adaptation of The Little Mermaid, albeit for Universal rather than Disney.

Little Mermaid remake

And that leaves us with one question…

What Will a Live-Action Winnie The Pooh Movie Look Like?

At present, it’s anyone’s guess. All we know is that it’ll feature a more “grown-up” Christopher Robin revisiting Hundred Acre Wood.

The other recent live-action anthropomorphic bear movie, Paddington Bear, which came out in 2014 made sense. The bear himself was animated and set amongst a host of real-life actors and sets. With Winnie the Pooh, however, it’s the other way around. It’s hard to imagine humans playing all of the Milne animals. Could everything be CGI animated with the exception of Christopher Robin?

In the meantime, there’s sure to be healthy debate as to whether or not the entire project is doomed to failure or should even be attempted in the first place.

pooh bear live action

What’s your take? Any live-action adaptations you’re actually looking forward to, or are you longing for this current trend to fizzle out? Let your voice be heard in the comments below…

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Stop Motion Animation: 5 Award-Winning Stop Motion Films

Stop motion animation is a discipline that has been around for almost as long as the film industry itself, but it’s been in the last few decades in particular that we’ve seen some incredible innovation in the field.

Whether you’re simply an avid fan of stop motion or currently working your way through animation school, the following 5 award-winning stop motion films will serve to inspire you and deserved all the recognition they received. Continue on and you’ll see why.

Fresh Guacamole (PES)

PES has become something of the go-to name for stop motion animation, particularly in the YouTube era. As we mentioned in our guide on How to Do Stop Motion Animation, PES (born Adam Pesapane) garnered a lot of recognition for his short Fresh Guacamole:

PES himself has picked up a great number of awards for his quirky stop motion to date, but Fresh Guacamole in particular is a notable short given that, at 1:36 long, it’s the shortest film to have ever been nominated for an Oscar. The film was in the running for the 2012 Best Animated Short Film, but subsequently lost out to Disney’s Paperman.

Out of a Forest (Tobias Gundorff)

Shortly following graduation at animation school, Gundorff’s thesis short, Out of a Forest, went on to do exceptionally well on the festival circuit and launched his filmmaking career spectacularly.

The short itself features a nighttime gathering in the woods of a group of rabbits, blissfully unaware that something moves in the darkness. We won’t spoil the ending of course, but we can guarantee you’ll enjoy the seamless addition of live action elements into the mix:

It’s little wonder that this fantastic example of stop motion animation went on to win multiple awards given that it’s packed with both style and substance.

Bottle (Kirsten Lepore)

Creating any kind of stop motion is difficult, but when you’re trying to accomplish intricate results on location in nature, using sand, sea, and snow no less, the challenge level increases manifold.

That’s precisely what Kirsten Lepore and her team accomplished, and to great effect, in this tale of two animated chunks of landscape communicating to each other via the ocean:

We can’t begin to imagine the amount of work that went into keeping this animation as consistent and flawless as it is, but it deserved every award it was given and stands as an inspiration to stop motion animators the world over.

MUTO (Blu)

Known only by his pseudonym, Blu is a street artist who has been honing his craft since the late nineties in Bologna.

His art is intricate, imposing, and subversive; above all, it’s highly distinctive. Blu’s style was brought vividly to life in a graffiti/stop animation crossover titled Muto, which is unparalleled in terms of the project’s scale, and went on to give Blu both international recognition and awards:

The animation was released in 2008 and involved hundreds (if not thousands) of individual paintings of various sizes, but usually massive, across the streets of Buenos Aires. It is unknown how long this bizarre creation took, or how Blu managed to evade authorities during the process.

Stanley Pickle (Vicky Mather)

In the award-winning UK filmmaker’s own words, “Stanley never goes outside. He likes to play with his clockwork toys and every night his mother kisses him goodnight. Stanley is twenty. The trouble is that Stanley thinks this is all quite normal, until an encounter with a mysterious girl turns his world upside down…”

An undeniably interesting premise, made even more compelling through its innovative use of a stop motion technique called ‘pixilation,’ everything was taken as still images as with conventional stop motion, but using real actors instead of puppets or models. As can be observed in the short itself, the resulting aesthetic of the film is very peculiar indeed (and even a little unsettling):

Hone your understanding of 3D animation and visual effects with our Master of Fine Arts in Animation. Visit our Animation MFA program page to learn more and apply today.

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A Quick History of Animation

The animation industry has grown to become an absolute behemoth in the world of cinema. As of the last reliable estimates, which surfaced around 2008, the industry was reported to be worth a cool $68.4 billion alone, and that was before the world had ever heard of a little movie called Frozen.

history of animation

And even though modern animated movies require massive teams working solidly for years, they’re still the most profitable of any film genre. They have been since 2004, with gross profit margins at 52% compared to the second-most profitable genre, action, at 48%. It’s appears that the industry has stumbled into a gold mine, and it’s still way too early to predict when we’ll hit the peak.

But of course, animations weren’t always multi-million dollar affairs. Only a century before 3D animation schools rose up to help people study the craft, there were pioneers out there trying to figure out how to get it started.

The First Ever Animation

What was the first ever animation? That is a trickier question than it might appear, because it depends entirely on what is classified as an animation.

Given that animation, at its heart, is simply the act of creating the illusion of movement through still images, you could argue that the craft began hundreds of thousands of years ago. We’re all familiar with the stereotypical cave painting imagery which usually depicted hunting in motion.

The Victorians also figured out how to create moving stills to trick the eyes into thinking the image was animated:

History of animation: first ever animation

But that’s probably not what you wanted to know. Even if we’re talking about the first ever animation in the era of film, though, we’ve still got a problem: are we including only drawn images? Stop motion? Animations that only featured a few frames?

Let’s skip ahead a little and take a look at the first verifiable animated feature-length film… although that may be a little tricky, since no surviving copies exist.

The First Animated Feature Film

After a number of pioneers began creating animated shorts in the early 20th century (1914’s Gertie the Dinosaur being a notable example), the very first feature-length animation created using traditional methods was entitled El Apóstol.

Released in 1917 to a South American theatre audience, the 70-minute long movie – running at an impressive 14 frames per second – also holds the distinction of being the first commercially profitable animated movie ever made.

According to those who saw it, the political satire was exceedingly good. Those who didn’t catch it the first time round will never have the chance to find out, however, since the only copy of the film was destroyed in a house fire.

Alas, we’ll never know how good the first ever feature-length animation truly was.

Moving on…

The Rise of the Mouse House

A few more experimental animation techniques were developed over the next decade (including methods like rotoscoping), which produced some hit-and-miss results. It was the opening of a small studio in Los Angeles, however, that changed the game forever.

Walt Disney studios history of animation

To many, the word “animation” begins and ends with Walt Disney. With more innovations and notable works over the 20th century (and beyond) than we could ever hope to list here, Disney’s studio and tumultuous history set a precedent for the entire animation industry.

Interestingly, Pinto Colvig, famously known as the voice of Disney’s Goofy, was an extremely talented illustrator and is reputed to have made the very first animated feature film himself a couple of years before El Apóstol, but this is now impossible to verify.

As a result, some commenters point to the 1937 release of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs as the first feature-length animated film since it was fully hand-drawn and isn’t classified as a ‘lost movie’.

The First Computer-Animated Feature Films

If the founding of Disney Studios is the biggest turning point in animation history so far, Pixar’s release of Toy Story in 1995 could be deemed the second biggest.

While it’s amazing that Toy Story still looks incredible two decades later, it’s undeniable that the CGI animations released since are following some kind of Moore’s Law effect: every year the rate of technological increase is growing exponentially, leading to mind-blowing results which are light-years ahead of titles released just a couple of years ago.

modern animation then and now

With CGI animation now a hugely profitable staple of the industry, it certainly isn’t going anywhere soon. The only thing left to see is how the students of animation school today are going to revolutionize the world of animation tomorrow.

Discover the magic of animation and visual effects at NYFA. Learn the fundamentals of animation tools and storytelling through our hands-on programs. Learn more on the Animation School page.

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How To Do Stop Motion Animation

Before the advent of fully-blown CGI animation, traditional animation – in which every single frame is drawn by hand – was the industry standard. If you wanted to create something involving 3D models, stop motion animation was your only option.

But even though there are now many more ways to skin the proverbial cat, stop motion hasn’t waned in popularity. If anything, it’s becoming even more appreciated as an artform as people push the boundaries of what can be achieved with stop motion. Adam Pesapane – more famously known as PES – is a great example, with his work having delighted animation fans for over a decade:

Alongside the numerous accolades and awards PES has picked up over the years, the above animation (titled ‘Fresh Guacamole’) was also the shortest film ever to be nominated for an Oscar.

But how to follow in his footsteps? Join us as we explore…

How To Do Stop Motion Animation

Let’s get the obvious out of the way first: stop motion animation is extremely time consuming work, which is instantly apparent to anyone who has ever seen even a basic film created in the medium. It is something that should only be attempted by those with patience, dedication, and an extreme amount of attention to detail…

… the reward for these is a level of job satisfaction that is simply off the scale.

Assuming you’re already in animation school or ready to embark on your first stop motion animation project, let’s take a look at how to do stop motion animation by first looking at the essential things you’ll need:

Models to Shoot

how to do stop motion animation

The props and models you’ll need can vary wildly, and depend wholly upon your vision for the animation and what you’re hoping to create. Many people just starting out figuring how to do stop motion animation find a lot of use and versatility in Lego, although the downside is that it can be fairly expensive to buy a large set from scratch.

A Scene in Which to Place Them

stop motion tutorial

Again, the setting can be just about anything. PES uses a simple kitchen counter and lets his props and models take the main focus . You can also hand draw imagery or use other props to build a backdrop to the scene. A green screen can also be useful if you’d like to experiment with digitally inserting backgrounds in post production.

An HD Camera

stop motion animation camera

Given that stop motion animation is as much about animating as it is an exercise in photography, you’ll want the best camera you can get your hands on. Using a phone or tablet is also an option. Although the overall image quality may not be as sharp, there are apps out there that can automate the editing process (we’ll come to this a bit later on.) Also make sure that you’ve got a big enough SD card or storage space to store all the images during the shoot.

An Extremely Stable Camera Rig

stop motion animation camera rig

And ‘stable’ is the operative word here. If the tripod isn’t 100% stationary for the duration of the scene (or the slightest knock will move it), you’ll end up with very chaotic footage in the final edit.

A Lighting Set Up

stop motion lighting

Uniform lighting is also paramount. A simple desk lamp can suffice in many occasions, but make sure you don’t have natural light coming into play which will change over the course of the shoot.

Editing Software

stop motion editing software

Software developers have become attuned to the needs of stop motion animators in recent years, so there are a number of options that will help make the editing and file management part of the job a lot easier – check out our guide on Stop Motion Animation software here.

Above all, you’ll need a clear idea of what you want to achieve. One of the biggest pitfalls that many people fail to consider when working out how to do stop motion animation is the storyboard. There is no room to work things out on the fly, and any attempts to do so will result in a mish-mash of unworkable stills. Every hour spent planning will pay off dividends in the long run, so be sure to meticulously lay out your storyboard ahead of time.

Once you’ve done that, it’s time to start shooting!

  • Get all set up. Rig up your lighting and camera, and put your models and scenery into place. Bear in mind that you’ll likely be in it for the long haul, so make sure you’ve got enough time to prevent having to deconstruct everything mid-shoot.
  • Take a test shot. This is simply to make sure your lighting and camera settings are optimal before you take hundreds of photos!
  • Begin shooting. Take a photo, move the model by a tiny amount, then repeat. Do make sure your own shadow doesn’t make it into the shot…
  • Ending the Shoot: Hopefully you’ll have allowed for enough storage space to get all the images you need! Once you’re done, export all the files to your main editing suite (you may want to use a batch renaming tool to make the file names logical and in sequence.)
  • Edit the project. How you go about this comes down to which stop motion animation software you’re using, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure the individual stills are all of equal length. You’ll also want to cut in some audio or speech to make the film more dynamic from an audio perspective.

Stop motion animation tutorial

Once you’ve completed your first stop motion animation, you’ll be able to analyze the finished results and identify areas for improvement on your next project.

Golden Rule: Start off small, be patient, and keep on practicing until you create even bigger and better stop motion animations.

Animation is all around us. From opening title sequences to live-action movies to cartoons, animation and VFX are an integral part of a variety of art forms. Check out NYFA’s variety of Animation & VFX programs by visiting our Animation School page to find a program that works for you.

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Best Stop Motion Apps for iPad & Desktop

If you’re studying the craft at animation school, you’ll have every professional tool imaginable at your fingertips. But what about when you want to work on the go and experiment away from campus? We’re guessing you don’t want to blow multiple thousands of dollars setting up a home studio, but the good news is you don’t have to.

If you’re looking to get started in stop motion photography, you might want to start with our guide on the basics of the craft. But if you’ve already got all your image stills lined up and just need some free or budget software to process them, then here are…

The Best Stop Motion Animation Software and Apps

Smoovie (Mac & iPad)

best stop motion software

Featuring precision editing, onion skinning, chroma key effects, direct-to-YouTube publishing, and an intuitive interface, Smoovie is specifically designed for stop motion animation. While it’s not the most powerful or beautiful software ever released, it’s ideal for getting to grips with the basics. To boot, the iPad version makes good use of the tablet’s camera, meaning the entire production can be conducted right from within the app.

Smoovie offers a free trial for its desktop version (the full version is priced at a budget level $39.99) while the iPad version is currently $6.99 in the App Store.

iStopMotion 3 (Mac & iPad)

stop motion animation software

iStopMotion by Boinx Studios has long been the go-to software suite for both amateur and professional stop motion animators alike. It’s updated regularly and is already packed full of brilliantly implemented features. It also comes with unparalleled developer support

A trial version is available to use without limits for 5 days, and the full desktop/iPad version is yours for $49.99. A similar app exists for the iPhone by the same studio, albeit under a different name (search for iStopCamera on the App Store.)

Dragonframe (Windows & Mac)

free stop motion software

Dragonframe is pretty much the most widely-recognized stop motion animation software in the industry, and has been used to create numerous box-office hits such as Coraline and this year’s Shaun the Sheep.

This is one of the pricier pieces of software on the list at $299 for the full version (which comes with controller hardware), but it deserves a mention here since there is a free trial which is well worth checking out. The full version, although expensive, represents great value for the money for a professional suite.

MonkeyJam (Windows)

Free windows stop motion software

MonkeyJam is the only free stop motion animation software we’ve been able to find that is still operational and worth trying, and by free we mean it isn’t just a free trial with the need to pay for access later on.

MonkeyJam is slightly (and sadly) neglected, having not had an update in four years. This naturally means it looks a little rough around the edges and new features aren’t likely to arrive any time soon, but the ones already in place are still effective at getting the job done and the program is delightfully functional as a whole. If you’re a Windows user and don’t have the budget for Dragonframe or any of the professional-grade suites, MonkeyJam remains the best free stop motion animation software out there.

Stop Motion in iMovie (Mac)

free Mac stop motion software

Not looking to pay for a dedicated piece of stop motion animation software? Never fear, because iMovie – packaged for free with all new iMacs as of 2003 – can get the job done quite nicely even if it wasn’t designed specifically for stop motion. All the features are there and great results can be teased out of the software. Although, you’ll probably want to look for the latest tutorial online since the interface can (and does) change dramatically with each update.

You may also like to check out our quick guide to the best apps for photography and other editing duties, since many of them work alongside your stop motion setup to streamline workflow. In the meantime, do let us know which stop motion animation software works best for your needs (and feel free to share your creations) in the comments below!

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10 Best Twitter Accounts EVERY Animator Should Follow

Animation is a big business these days. Many of today’s top television series and major motion pictures are animated, and there’s a high demand for animation professionals. One of the best ways for both up-and-coming animators and current professionals to stay on top of news in the animation industry is through social media,  so without further ado…

10 Best Twitter Accounts EVERY Animator Should Follow

New York Film Academy

New York Film Academy’s own 3D animation school has helped countless students achieve success with animation, so our Twitter stream is a good start for gleaning news about the entertainment industry in general and the animation world in particular.


Autodesk makes Maya, a 3D animation software platform widely used in the animation industry and widely taught in film and animation schools. Autodesk’s Twitter stream posts everything from tips to using Maya to news in the animation world, so it truly is one of the essential Twitter accounts every animator should follow.

3D Printing Industry

Technology affects every field of the entertainment industry, especially animation. In the past decade, 3D printing has emerged as one of the fastest-growing technologies, and savvy animators will want at least a passing knowledge of news from the 3D printing world. 3D Printing Industry keeps track of such news.


Founded by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, HitRecord bills itself as an “open collaborative production company.” Creators of all types, including animators, can contribute material and collaborate with other creators on various projects, from books to movies. HitRecord’s Twitter stream is a good source for seeing what projects need animators.

Lino DiSalvo

Lino DiSalvo is a veteran animator at Walt Disney Animation Studios and was the head of animation for Frozen. His inside expertise in the animation world makes his Twitter stream one of the most useful accounts for animators to follow.

Disney Animators

Although not an official Disney account, the Disney Animators’ Twitter feed collects the thoughts of animators working at Walt Disney Animation Studios.


Jessie Slipchinsky is a freelance animator who has also worked for Disney, and her account provides a candid, slice-of-life look into the life of a working animator.

Animation Jobs

Looking for a job as an animator? Animation Jobs does what it says on the tin, keeping a running list of openings for animators. If you’re looking for paid positions or are soon to graduate, this is pretty much the best Twitter account an animator can follow.

Bardel Entertainment

A Vancouver-based animation studio, Bardel Entertainment has worked on various projects for Nickelodeon, Disney, and the Cartoon Network, to name a few.

Animation World

Animation World Network is an animation news site dedicated to the animation industry. Its website is one of the best sources for up-to-date animation information, and its Twitter stream is a quick way to keep tabs on new articles.

This concludes our list of Twitter accounts every animator – professional or hobbyist – should follow, but feel free to add your own to the list via the comments below. In the mean time, be sure to check out our guide to the various types of animation jobs in the industry.

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The Most Anticipated 2015 Animated Movies

2014 was, all in all, a pretty decent year for animated movies. At one end of the spectrum, we saw some exemplary work coming to life at the hands of students at our animation school in LA while animated features like The Lego Movie, How to Train Your Dragon 2 and Mr. Peabody and Sherman did well in the wider industry.

It’ll be a tough year to match, but some of the most anticipated 2015 animated movies may be up to the challenge. With everyone waiting with baited breath particularly to see what Pixar and Disney are going to do next, let’s take a tour of the five biggest releases hitting the big screen in the near future.

Frozen Fever (March 13)

Frozen Sequel official trailer

We can’t go any further without addressing the highest grossing (if one of the *cough* most overrated *cough*) animated movies ever to hit the screens.

Given that Frozen has pulled in $1.27 billion at the box office and who knows how much more in spin-off revenue, the prospect of a Frozen 2 is pretty much a certainty at this point even if details aren’t forthcoming.

One thing we do know, however, is that there will be a sequel (of sorts) packaged with the theatrical release of the Mouse House’s Cinderella in March. It’ll only be a 7-minute long short, but with the original vocal cast and characters returning, you can guarantee Frozen Fever will restoke the fires of… well, Frozen fever.

Inside Out (June 19)

For anyone growing weary of franchise sequels and formulaic features, Pixar’s upcoming Summer release is definitely one to watch.

Created by many of the Up team members and with the soon-to-be household name Amy Poehler voicing the lead, Inside Out is set within the head of a girl driven by five characterized emotions – Anger, Fear, Disgust, Joy and Sadness. With a synopsis like that, it could well be one of the most conceptual and quirky films the studio has ever released.

Minions (July 10)

Much like the idea of a Frozen sequel, it’s hardly surprising that another Despicable Me movie would be on the cards given how successful the first and second movies became (both commercially and critically).

The fact that it’s a spin-off featuring the titular Minions characters is even less surprising – after all, they practically stole every scene they were in for the first two movies. Unlike some of this year’s upcoming releases, unless the writers do something catastrophically risky with the script it’s a nigh-on certainty that Minions will perform well when it hits this Summer.

The Good Dinosaur (November 25)


For a long time, Pixar’s second 2015 release (the only year to date in which we’ve had two major releases from the studio) was doing the rounds under the name The Untitled Pixar Movie About Dinosaurs.

Any Pixar release is usually highly anticipated, but perhaps moreso given that The Good Dinosaur has been rumored since 2009 and has continuously pushed back from its original 2013 release date (with the project falling apart several times.) Based around the simple premise of ‘What would have happened if dinosaurs didn’t become extinct?’, those worried that it’ll be a knock-off Flintstones affair will be pleased to hear that “they’re dinosaurs… they won’t be walking around with clothes on or anything like that.”

Finding Dory (June 17, 2016)

Finding Dory trailer

Okay, so this one isn’t a 2015 release but that doesn’t make the sequel to Finding Nemo any less anticipated.

It nearly never happened – Andrew Stanton, the writer and director of both, originally stated ‘no sequels’. And we nearly got it this year, before the documentary Blackfish required a total rewrite of the ending.

The original movie (which will be 13 years old at the time of Dory‘s release) hit a bullseye with 99% positive reviews on Rotten Tomatoes, and we’re all eager to see whether the sequel will live up to this impressive legacy.

Which of these most anticipated animated movies are you most looking forward to? Any we’ve missed? Let your voice be heard in the comments below!

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Jobs in Animation: Average Salaries & Career Paths

To someone who is passionate about animation, gaining paid work in the field can be something of a dream come true. The only downside is getting your foot through the door in the first place, especially given that the industry – much like any creative profession – is saturated with competition.

But don’t despair. Those armed with information are better prepared for success, and you’ll find plenty of it below as we delve into the various sub-professions within, and related to, animation.

We’ve also listed the typical career paths people usually follow to break into them (for instance, is animation school a prerequisite?) as well as the average salary one can expect and difficulty of attaining regular paid work (not the difficulty of the job itself).

All figures correct at time of writing, but should be taken as estimates only. Salary can vary wildly depending on location and experience level.

Art Director

art director salary

While many industries – from publishing to marketing – employ art directors for any project or campaign that requires heavy visual elements, the role is even more prominent in animation.

An art director holds a very high position on an animation team, and most creative staff involved on a project report directly to him or her. Not only do art directors have the final say on what footage or stills are to be included in the final cut (as well as helping to coordinate and shape the entire project), but may also be required to train junior staff and manage budgeting requirements.

Art Director Career Path: Typically working up from more junior roles, with qualifications from an animation school helping accelerate the process.

Pros: Being in charge of calling the shots is often the biggest pull for art directors.

Cons: Nobody knows pressure like an animation art director, particularly one who also has to manage budgetary issues.

Art Director Salary: Averaging $70,000 to $80,000, but wholly depends on the scale of the project.

Difficulty: 8/10

Stop Motion Animator

Stop motion animation jobs

Stop motion animation is a very laborious discipline which takes an incredible amount of skill, attention to detail and, above all, patience. What sets stop motion animators aside from traditional 2D or 3D animators is that they must also set up physical rigs, usually to specification, in which to work with the models and camera equipment before using specialist software to bring it all to life in the editing suite.

Stop Motion Animator Career Path: More often than not, stop motion animators are self-taught and break into the industry gradually having honed their skills through freelance work.

Pros: The job satisfaction when you see the finished animation – usually after weeks if not months of painstaking work – is truly off the scale

Cons: The painstaking work.

Stop Motion Animator Salary: Most stop motion animators earn a fairly steady $60,000, with no great difference being seen depending on experience or location. This is similar to how much somome earns while playing blackjack for a living.

Difficulty: 5/10

3D Modeler

3d modeler jobs

Working with a number and combination of industry-grade animation tools – Maya, 3DS Max and Blender to name a few – a 3D modeler works from the ground up to bring fully rendered models and environments to life. While this may sound like a fairly niche job, a skilled 3D modeler can find work not just in film and video games but also in engineering, advertising, manufacturing, architecture and many other fields.

3D Modeler Career Path: Given the steep learning curve, many modelers get their leg up onto the career ladder via 3D animation school. Internships usually follow, or the modeler can sometimes get straight into paid work if they’re based in an entertainment hotspot.

Pros: A fair amount of creative control, as well as no two days ever being the same (for the most part).

Cons: The competition for paid work is pretty stiff.

3D Modeler Salary: Very hard to calculate averages given that most 3D modeling work is offered on a freelance basis. A contracted modeler for a major studio like Disney or Pixar can expect as much as $100,000, but it can be less than half that for a smaller company.

Difficulty: 7/10

Flash Animator

Flash animation jobs

Predominantly working with the Adobe suite of animation tools, Flash animators combine skills in illustration, graphic design and composition in order to create compelling 2D and 3D animation in Adobe Flash. Given the prevalence of the format in modern usage, Flash specialists are employed in just about every area in which animation is required but particularly in web applications and advertising.

Flash Animator Career Path: A standard career path for those specializing in Flash is to self-teach before seeking out freelance work.

Pros: As long as Flash is as popular as it currently is, work is plentiful for a skilled Flash animator.

Cons: If you work in web advertising, client demands can get almost comically outrageous at times. A lot of work is being outsourced overseas, too, leading to greater competition at lesser rates than previous years.

Flash Animator Salary: As above – quite difficult to calculate given most Flash animators are self-employed. The median average lies around the $60k mark, but this is a very rough ballpark figure.

Difficulty: 4/10

Compositing Artist

compositing artist salary

Compositing artists hold a great degree of responsibility over the final appearance of an animation, working closely with the other animation staff (particularly SFX specialists, lighting and texture directors) in order to add a layer of polish and keep the entire project looking consistent. If you’ve ever been impressed by the stylistic quality of an animation, that’ll probably be the work of one or more compositing artists.

Compositing Artist Career Path: There are numerous routes to becoming a full-time compositing artist, and while many studios hire professionals who have undertaken specialist study in this area, it’s usually a case of working up from a junior animator or SFX level.

Pros: An opportunity to use your artistic flare to the fullest and leave your own creative stamp which is immediately apparent in the final animation.

Cons: It’s an under-appreciated artform, and you’ll be forced to satisfy the demands of numerous departments.

Compositing Artist Salary: Between $50,000 to $75,000 per year depending on location and experience.

Difficulty: 7/10

Storyboard Artist

storyboard artist jobs

While not strictly a branch of animation, storyboard artists usually work hand-in-hand with animation and/or filmmaking teams to help map out a story from start to finish long before work starts. Taking input from writers and directors, it’s the storyboard artist’s job to produce conceptual artwork from stills from which the production team can work – given that a skilled artist can save everyone else an exceptional amount of time (and, ergo, money), they’re highly sought after on film shoots, traditional animation, music videos and commercials.

Storyboard Artist Career Path: Like many professions in the creative industry, it’s all about having a solid portfolio and leveraging connections. This can take years of working on smaller projects for very little (or no) money, but studying the craft at illustration school can help you get there quicker.

Pros: Getting to be pretty much the first person to start the transformation process from written script to polished animation.

Cons: Being sandwiched between a director making demands and an animation team trying to make sense of the whole project.

Storyboard Artist Salary: In LA, the salary for a contracted storyboard artist can be as high as $80,000 to $100,000 but once again this can be half as much in other locations (and depending on the sector in which the artist is employed).

Difficulty: 6/10

Mathematical Modeler

mathematical modeler animation jobs

Arguably the most specialized branch of animation in the industry (and with a commensurate pay scale to go with it.) As the name suggests, a mathematical modeler uses complex formulae in order to generate equally complex models for use within animation; typically this skillset is mainly used in precise engineering such as aeronautics, but the increasing advancements in video gaming have seen a call for such specialists in recent years.

Mathematical Modeler Career Path: Intensive. A degree in math, engineering or similar is virtually essential, and coupling it with a program specific to 3D animation and modeling doesn’t hurt either.

Pros: Let’s not mince words – the main attraction here is the money.

Cons: Have fun digging through 20,000 lines of code to find the one mistake causing the model to act that way.

Mathematical Modeler Salary: Expect no less than $80,000.

Difficulty: 10/10

Forensic Animator

forensic animator training

Declaring that you’re an animator will usually fire up interest and conversation at a party, but being a forensic animator is guaranteed to turn heads.

Pretty much exactly as it sounds, a forensic animator will utilize his or her unique skills to help investigators piece together crime scenes and collate evidence for presentation to a jury. Forensic animators are also used often in insurance and/or liability claims, requiring strong experience in both 3D and 2D animation as well as terragen software in order to recreate real life locations and scenarios.

Forensic Animator Career Path: An already established animator can transfer over to forensic animation via specialist courses, but be warned: your flashy portfolio of superb SFX won’t do you any good since the field calls for technical attention to detail over dramatic embellishments. A criminal record will kill this career dead in the water, too.

Pros: As you can expect, playing an instrumental part in solving crimes is its own reward.

Cons: It’s not quite as ‘CSI’ as most people think, and it can take a strong mind (and stomach) to deal with some of the work you’ll undertake.

Forensic Animator Salary: Nearly always freelance based, a forensic animator can charge anywhere between $20 to $100 per hour, depending on experience.

Difficulty: 9/10

Render Wrangler

render wrangler jobs

When an animation is complete, somebody needs to make sure it is rendered down into a format fit for public consumption. That’s where a render wrangler comes in.

Modern animations typically comprise of many terrabytes of data per minute; this necessitates entire banks of computers to provide both the RAM and storage required to handle the rendering, and it’s entrusted to the render wranger (sometimes referred to as a data wrangler) to come up with workable solutions to facilitate this.

Render Wrangler Career Path: Computer science skills a must; animation knowledge secondary.

Pros: If you dream in zeroes and ones, this job is the epitome of high-powered computer geekery.

Cons: Trying to explain to non-technical staff the limits of what’s achievable. The pay is also fairly dire.

Render Wrangler Salary: Surprisingly low given the technical expertise required – typically only around $15 per hour.

Difficulty: 3/10

Texture Artist

Texture artist salary

Texture is an often overlooked aspect of animation, but it’s also one of the most crucial.

As one can imagine from the title, a texture artist concerns him or herself with the finish of any models (and sometimes terrain) to be featured in the animation. Often the main goal is to achieve a realistic look, but texture artists may also have to use all their graphic skills to create effects not usually found in nature. 

Texture Artist Career Path: Texture artists typically come from a graphic design school background, becoming proficient in texture creation first and foremost before transferring those skills to the animation sphere.

Pros: As well as always having to push your own boundaries to get results, if you enjoy using artistic skills to solve logical problems, this is the job for you.

Cons: Sometimes spending many hours just to get one particular texture on one character right, which may only get half a second of screen time.

Texture Artist Salary: $60,000 is a fairly standard mean average, ranging up to around $80,000 in some location hotspots.

Difficulty: 6/10

Ready to learn more about future possibilities in the world of 3D animation and visual effects? Check out NYFA’s Animation School for program offerings, and apply today!

See Also: Filmmaking, photography and broadcast journalism guides for jobs and salaries in other fields.

Develop an understanding of the principles of animation and visual effects and earn a degree with NYFA’s BFA in Animation program. Visit our Animation BFA program page to learn more and get started.

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