How Do You Find the Best Animation School for You?
Media arts and animation is a wide-reaching field full of different types of contributors. Not every "animator" can do it all as the options for career paths are just too vast.
So how do you maximize on your talent and ambition and wind up at the best animation school for your chosen area of interest?
Are you a writer or artist? Do you like to work with 3D characters or 2D? Are creating people your passion or do you prefer painting scenery and environments? In what type of environment do you want to work (gaming, film and television, advertising, medical illustrating)? Are you primarily wired for technology or more interested in the creative scene?
The questions can go on and on, and all of these things matter, especially as you look at the many areas of animation you can enter.
Here are just some of the scenarios:
- 2D animation
- 3D animation
- Character animation
- Special effects (FX)
- Matte painting
- 3D Modeling
It's important you learn the facts and ins-and-outs of animation career types. Here are some tips to help you narrow your specialty within the field.
First, what do you not want to do?
Most people spend all their time dreaming about what they'd like to become but it's just as important to know what you don't want to do as well as what you think you would like to do.
You're about to spend a great amount of time and money to pursue your education for your dream career, so it's time to seriously think about your goals.
Before you even begin considering schools, try and educate yourself in other ways so you can feel confident in your ultimate decision:
- Read books by animators and learn the truth about its many career paths.
- Attend seminars, join online forums, and ask questions on blogs written by professionals.
- Try and meet people who teach courses at a local college, or professionals who are active in the field and ask question about what the different jobs entail.
Once you've discerned whether animation—and which sector of the field—fulfills your personal ambitions you're ready to find the best animation school from which to earn your degree.
Researching the best animation schools
"Best" is entirely subjective here because you are unique. But every student hoping to move into animation should consider these general "musts" when finding a good school:
- Do your professors have real world experience and are they teaching the courses you need?
- Is the school accredited? This will be a factor when you start looking for a job.
- How long will it take to complete your program—do you need to fast-track and forego liberal arts courses that are part of a 4-year bachelor's degree program, or is a focused 2-year associate's degree enough to help you land a job? Remember: Animation is competitive and some employers may desire those additional skills as they'll consider you've received a well-rounded education and are capable doing more than just one thing.
- Will your school help you with job placement after you graduate?
- Does your school offer an internship in a studio or firm where you can find a mentor—and start to network within the community you're interested in.
- Will they help you create a great demo reel before you graduate? This is the #1 representation of you that potential employers will insist upon.
Now, let's address that uniqueness factor.
Here are some things to consider that pertain to you—and your goals—exclusively. Remember, you're going to get the "basics" in any animation programs, and these will include drawing, writing, color, computer applications and character classes combined with theory courses. But let's go back to what you want to do within the field.
- Be sure the school teaches the types of animation skills you'll need to ensure your career success and development.
- Does your school specialize in your chosen focus? If you want to be a storyboard expert and your school focuses on lighting or animation art direction, you'll not be learning the correct skills to work in that area, even once you've earned your degree.
- How are your classes taught? Does the format fit your style? Whether you choose an online or on-campus program, you'll need to understand your own strengths and weaknesses to find the best animation school program for you. For example, if you need attention and constant feedback to help you progress and improve, an online degree may not suit you. If you're independent and don't need much direction, it may be ideal.
- Are graduates from your school working in the industry and what does their work look like? Does it envision your ideal?
Now it's time for you to begin to draw up your game plan. Be realistic and thorough as you consider each question and you'll have a good idea of what you'll need to bring when you start talking to schools about what they have to offer.