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small Fears but Great Visions concerning the industry!

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small Fears but Great Visions concerning the industry!

---This thread discusses the mid- and longterm-perspectives for digital artists ---

Hello guys, it’s me, Reign_of_Light,

an upcoming high school graduate from Germany, who was never about to question the great future of animation, virtual worlds and especially not my personal chances in this "booming" market.

"Yeah right, dream on, boy", you might say and - well perhaps I was a bit overoptimistic and didn't do enough efforts to find out what reality in the industry really looks like. And indeed, the thread "So you want to be an animator? Here's what to expect." in the "Animation Cafe" made me think a lot.

I neither consider myself an animation-fanatic nor do I ever plan to become a geek living only for animation. In fact I even don't really like Walt Disneys animated movies too much (except for Donald Duck :D ) and I never saw a PIXAR or Dreamworks creation yet. The question is, does this disqualify myself for the career as an animator? I, although not being an expert at all, really don't think so. To my eye there is still so much left to do, that I cannot imagine the digital arts in entertainment to be exclusively made for freaks and masochists.
For example, if I constantly improve my drawing, modeling, animating and creativity skills (up to now I am already quite good in comic drawing) while attending one of the bigger animation academies in Germany to make my bachelor or master in animation, aren’t I somehow qualified to engage in a.) movie animation b.) advertising animation c.) comic & cartoon drawing d.) graphic design e.) storyboarding f.) virtual world design g.) video-game animation h.) post-production i.) visual effects j.) concept art k.) character design l.) modeling for everything from game characters over monsters to satans private hell-residance m.) technical direction n.) free video- and picture-arts o.) art direction p.) portraying q.) industrial and fashion design [if I go on learning in that direction] r.) layout s.) special-effects t.) illustration u.) web-design w.) teaching drawing & animation skills x.) qualifying on to the producer-level [for example with additional studies in “media management”] y.) drawing people on the streets z.) toy & board-game design etc ? As you see I found a possible occupation for a trained and talented digital-artist to every letter in the alphabet just by brainstorming for five minutes. Of course there are some overlapping each other, but therefore I surely also forgot a lot. To my mind they all sound fun and challenging :) !

The next big thing is, that even the most passive consument must have recognized the massive development that is going on in the entertainment industry. There is a nice example in the introduction of my Maya-tutorial-book, where the author writes, that alone creating (I’m not even talking about animating yet) a “Godzilla” for a movie of modern standards requires many many artists. Probably metaphorical he explains that there would be at least on artist to create a realistic “big toe” for Gozilla, another to skin it and the next to shade it in order to make it really look real. His message is this: When it requires already a bunch of professionals to make Gozillas left foot look realistic, than how many people are required to make a whole animated film or at least a film with many animated parts (as for example: 300, The Lord of the Rings, King Kong etc)? I went to the cinema last Friday, and what did I see on all the advertising boards? Movies which have all more or less animated elements in it: “The Golden Compass”, “I am Legend”, “Cloverfield” and so on. It makes the serious impression that computer graphics and animation are becoming incredibly important to the movie industry, more and more and more.
The same is going on in the Video Game Industry, even more massively, because video games naturally only consist of computer graphics. I’m sure nobody can question that the graphics in video games had a revolutionary development in the past 10 years and they are probably soon reaching cinema quality in the complexity and quality of their graphics. I cannot even imagine how many artists this industry must need if developping further that fast! Assuming that “World of WarCraft” is only the beginning, than it seems possible that virtual worlds might become complex and realistic enough to be serious competion to the tourism industry. That would require an army of artists :eek:.

With or without science-fiction, to my mind everything around us becomes more and more “digital designed” and that does conclude, for me, to the assumption that starting a career in animation is not only fun but a good investion for the future of all those people who love designing and animating and who don’t lack talent.

Now I really want you to comment on my thoughts :)! If you consider me as very naïve, than please tell me right now. I am about to do a great exam in high school (we call it “Abitur”, I think in the US its “A-Levels” or “A-Grades”?!) and maybe it would be healthier for me as well as for many other ambicious young adults to become someone in economics or science than struggling for an animation career. But maybe it’s the other way round. I must find out that one the next two months!!

PS: What I am fearing and appreciating simultaniously is the rise of the “third-world” countries in this industry. It would be just logically if people from india and china would do the lots of the animating and designing work, because they can maintain a better lifestyle for less money than people from Europe or the USA can do. “Digital work” can be easily send around the world by E-Mail or on a few DVDs, so outsourcing in this industry is even a more logical process than all the other outsourcing in, for example, the engineering industries. Is that one a sensible reason to stay away from animation for citizens from Europe etc as long as our lifestyles are more expansive than anywhere else? Please also comment on that one!

[Edit] I was just googling around when I found that link: ! Nothing special, but it looks like a steady request for animators and designers in the game industry!

I think you are naive, but that's not meant to be insulting.

From where I sit, there's two, maybe three paths someone can take into this biz.
The most common is someone who is semi-skilled, semi-interested who ends up as cannon-fodder on a relatively uninteresting animation job doing work that is more mechanical than creative.
They last maybe a year or two at best, and get out of the industry because its not paying enough or they feel stymied as far as creativity goes. They want more, but they lack either the skill or the opportunity to advance.
They don't really bring much to the industry, but that's okay, because they are "meant" to be used up and cast out for the next fresh face that comes along.

The other, is the person who decides to immerse themselves, putting a tremendous amount of focus onto every task they undertake, and become......for lack of a better term, a "geek". Even if their skills start out marginal, their efforts add just enough polish to their skill-set that they can keep getting more work. Their impassioned sense about the craft keeps them in this cycle and eventually they top out as a decently skilled worker, and likely someone on some kind of position of control re: a director or supervisor.

The third is some one who is like the second, but more balanced. They can be well-skilled or modestly skilled, but they apporach the craft like a job. They might have a family to feed, or some other outside concern--but they do not immerse themselves into the craft as deeply. They approach it in a sensible pragmatic way and they do it because they value their sanity.
Usually these folks end up as respected talent, often journeymen in nature, and sometimes veer away from animation into other media, like cartooning in general. They can take on postions of control, or even open studios of their own.

Now, all that said.......animation is a career choice not to be entered into or taken lightly.
A LOT of people approach this as an affectation--let's face it, animation has an allure of glamour about it that suckers the naive.
You've cited a lot of popular movies and projects.........honestly MOST folks in animation do not work on high profile stuff that often. If they do, quite often the work they do is not the show-stopping scenes or material, but tends to be the filler between the spectacle.
There is a tremendous amount of rejection involved, much of it in unintentionally personal.

All of it boils down to, in my opinion, whether or not the persona has ability.
Desire is fine and is part of the equation, but ability is the deciding factor.
I said before alot of people approach animation as an affectation, and I meant that. They tend to be people that HOPE their abilities are up to scratch, and more often than not........their abilities are not.

The schools that are out there put this notion into people's heads that "anyone" can learn animation--and to a degree its true, but.......learning animation and making a career out of animation are two very different things.
The artistic side of craft is the part that seems to be less developed at a lot of these schools. The thrust seems to be the techinical matters and software, and eschews the fostering of the intuitive sense--the appreciative for cinema, or appeal in the artistic image...
That is often left up to the individual to develop on their own.

I say, to any newcomer, to thinking VERY carefully about the past few years out your life, and your conscious and unconscious interests.
If you, as a person, have been totally gaga about animation, cartoons, comics, games, toys, etc....have been drawing them, endlessly consuming them, exploring them as if you create your own--and doing so constantly....THEN I'd say you could have a future in this industry.

If, instead, the idea of animation is something that struck you recently, and sounds like something fun to do, and seems quite exciting........but you don't really draw, or create and wonder if they can "fit you
The biz is not for you and my advice to either garner the genuine passion for it, or leave it alone and pursue something else.

With regards to the third-world animation take is that they will continue to be a presence for economic reasons, but the issue we face is one of creative content control.
Quite simply, if the material is destined for home, but its made abroad, someone at home still needs to guid the work so it can address interests at home.
In other words, the tastes of the domestic audience are only going to be addressed by like domestic creators.
This probably says that a lot of the story, and pre-prod work is going to continue to be handled domestically, but the physical work--re: the animation itself--will be done overseas.

That's pretty much how alot of the animation work has been handled for the past few decades anyway. Media like games usually keep the work here, because the highly technical nature of the work-but that can change over time. Its hard to gauge how this will turn out.

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

Thank you very much, Ken

, for this comprehensive answer J. I read a lot of long, but very informing posts from you. Its seems as if you like to give us greenhorns closer views to the industry. I really appreciate you for doing this.

Back to my case: Your contribution, again, made me think a lot about myself.

I don’t have to worry about my years 1 to 10, cause I consumed endless amounts of comics and started to draw them on my own in the age of 6. I created two big comic books, even though none of them was ever finished (the first contains 71 and a half filled sides, which I still cannot stop reading over and over again). From 10 to 12 I got lazy and did play computer games with pals or solo pretty excessively, cause there was not much else to do in the small village where I lived and still have to live until I finish high school. In the age of 12 I stumbled over the “3D Game Studio”, which I became quite addicted to. I spent all my free time on far-exaggerated-in-ambition game projects, together with pals from the internet. Creating games was pleasing me more than playing them, something my companions never understood. They prefered consuming. My preferences changed from programming games to designing the graphics to them, and my new “tools” became “Picture Publisher” for 2D and “Blender” for 3D. From 12 to 16 I took part in many over-ambicious projects, which were all just organized over the internet. None of the major ones made it to be released, always because of other people who didn’t want to go on working anymore. My work was awarded two times with a magazine’s small price (50€). I was also good in web design. From 16 until 18 ½ I stopped everything from gaming to game-making and drawing, because my parents made me realize that gaming was a waste of time (I still think so. Don’t exeggerate playing games!), time that I seriously need to prepare myself for my after-high-school career. I also tried playing the guitar and I chased the opposite sex a lot :D. Finally I couldn’t find a “perfect” career-path for me, even though I’m also interested in history, tourism and economics. So I came back to what I always was into most: drawing and designing. I found out that you can study “Animation” and since a half year I’m drawing characters and learning Maya every day.

You said there are 3 different types of animation-candidates. Hm…. I’m sure I am not one of the first type, cause if I expect me to be a semi-skilled and semi-interested loser it maybe will end up in a self-fulfilling prophecy or something like that :eek: ! I also cannot be of the second type, ‘cause I definitly will always have friends from outside the industry, and I do love nature, journeys and a litte bit of sports (at least to keep myself healthy). The 3rd type remains and encourages me to go on this way.

So here’s my plan: I will draw and model every day the next two months. Holding the results in my hands I will decide, maybe with others help, whether I can make it or whether it’s worthless trying.

If I post the results of these two months of engagement, can you experienced guys conclude from them to whether I can make it in the animation-biz or not?

The thing to consider here is that if your parents are convincing you that "gaming is a waste of time", and that you have interests outside of the craft--that you may very well have enough distractions to pull you off course and derail your career plans.

In my eyes, this is the toss-up. I've had young folks come to me claiming "absolute total committment to the craft" wanting to be an apprentice and all........and 3 months later they are chasing skirts and getting more out of jamming on their guitar. And I knew it was an affectation with them before they did.

If you are a teen, its rare that you can nail down your career/ life path so firmly because most of your experiences and sensations are new. That is just part of the the teenage biology at work--trying to find their place in the scheme of things. If you can muster the self-discipline to make a truly-committed choice, then good on you--you don't need anything more from me.

Back to the family my own case, I worked in the biz for almost 6 years before my own family came out of the rut that I "didn't have a real job, I was just drawing". What tipped them over was that I made more income than my father one year. Then all of a sudden I became a "cartoonist" in their eyes. Might be the same thing with your family, their associations to the profession could be so limited they only see the end-user (you) and not the actual professional process involved (the people that make the games).
They may simply NOT KNOW anything about the industry and their "realizations" are coming from knee-jerk reactions.
Hell, my own parents were CONVINCED that comic artists/cartoonists lived off of Doritos chips and rootbeer........all because they read some dumbfuck article about it once. This was just a couple of years before Marvel comics instituted the creator incentives promgramme and quite a few creators were suddenly bringing home $100K+ a year drawing comics. Doritos and rootbeer indeed.

Gaming is an EXCELLENT industry to work in, because there's always projects happening now and talent is always sought.....somewhere. Plus its high-profile and quite "big business" too. I know a young fellow who was head hunted from Bioware in Edmonton Alberta to another gaming studio in California--the recruiter sent him an Ipod with the job offer on it! Oh yea, this young guy is doing real well now....

ANY occupation in the creative industries like movies, TV, games, comics etc....are going to have instability. That's becuase it depends upon the fickleness of the public ( and the employers...). The public is always going to want and need entertainment, but just what kinds and how much depends on something no-one can control.

What you need to decide is your personal level of committment to this kind of goal, and how much personal time with other things you are willing to sacrifice.
I used to tell students this: immerse yourself into the craft totally for the time it takes to reach the goal- real life will wait.
If that goal is to gain employment, then is might take a couple of years. If its a specific job in the industry, then it might take a bit longer.
Focus totally on that goal, to the exception of all other things........and here's the clincher--because in reality, many of those things will still around when you come out of the "haze" on the other side.
Family and friends, if they truly care about you, will let you go about the things you have to do without distracting you

You'll still have plenty of time and life left for new experiences once you have attained that goal, and the notion of "missing things" in the meantime........well, its ludicrous. You are building something for yourself in that meantime.

In my opinion, this is one of the ways to truly excell in the craft and almost guarantee a better career in the process.
Far too many people are afraid to apply that kind of deep immersive level of commmittment because they are afraid of losing out on other experiences.

Its a choice between a half-measure and full-measure experience.

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

Thank you again, Ken.

I spent 1,5h to translate your two contributions into German, printed them out and gave them to my father. Although he still cannot comprehend my career-choice (it seems not sensible at all to him), he now got an idea of how business and employment in the industry work. Unfortunatly he already counts me to one of those failures you mentioned who win nothing but a bloody nose. He accepts this to be a necessary key-stone to maturity for me and is willing to support me from now on. Thank you again. (I, of course, don’t agree to my father)

Ken, may I ask you why you decided to join the industry, even though it was not nearly as big those days as it is now and even though your parents didn’t have any acceptance at all for your occupation? That choice conjures up the impression to be even far more unreasonable than it is now. Was it just your love to cartoons?

And there is one other thing left I wonder about.

You wrote game-development projects were popping out all over the world, and so they are also in Germany. Unfortunatly this development isn’t supported by our government at all (at least not yet). That’s why I only could list 6 german game-development studios by heart if someone would ask me to (even though we are a nation of 85 million people). Now I’m wondering how “global” the industry really is. I’m aware of my chances to work in the entire European Union, and I’m burning to do. But how is foreign talent handled in the US and Canada? I’m sure you already met a lot of foreigners in this business and maybe you can tell me?

And Yes, I’m willing to truely commit myself to the craft and I’m also willing to do whatever it takes for succeeding in it. I think this is in my capacity and its worth doing so, at least until I stabilized my skills on a high level. You encouraged me to do.
But for first, I will test my self discipline and my talent within the next two months.

Ken, may I ask you why you decided to join the industry, even though it was not nearly as big those days as it is now and even though your parents didn’t have any acceptance at all for your occupation? That choice conjures up the impression to be even far more unreasonable than it is now. Was it just your love to cartoons?

Yea, that's pretty much it.

My story is that I have always been drawing and had a voracious appetite for cartoons, comics, superheroes, sci-fi/fantasy etc, ever since I was about 5 years old. I was so passionate about it that friends and family encouraged me from a young age to continue drawing and I was often told I'd be "as famous as Charles Schulz some day".

That hasn't happened yet, but it did boost my ego somewhat, and it kept me drawing.

My skills developed over the years to a point were I was near-professional in ability--and at that point I was in my early 20's.
All through that time I was drawing, relentlessly.
Now, I floundered and drifted about in my early adulthood because I simply did not know anyone in the biz, nor know of anyone or any studio to approach.
As I grew up in Vancouver, BC--there was, to my knowledge, no real animation industry there at the time. Besides, I was more interested in comic books than animation, and New York was the place to be doing those.

So my parents saw this, saw my stalled ambitions and did what any parent would do.
They tried to nudge me into something "sensible".
Well, I held out........"sensible" just wasn't all that interesting to me.
I had cartooning skills I wanted to use and, by golly, I was going to use them.
I was stubborn about this and refused to consider anything else.

In 1984, by chance, I happened to meet some fellows from Eastern Canada, who'd come to Vancouver to set up a studio, and I got into the animation biz a year later working for them, then as an assistant animator/inbetweener. I've been in the industry since then, and have done many different kinds of jobs and worked on many different kinds of projects.

As far as how global the industry your research over the next 2 months and you'll see how big it is.
( Hint, there's numerous gaming studios in the UK)

"We all grow older, we do not have to grow up"--Archie Goodwin ( 1937-1998)

Nice, thank you for sharing, Ken :) !