Did you know that film & video and advertising are not the only career options for animators? Sure, film is the most popular career for animators and yes, it can be exciting, glamorous, and fun, but animators are in high demand in a number of truly unique career fields, and the pay is often higher. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) lists around 10 industries with the highest published employment and wages for animators and multimedia artists. While film and video has the highest level of employment for animators, it did not make the list of top five highest paying industries.
So what are some of these cool careers for animators? Architectural Visualization, Forensic Animation, Medical Illustration/Animation, and GIS/3D Terrain Specialist are ones to watch. Let’s explore.
Architectural visualization is a demanding career that requires production, animation, visualization, and a host of advanced technology skills. AV animators are responsible for creating state-of-the-art environments that fully illustrate interior & exterior architectural design. They utilize conceptual artwork, CAD or Revit drawings or reference photography and work closely with designers and architects, while creating accurate 3D/2D concepts for design and client review. AV animators create accurate 3D/2D drawings for the communication of accurate and clean construction documents. The ability to translate conceptual spaces for 3D visualization from AutoCAD or Revit to 3D max is also required.
A few common job titles in this space include Architectural Animator/Renderer, 3D Visualization Specialist, Architectural Renderer, Digital Artist/Visualization Specialist, 3D Animator, 3D Architectural Rendering Specialist, and Architectural 3D Visual Artist. The following is a good example of the technical skills companies look for in an AV animator:
- Artist/Animator who is passionate about architectural visualization
- Highly skilled with 3D animations
- Highly skilled in 3ds max: Modeling, Texturing and Lighting & Rendering (Vray).
- Highly skilled in Photoshop
- Experience compositing render elements
- Experience compositing in After Effects or Nuke
- Strong knowledge of 3Ds max and track record of producing high=quality work
- Solid grasp of art fundamentals such as color theory, light, composition, and form
- Experience with Revit
- Familiar with photography techniques
Architectural visualization animators will find plenty of job opportunities at architecture firms, design studios, engineering firms, and even construction companies. According to Indeed, the average salary for professionals in this field is $100,000. Glassdoor reports a national average of $87,266 per year. In March of 2016, the BLS reported an average salary of $63,970 per year for multimedia artists and animators overall. Animators in the film and video industry averaged $73,270 per year, with higher reported salaries location hotspots such as California and Washington.
Forensic animators use full-motion computer graphics to recreate events such as accidents, assaults, robberies, and other crimes. They create 3D terrains, model CG environments using advanced techniques for lighting, photo matching, and rendering; animate characters, composite animations, capture video, use video tracking and matching techniques, develop DVDs of final animations, design graphics and court exhibits, and use photogrammetry.
Forensic animators must first collaborate with eyewitnesses, police officers, forensic experts, and others to create a series of fixed video images to use for creating an animated rendition of any given event. Forensic animators may use a number of software programs to create animated renditions including Adobe Illustrator, 3DS Max, AutoCAD, Photoshop, Adobe Flash Professional CC, After Effects, Adobe Premiere, Anark Core, and Eos Systems PhotoModeler. Besides advanced knowledge of industry software, forensic animators have exceptional 3D modeling, animation, and programming skills as well as a strong background in math and physics.
Forensic animators work for law enforcement agencies, investigative firms, attorneys, government agencies, and science and medical labs. Many are self-employed and work for multiple agencies. Advanced forensic animators typically charge no less than $100 an hour, with an average of $125 to $180 an hour.
A medical illustrator/animator has training in the areas of art, animation, medicine, communication, science, and media technology. These skilled 3D illustrators/animators have a solid understanding of anatomy, medical terminology, and medical illustration, which allows them to create technically accurate medical illustrations and animations. Medical illustrators/animators work with doctors, dentists, and other medical professionals to
create anatomically accurate illustrations and animations. This requires the use of 3DS Max, Maya, and Adobe Creative Cloud Applications including Adobe Photoshop, After Effects and Illustrator.
Because this is a highly specialized field, demand is extremely high for talent. This means opportunities are plentiful in the following environments:
- Advertising agency
- Corporation, small business
- Hospital, clinic, or healthcare institution
- Medical legal or law firm
- Other (government, non-profits)
- Pharmaceutical company
- Publishing company (books or journals)
- Research center
- University, academic medical center
- Veterinary school
- Web, multimedia, or animation firm
Medical illustrators/animators can earn up to $100,000. Supervisors or creative directors average $85,000 up $175,000 according to a 2013 Association of Medical Illustrators (AMI) survey. Some medical illustrators/animators are self-employed and can average anywhere from $82,000 and up to $580,000 per year, says AMI.
GIS/3D Terrain Specialist
Geographical Information System (GIS)/3D specialists help deliver support for deployable combat readiness training, test and evaluation, and policy analysis events to government, civilian, and commercial organizations around the world. –Ravenswood Solutions (RS)
According to RS, “the GIS/3D terrain specialist is responsible for the design and production of 3D virtual terrains and traditional 2D mapping products. This includes the entire process of field data collection, data processing, digital production, and quality assurance (QA). The individual works within a team to produce and maintain a series of accurate 3D virtual environments for training and instructional purposes.”
GIS/3D terrain specialists must have experience in animation, GIS, 3D production, GPS navigation systems, surveying equipment, digital photography, architectural drawings, cartography, documentation, graphic design, user interface design, ARC Info, MAYA, TerraVista, Creator (Presagis), Python, Photoshop, SVN, CAD, and Esri ArcGIS for Desktop. The ideal candidate will have an engineering background, animation skills, and experience or familiarity with military organizations. GIS/3D terrain specialist can find employment at technology firms and they can expect to average $70,000 or more per year.
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