What Does a Forensic Animator Do? Where Do Forensic Animators Work? ACR Takes a Look.
|Austin Film School||Austin||Texas|
|Brigham Young University||Provo||Utah|
|Cazenovia College||Cazenovia||New York|
|Columbia College Chicago||Chicago||Illinois|
|Grand Canyon University||Phoenix||Arizona|
|Purdue University||West Lafayette||Indiana|
|Regent University||Virginia Beach||Virginia|
|Ringling College of Art and Design||Sarasota||Florida|
|Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design||Denver||Colorado|
|Sam Houston State University||Huntsville||Texas|
|Savannah College of Art and Design||Savannah||Georgia|
|Southern Illinois University||Carbondale||Illinois|
|University of Advancing Technology||Tempe||Arizona|
|University of Central Oklahoma||Edmond||Oklahoma|
What Does a Forensic Animator Do?
Forensic animation is a unique specialization within the animation field. Instead of creating animations for video games, films, and cartoons, forensic animators recreate crime scenes or accidents to help investigators produce evidence and solve crimes. In addition to a background in animation, many forensic animators have a science, legal or criminal justice background.
Forensic animators use full-motion computer graphics to recreate accidents, disasters, 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 digital or physical copies of final animations, design graphics and court exhibits, and use photogrammetry.
Forensic animators must first collaborate with eyewitnesses, police officers, forensic experts or scientists, 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 including Adobe Illustrator, 3DS Max, AutoCAD, Photoshop, Adobe Animate, After Effects, Adobe Premiere, Terragen, Anark Core, and Eos Systems PhotoModeler.
Where Do Forensic Animators Work?
Forensic animators work with law enforcement agencies, investigative firms, insurance companies, attorneys, aerospace, government agencies, science and medical labs and many others. Many forensic animators are self-employed, which provides the opportunity to work for multiple agencies.
What is the Job Outlook for Forensic Animators?
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) does not report employment and salary information for forensic animators. However, the agency does report information multimedia artists and animation as a group. The U.S. is home to 73,700 multimedia artists and animators, making it the third largest career field in the world of art and design. Employment for this group is expected to grow 8% for the 2016-2026 decade. This is about as fast as average for all occupations.
Projected employment growth for animators and multimedia artists will be the result of increased demand for animation and more realistic visual effects in video games, movies, and television. “Opportunities should be best for those who have a wide range of skills or who specialize in a highly specific type of animation or effect,” reports the BLS, which is great news for aspiring forensic animators.
Job opportunities for animators and multimedia artists can be found all over the U.S. However, five states have the highest employment levels—California, Texas, New York, Georgia, and Florida. Ten metropolitan areas, including several from each of these states, have the highest employment of all metro areas. They include:
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA
- San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA
- New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA
- Austin-Round Rock, TX
- Atlanta-Sandy Springs-Roswell, GA
- Dallas-Fort Worth-Arlington, TX
- Chicago-Naperville-Elgin, IL-IN-WI
- Portland-Vancouver-Hillsboro, OR-WA
- Boston-Cambridge-Nashua, MA-NH
The top five industries with the highest employment levels for animators and multimedia artists are:
- Motion Picture and Video Industries
- Computer Systems Design and Related Services
- Software Publishers
- Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services
- Other Information Services
Other Animation Schools to Consider:
- Atlanta, Georgia; Savannah, Georgia; Lacoste, France; and SCAD eLearning
How Much Do Forensic Animators Make?
Several job websites report that forensic animators average $92,000 to $100,000 or more annually. New York Film Academy (NYFA) reports that freelance forensic animators charge between $20 and $100 an hour. This means, if a forensic animator is lucky enough to work a full-time schedule, consistently, his salary could climb to more than $200,000 per year.
The BLS reports that the median annual wage for multimedia artists and animators is $72,520. The mean annual wage is $78,230. The lowest 10% of multimedia artists and animators earn less than $40,870 and the highest 10% earn more than $124,310. At $86,080 (mean), multimedia artists and animators working in the motion picture and video industries have the highest annual wage of the top five industries with the highest employment levels for animators.
It is important to keep in mind that salaries for multimedia artist and animators may vary by experience, specialization, type and size of company, and even geographic location. For example, Connecticut-based multimedia artists and animators average $102,630 per year—the nation’s highest average salary for this profession—while South Carolina-based artists average $36,270—the lowest salary for this profession.
In addition to Connecticut, the top five highest paying states for multimedia artists and animators are Washington ($90,700), District of Columbia ($89,210), California ($87,960), and New York ($86,490).
The top paying metro areas for multimedia artists and animators are:
- Bridgeport-Stamford-Norwalk, CT - $115,070
- San Jose-Sunnyvale-Santa Clara, CA - $91,850
- San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA - $91,840
- Seattle-Tacoma-Bellevue, WA - $91,010
- New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA - $87,320
- Los Angeles-Long Beach-Anaheim, CA - $86,240
- Savannah, GA - $82,880
- Sacramento-Roseville-Arden-Arcade, CA, $80,2300
- Raleigh, NC - $79,070
- North Port-Sarasota-Bradenton, FL - $78,980
Some of the lowest paying states for multimedia artists and animators are Iowa ($53,430), Nebraska ($50,650), Montana ($48,900), South Dakota ($44,340), and South Carolina ($36,270).
The top paying industries for multimedia artists and animators are:
- Professional and Commercial Equipment and Supplies Merchant Wholesalers - $99,790
- Aerospace Product and Parts Manufacturing - $90,960
- Motion Picture and Video Industries - $86,080
- Software Publishers - $85,270
- Navigational, Measuring, Electromedical, and Control Instruments Manufacturing - $83,050
Salaries for the top five industries with the highest employment levels for multimedia artists and animators are:
- Motion Picture and Video Industries - $86,080
- Computer Systems Design and Related Services - $78,850
- Software Publishers - $85,270
- Advertising, Public Relations, and Related Services - $73,780
- Other Information Services - $80,070
How Do I Become a Forensic Animator?
A bachelor’s degree is the minimum education requirement for forensic animator positions. However, many employers prefer a master’s degree plus two or more years’ experience in a professional environment. Common degree paths include animation, illustration or computer animation or animation, illustration or computer animation plus a minor or double major in criminal justice. Exceptional 3D modeling, animation, and programming skills are essential as well as a background in math and physics.
Which Schools Offer Programs for Aspiring Forensic Animators?
- Austin Film School, Advanced 2D Digital Animation (hands-on workshops and courses)
- Brigham Young University, BFA Animation, BS Computer Science, Animation Emphasis
- Cazenovia College, BFA Visual Communications: Illustration/Animation
- Columbia College Chicago, BA, BFA Computer Animation
- DePaul University, BA, BFA, MA Animation
- Grand Canyon University, BA Digital Design - Animation
- Purdue Polytechnic Institute at Purdue University, BS Computer Graphics Technology
- Regent University, BA Animation, BAS Criminal Justice
- Ringling College of Art and Design, BFA in Computer Animation
- Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, BFA 2D, 3D Animation
- Sam Houston State University, BFA Computer Animation
- Savannah College of Art and Design, BFA, MA, MFA Animation; BA, BFA, MA, MFA Illustration
- Southern Illinois University, BS Digital Animation (Computer Animation)
- University of Advancing Technology, BA Game Art and Animation, BS Technology Forensics
- University of Central Oklahoma, Forensic Science Institute (FSI), BS, MS Forensic Science, Emphasis Digital Forensics, BFA Studio Art, Graphic Design
Awesome Animation Fact: Pixar's Toy Story (1995) was the world's first computer animated feature-length film. It became the highest grossing film of 1995 making $192 million domestically and $362 million worldwide. -Pixar