Animation: Coursework Overview

Coursework in animation is available through both non-degree and degree programs at community colleges, art schools and universities. Courses in these programs prepare students to create animations, design 3-D models and develop characters.

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Essential Information

Certificate, diploma, associate's, bachelor's and master's programs in animation are available online and on-site. While at least a bachelor's degree is usually needed to work as an animator, an associate's degree can lead to work in an entry-level position. A master's degree program in animation is suitable for someone already possessing a background in the subject as its coursework is advanced. Certificate and diploma programs, on the other hand, are often designed for art professionals who already have a credential or work experience, yet want to enhance their skills. These non-degree programs can also be a stepping stone to a degree program that will lead to an entry-level career in animation.

Students gain practice through hands-on projects, and they usually complete a course in which they prepare a professional portfolio. The history of art and animation is also covered. Depending on the school and the type of program one enrolls in, there may be opportunities to attend industry events, participate in art shows or do an internship.

Here is an outline of common concepts taught in animation courses:

  • Motion and graphic design
  • Animating in 3-D
  • Software literacy
  • Character creation
  • Figure manipulation
  • Evolution of animation
  • Building a portfolio

After completing a program, students may pursue careers in stop motion animation, visual effects, composition, character design, 3-D modeling and more. They can also continue their education with a further degree or specialized certificate program.

List of Common Courses

Introduction to Animation Course

This foundational course provides students with a base of knowledge in animation design concepts. Much of the curriculum focuses on how to bring stories to life by studying the physics and choreography of motion. Students can also learn fundamental techniques in timing, staging and posing.

3-D Modeling Courses

Students learn the skills necessary to effectively create basic 3-D modeling designs using specific toolsets. Methods, techniques and terminology are a major component of this course. Students also gain foundational knowledge of computer geometry, as well as how shapes can be modified and manipulated in order to render landscapes, architecture, vehicles and characters. This class typically involves several animation projects.

Character Design and Rigging Course

Character setup using software, such as Autodesk Maya, Adobe After Effects and Adobe Photoshop, is the focus of this class. Students examine how to build character skeletons, controls and an interface so that their characters can come to life. The course may provide a brief introduction to advanced rigging techniques. Towards the end of the course, students might demonstrate the design and setup of a character using a customized graphical user interface.

Animation History Course

During this course students discuss the emergence of animation as an art form, leading up to modern times. They analyze the political, social, financial and technological aspects that have helped mold this craft. Different styles of animation and how they have evolved, both domestically and internationally, are examined as well. The future of animation is often touched upon in this class.

Portfolio Course

This class is designed to teach students how to put together one of the most important tools for a successful career, their professional portfolio. Students discover how to create an intriguing, well-rounded portfolio in both digital and hardcopy formats. They focus a great deal of attention on recognizing flaws in their portfolios and how to correct them. Putting a portfolio together that is geared for a specific job description or client is also a common course topic.

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