One of the most exciting, fast-growing parts of the graphics world is animated graphics. With the growth of the Internet, computer-animated feature films and other new media, the animated graphics field has grown by leaps and bounds. Animated graphics are created with animation software. Much of the animated graphics on the Internet are created with Adobe Flash. Computer “3-D” animated feature films are created using high-end animation programs such as Autodesk Maya.
Adobe Flash has become the near-standard program for Web animation and is used as well for television and movie animation. The current version (as of 2009) of the program is called Adobe Flash CS4 Professional. It is useful for much more than animation, including many types of interactive Internet programming to create rich Internet experiences. It is possible to download Flash on a trial basis for free for a limited time. The program includes lessons and tutorials to help in learning.
Autodesk Maya is a 3-D animation program allowing users to execute 3-D modeling, visual effects, animation and rendering. It is the industry standard for 3-D animators working in television, design, computer games and feature films. Like Flash, Maya is available in a trial version as a free download. There are several third-party plug-in applications available to enhance its productivity. It should also be noted that there are several other notable 3-D animation software products on the market, such as Kinetix 3D Studio Max.
Adobe After Effects
Another Adobe program in heavy use for animated graphics is Adobe After Effects. It is used to create special visual effects and animated graphics. Adobe After Effects is often used with other Adobe programs, such as Photoshop and Flash, as a postproduction tool to add special animation effects. Like other Adobe programs, it is available as a download on a free trial basis for a limited trial period.
Adobe Illustrator and Adobe Photoshop
Many animators use image editing programs such as Adobe Photoshop or vector-based programs such as Adobe Illustrator for drawing and coloring images for later use in animation software. Oliver Simonson of What Comics Entertainment uses both Photoshop and Illustrator for art and design work, then imports the images into Autodesk Maya for 3-D animation.
Careers in Animated Graphics
There are many specialized jobs in the animated graphics industry, such as modeler, animator, programmer, character designer, character animator, storyboarder and technical director, to name a few. While a general knowledge is useful, it is helpful to direct your training and education toward a specific job in the animated graphics industry. Many colleges and universities have created academic paths to study the field, but it is possible to self-train with animation software and find employment in the field. There are jobs at big companies like Pixar and Industrial Light and Magic, but the animated graphics industry is large and diversified into many areas beyond feature film effects, including advertising and Web animation.