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Animation, Interactive Technology, Video Graphics, and Special Effects


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What to Expect

Animation students spend a lot of time observing people. They study the way people smile, how they walk and what they do with their hands.

When you enter your first animation class, expect to see 10 or 20 students who are just like you. All that talent in one place can be a humbling experience, especially if you were the best artist at your high school.

"Suddenly you're in a place where everyone can draw, and like it or not, many of them will be able to draw better than you," says Elyssa Di Giovanni. She is a third-year traditional animation student at the School of Visual Arts. She has wanted to be an animator since she was 12.

"The best way to deal with it is to remind yourself that you're in school to learn, to improve," recommends Di Giovanni.

Once you get over the initial shock of your classmates' talent, you may be surprised by the workload.

"You're going to be drawing for your classes far more than you've ever drawn before," says Di Giovanni. "Animation isn't something you can do the night before -- it's far too labor-intensive."

Scott Forbes is an animation student at Sheridan College and a life-long artist. He wants to apply his animation education to being an illustrator or a comic artist creating original graphic novels.

"Now, there is the odd day here and there where I spend the entire night working on assignments, but if you manage your time in class well and focus when working at home it's possible to avoid all-nighters," says Forbes.

It is not unusual for animation students to spend four to five hours on drawing homework every day. If you are asked to make a film, you may find yourself in the animation studio for 10 to 80 hours per week, depending on the length of the film. You will need to buy some textbooks. Animation paper, different sizes of sketchbooks, and large drawing pads for life drawing classes will be an ongoing expense.

"A great way to keep the costs down is to buy used copies of the textbooks," says Forbes.

Keep an eye out for businesses that give student discounts, sales at art stores and free entry for students at galleries and museums.

How to Prepare

"Go to drawing classes in your town, draw strangers on the street, ask your friends or family to pose for you, anything of this kind will do," says Lev Polyakov. He is a third-year animation student at the School of Visual Arts. He wants to direct films.

Polyakov says you should spend at least six hours per week drawing. You should also set aside additional time for creating characters, abstract art and comics.

"All this may seem like a lot of time, but if you watch less TV, spend less time online and playing video games, you will have more than enough hours for this," says Polyakov.

During high school you'll need to create a portfolio. "I was fortunate enough to have a great art teacher who helped me assemble my portfolio. It's important that someone else look at your portfolio as you are working on it," says Forbes.

You can join or start an art club, comic club or animation group at your school. Life drawing will be intense, so any experience you can gain will help you. Reading books, visiting animation websites and blogs, and going to museums and galleries are all things you can do on your own to prepare.

"Animation takes grit to learn and guts to stick with as a career," says Di Giovanni. "It's not going to be easy, but it's sure going to be fun."