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Computer animation, the branch of computer-generated imagery (CGI) dealing with generating moving digital images, is more in-demand than ever. Special effects are an everyday part of modern entertainment, including television shows, movies, and video games. These media images require the specialized skills of computer animators. This article offers international students an overview of the field of computer animation, as well as the academic and professional options available within the field.

It has never been easier for an international student to receive a computer animation degree from an institution in the United States and begin working in the industry. This article will offer international students an overview of what the field of computer animation actually is, the academic options for attaining a computer animation degree, and the professional options for putting that degree to use in the field.

What is Computer Animation?

So, what is computer animation? Computer animation is the branch of CGI (computer-generated imagery) that deals with the production of moving images. Including both 2-D and 3-D digital animations, computer animation makes possible the dazzling imagery and special effects that captivate audiences in blockbuster films such as Transformers, Lord of the Rings, and Avatar. The methods used in computer animation vary depending on the particular task, and range from manipulating a digital image rendered by a graphic artist, "keyframing" (replacing images with a slightly altered version of themselves, usually indicating a slight increase in time), or using motion capture to track a real-life actor or object and then digitally animating over top of them. The majority of the computer animation industry focuses on 3-D animation, favoring a mixture of the keyframing and motion capture techniques as industry-standard methods.

Careers in Computer Animation

International students who find the field of computer animation interesting or exciting will surely want to know what sorts of careers to expect prior to attaining a computer animation degree. Students with a computer animation degree will be preparing themselves for careers as digital animators. Computer animators work with film and television studios, development/design companies, or animate freelance based on a portfolio. As such an indispensable and ubiquitous part of modern media and entertainment, the nature of the tasks available to someone in the role of computer animator can vary widely. Digital animation has a place in everything–online advertisements, multi-million dollar films, television shows, news broadcasts–and computer animators breathe life into every moving digital image we experience. From object modeling to keyframing Flash animations, every detail of moving digital imagery is in the hands of computer animators.

Getting Started in Computer Animation

So, after asking "What is computer animation and is it right for me?", the next step for an international student is to begin searching for institutions from which to receive a computer animation degree. Though some animators have had success without formal training, these individuals are rare exceptions; the overwhelming majority of computer animators at work in the industry have received computer animation degrees. Getting a computer animation degree is by far the easiest way to get started in the industry. While pursuing a computer animation degree, international students who want a leg up on the competition in the job market should be preparing a portfolio of digital animations to show employers. A robust portfolio can enable an international student to land an internship or job with a firm that will employ them for years to come, and will often be a deciding factor between potential candidates.

Thus, for international students interested in computer animation, the proper course of action should be straightforward; research what the discipline of computer animation actually is and what it entails, look at both the sorts of careers available in the field as well as the demand for those roles, then begin work on attaining a computer animation degree while building a robust portfolio of animations.

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