Animation is in demand in Toronto and animated projects require a large team with a broad range of skills to develop the story, create characters and their environment, and bring them to life through various forms of animation styles.
Certificates, diplomas and degrees are often required for animation roles because experience with specific software can be a key competency. Experience producing or directing live-action and photography are considered assets. The industry groups for careers in Animation are Computer Animation Studios of Ontario and Toronto Animation Arts Festival International.
The Production Management team is the creative and organizational backbone of an animation project. Similar to Producer and Director roles in physical, live-action productions, the Production Management Producer and Director are at the helm of getting an animation project equipped with the budget, creative workforce, space and logistics required to get the animation on screen.
Similar to live-action productions, the Producer of an animation project is responsible for assembling the budget, creating the overall delivery timelines, conducting labour relations, and liaising with secured or potential financiers and distributors to ensure the success of the animation project. Producers can be hired by animation studios or work as a freelancer and visit different studios to work on various projects. Aspiring producers should familiarize themselves with the business side of content production, animation studios and artists, funding and distribution models and the processes involved in production. They will often be surrounded by Executive Producers to help get financing for the project and bring it to fruition, as well as Production Managers and Production Coordinators who will each take on portions of the production process.
Like live-action productions, the Director of an animation project holds the creative vision and style of the project. They conceptualize the aesthetic and atmosphere of the animation, guide its artists from storyboarding to editing to sound, music and dialogue inclusion. Animation Directors are often animators themselves and usually work with the Producer to recruit the team they will work with.
Development and Pre-Production are the roles that bring the story, its main characters to life. Working with the Director, Producers, Writer and the Concept and Storyboard Artist and alongside the Art Director, this department works to form the vision for the project that will guide the entire animation team to deliver the project.
The writer develops the story through the creation of a script that will then be turned into an animated project. Similar to a live-action film, an animated project’s writers create the script and include all elements of the story, so the reader can understand the characters’ dialogues, actions, and the scenery in which the story is taking place. The script for an animated project tends to be longer than a live-action, given the amount of description that needs to be included. Writers may work to adapt existing stories or create new ones and shop them around to various studios. Studios may hire writers to work on retainer and develop stories beyond their initial project, but most writers may work for various studios at any given time. Experience in writing of any kind is a key asset for this role.
The Concept Artist is responsible for conceiving the look and feel of the animation. They sketch ideas for landscapes, environments, characters and the overall mood of the project. Once these conceptual elements are agreed upon with the Director and Producer, they guide the rest of the team in the execution of the project. Concept Artists are typically hired as freelancers to create aesthetics that will be used to pitch the project to studios, networks and investors. This role is highly creative and requires the artist to imagine worlds and characters based on written words and verbal briefings. Aspiring Concept Artists must have strong and varied drawing portfolios.
The Storyboard Artist puts the vision of the Director, the story of the Writer and the looks of the Concept Artist on paper in a comic book-like format. Each square (panel) roughly represents a shot that will be fully created afterwards. Scenery, characters, angles, all are represented in the drawings, which serve as templates for animators to work from. The story and visuals laid out in sequence allow for the whole team to visualize the pace and style and it shows gaps or opportunities that might have been missed. Large productions often have multiple Storyboard Artists and will hire a Storyboard Supervisor to guide them.
The Art Director in Animation is the equivalent of Visual Effects (VFX) Supervisors in Visual Effects departments. An Art Director will take the work of the Concept Artist and greatly expand upon it with the Director and artists to create a fully-fledged world with textures, colors and environments that are unique to the project. This role works closely with Concept Artists to develop ideas and with the Director and supervises artists in the delivery of the project, making sure to stay within budget. Project management, team management, understanding of animation roles and responsibilities and creative flair are key attributes of an Art Director in animation.
Similar to a physical, live-action production, animation projects require significant post-production to bring sound and images together, to best tell the narrative.
Experience in music and audio recording or editing, in live or recorded performance and in editing suites are all applicable for post-production roles in animation.
The Sound Designer is responsible for all elements of sound. From Foley sounds to sound banks, music to dialogue, the Sound Designer oversees securing and placing all audio tracks onto the images. They work closely with Performers, Foley artists and Music Supervisors. Experience in audio recording or engineering in any sector is considered an asset.
The Editor shapes the rhythm and flow of the narrative. They work with the Director to decide on cuts, length of scenes and shots, order of sequences. They work throughout the creation process and take cues from the storyboard, the script and from conversations with the Director. They also overlay the music and sound onto the image – making this role crucial in instilling a unique beat and flavor to the project. A mastery of editing software is key and building a portfolio of edited projects, whether live-action or animated, is important. Junior editors are often hired and provide excellent entry points for newer editors.
The composer creates original tracks for the animation. They create a soundscape that is in sync with the action and the desired mood and atmosphere, and work with the Director, Sound Designer and Editor to achieve the optimal output. The Composer works with musicians to bring the music to life and deliver musical sequences and tracks for the project, and re-records new or modified ones along the way. A background as a composer, musician and/or recordist are key attributes.
Performers, in this case voice actors, might voice a character or multiple characters and will record all lines in studio with other Performers. Voice actors are versatile, have a broad range of voice acting abilities and styles. Experience in acting, singing and voice recording are important to develop.
Performers in Toronto are represented by ACTRA-Toronto.
Using a storyboard and in conversation with the Director, Animators draw (on paper or using a computer) characters, objects and scenery frame-by-frame, that in a sequence creates motion on a screen. There are several animation styles that animators might specialize in throughout their careers: traditional (2D) animation, Computer Graphics (CG) / 3D animation and stop-motion animation. A strong and extensive portfolio of work is key to gaining entry into the industry.
Character Designers conceptualize characters, from mythical creatures to animals to humans, using the script, the Director’s descriptions and the Concept Artist’s initial ideas. They create numerous versions of each character and work with the Director to make adjustments and until a final character is created. The final character must then be drawn at all angles and in different poses to best equip animators with the 360 degrees reality of the creature and its physical “language”. Building a diverse portfolio of characters is crucial to becoming a Character Designer.
Modellers are required for stop-motion animation by creating the actual models and objects that will be filmed and integrate them into scenes in a way that will fit with the rest of the landscape. This role works closely with several members of the team and must communicate to others to ensure designs can be modelled and properly integrated into each scene. Modeller roles are an excellent way to enter the animation world with training on 3D Computer Generated software or with modelling materials for stop-motion animation. Building a portfolio of models is key to gaining employment.
A rigger creates the digital skeleton of a character for 3D animation. This skeleton becomes the model on which the rest of the character gets built and dictates the movement, patterns and flows of the body. The Rigger receives a model of a character from the Modeller and then will work to create its movement. Afterwards, the remainder of the creature will be added to its “bones” and will follow the proper body movement. They will also “rig” a mouth so that the movement of the mouth when created by the animator will be accurate and in harmony with the rest of the face.
Understanding animation, being able to draw, and having experience with coding and animation 3D software are key to develop.
As Character Designers and Modellers create what fills a “space”, Background Designers create the space: the scenery, the environment, and the rooms that surround the characters. Working with the Director and the storyboard, a Background Designer fully develops the environments and objects in which the story takes place. Background Designers have experience in drawing, painting, editing software, modelling software and animation software and must be strong communicators. A strong portfolio, similar is very important to display when looking for work.
The Technical Director (TD) is responsible for assisting the animation team with software, technical trouble-shooting, problem-solving and fixing issues in the animation production pipeline. TDs must understand the various roles and their implications in the creation process, have expert technical skills in programming and coding and master the various software used by the team.
A Layout Artist (pre-visualization) creates proportions for all on-screen elements so that they are of appropriate size and depth. This role works off the storyboards but greatly expands and refines the content with animators and works closely with the Director throughout the project to achieve the environment desired.
The Lighting Artist creates the light that would be cast on the scenery, objects and characters depending on the source of light being represented in the animation (moonlight, lamp, sunlight, or flame) and its point of origin (angle). Lighting and compositing software are often used to create and modulate the light’s strength, tone and reach. Lighting artists often work on multiple projects per year at different studios and are usually employed as freelancers.
Compositing is the creation of the final image for the screen, complete with all elements created by the team. The background, objects, characters, colors and light are assembled by the Compositor to complete the full environment and story of the project. The Compositor works closely with the Art Director and the Director on finalizing the look and flow of each shot to create a seamless and complete aesthetic and narrative. Compositors have a solid understanding of each element contributing to the final product and how they interact with one another. Having experience on one or more animation projects and in post-production are assets.