Computer Animator

Note: Completion of a TAFE SA course does not guarantee an employment outcome. Formal requirements other than educational qualifications (eg licensing, professional registration), may apply to some occupations.

Job Prospects Openings 5 years to 2019: 25,001 to 50,000
Salary Range Median weekly earnings: $921 to $1050 to Source: Australian Government Department of Employment 2015
Brief The information presented is for the group Computing Professionals which includes this specialisation.

What do M and M chocolates and Woody the walking, talking cowboy from Toy Story have in common? They are all examples of inanimate objects that have been brought to life on our film and television screens by computer animators.

There are nearly 2,100 people employed as multimedia designers or related professions in South Australia. Employment is largely full-time and most work in the Professional, Scientific and Technical Services Industry. Most persons in this occupation are females with the majority of workers aged between 25 – 34 years.

Quick Profile Navigation


Computer animation involves the manipulation of still images to create the illusion of movement. Using computer technology, a sequence of staggered images captured in related positions, are made to appear as if they're really moving. A computer-animated image can be two dimensional or three dimensional. Computer animation is about presenting ideas, images or objects which can't be presented in any other way and making them appear as life-like as possible.

Education Requirements

They would generally look for applicants who have completed some formal training in graphic arts or multimedia. Some employers may also request an artwork portfolio.

A number of institutions offer courses, with computer animation components, that will enable people interested in this occupation to develop the relevant skills. Of those currently employed 35% have Bachelor Degrees, 22% have either an Advanced Diploma or a Diploma, 17% have either a Certificate III or IV and 21% have no post school qualifications.

TAFE SA offers the following courses that may help you enter this occupation: Certificate III Program in Visual Arts (Digital Arts), Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media (Specialising in Game Art) and Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media (Specialising in CGI and Visual Effects).

Studying at TAFE SA is one of the easiest and most successful pathways towards a University Degree. Dual offer courses are available to TAFE SA and Flinders University in the Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media (Specialising in CGI & Visual Effects)/Bachelor of Creative Arts (Digital Media), Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media (Specialising in Game Art)/Bachelor of Creative Arts (Digital Media), Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media (Specialising in Game Art)/Bachelor of Information Technology and the Advanced Diploma of Screen and Media (Specialising in Game Art)/Bachelor of Information Technology (Digital Media).

Career Path

Computer animators may work for a variety of industries, including information technology, media and publishing, web design practices, animation and design studios, educational institutions and advertising agencies. They often work as part of a team, but can work individually or on a freelance basis. With experience and sufficient capital, there are opportunities for self-employment.

Nature of the Job

Most Computer Animators first consult a storyboard - a series of pictures, usually hand drawn, which shows the flow of animation and maps out the important scenes and characters. My work is usually just a component of the overall ad. If an ad also features 'real talent' (actors), they're filmed separately. That footage and the computer animation is combined to form a composite. The actors have to pretend that the computer animated object is there. I then slot in the object and make it appear to have been there when the original shot was taken, matching the lighting and camera position. A trickier ad can take about six weeks to complete, usually with four people to do the computer animation, one for filming the live talent and about one to combine the whole product.

Using laser equipment, computer animators scan images of real objects onto a computer and convert them to a digital form. Usually the animator has to model the character or object in the computer, drawing curves, constructing surfaces and using primitive objects (such as spheres and cubes) to produce a wireframe model. Controls are then added to the model to allow it to be bent and posed. It becomes more like a digital puppet, moved into the key positions for an action and allowing the computer to work out the in-between positions making for a smooth action. From there, the object can be shaded with computer lights and rendered with a computer camera. Digital Visual Effects Artist, Richard says, ''If you plan to work in computer animation its advantageous to understand photography, lighting and movement. You must be able to visualise how an object will look in three dimensions and have the know-how to make an inanimate object look real".

Typical Physical Working Environment

Excellent drawing skills, an ability to visualise how animated objects should appear and a good understanding of conventional animation, would be high on an employer's list of requirements. Naturally, a reasonable level of computer literacy is necessary in this occupation. More importantly, though, is a high level of confidence and the ability to quickly learn and apply new software programs. You can look forward to reading numerous software manuals to keep abreast of the constant technological changes in this industry.

Typical Occupational Example

Of course before the advent of computer animation, there was and still is conventional animation. The main difference between them, is that the animation in cell animation is hand-drawn including the in-between positions.

Further information:
Australian Graphic Design Association
PO Box 6426 Halifax Street, Adelaide SA 5000
Phone: (08) 8410 9228

Illustrator's Australia
Abbotsford Convent, Convent Building C1.22, 1 St Heliers Street, Abbotsford VIC 3067
Phone: 1300 720 181

Further Information

For further information about all TAFE SA Courses, phone 1800 882 661 or enquire online