How to hire a 3D animator: what to look for and why

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VFX work by We Are Formation for the Movidiam Studio Tour.

Following on our guide to hiring 2D animators, we wanted to present a guide to hiring the professionals that work in three dimensions. 3D animation is extremely in-demand, with animators snapped up by big city advertising, international film production, and the gaming industry.

As a result, talent can be scarce, and when looking for skilled hands full-time, you may find yourself disappointed — however, in the freelance world, a rich ecosystem of CGI animators is still available for your perusal. Here’s a short guide to 3 types of 3D animation, and how to evaluate their showreels for talent.

3D character animation

Watch the work of Pixar or Dreamworks and the closer it is to that, the better. Not in terms of final polish – as this takes the efforts of entire studios to realise – but according to the following criteria:

  • Do they move like real people, or at least like classic cartoon characters?
  • Do the characters snap into a hard position when finishing a pose/movement, or ease into it and realistically overextend their final body position?
  • Do the faces look natural and expressive?
  • If looking to place characters in a live-action situation, is the lighting accurate?

It can be easy for CGI characters to look ugly or move unconvincingly, not because they actually look bad, but because as viewers, we’re used to seeing the highest-grade animation on show from large studios. So, depending on your budget, you can cut a freelancer or new hire a little slack. However, that doesn’t mean high quality CGI only happens in the movies. Studios like BlueZoo are available for high end projects (although… they do also do movies).

Of course, CGI isn’t just limited to character animation. You’ll see examples of renders of either fully generated landscapes, or of those using a green screen. In these shots, you’ll want to look for similar signs of quality, but pay particular focus to colours spreading beyond the edges of objects, and check if there’s a realistic depth of field.

A good example for complex CGI and background visuals is our most recent campaign, The Movidiam Studio Tour, that presented us with the challenge of taking comedian Tom Davis around the globe, placing him in the middle of a range of visually complex situations. You can watch the full video at the end of the article.

3D Visual Aid

This is essentially motion graphics in three dimensions, useful if you’re trying to show a white blood cell consume a cancer cell, for example, or take people on a guided tour of a shop. In visual aids, look for texturing on the surface of shapes, opacity/see-through qualities (sub-surface scattering, for example, makes surfaces very slightly porous, so they reflect light in a matte glow), and as always, motion should be smooth, realistic, and pleasing to the eye.

Stop Motion

The Final Boss of animation styles, stop motion is a cruel master who punishes its adherents (and, when misapplied, its viewers). If you have the budget and time for a long-winded stop motion project, however, look for the following:

  • Are thumb/fingerprints visible, if clay?
  • Are tufts/bobbles/depths of material moving rapidly and deforming, if cloth/felt?
  • Does the camera move jerkily? Student films are especially guilty of this, so in a professional production it can really break the feeling of immersion in what can be a powerful technique.

If you’re thinking of hiring an animator, either 2D or 3D, our accounts team can prepare a shortlist of creatives from the global Movidiam network - all tailored to your style and budget. For more information check out the platform here.

Finally, having mentioned CGI landscapes, an example from our own content includes some fantastic work done by the VFX team at We Are Formation for the Studio Tour video, which transported our golf buggy around the world. See the work for yourself:

Casper Horton-Kitchlew is partnerships lead at Movidiam

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