Discover the Best Animation Classes in Boston
To animate an object is to breathe life into it, or, more strictly speaking, to imbue it with a soul, the Latin word for which is anima. The number of entities capable of creating souls being highly limited, the animation done by mortals not named Frankenstein is a trick or an illusion. The trick can, however, be spectacular when a very big stack of drawings is viewed at the rate of 12 per second and can seemingly bring to life and tell the story of a besotted mermaid, a handsome prince, and a villainous sea witch.
The Little Mermaid was Disney’s last entirely hand-drawn animated feature. Disney subsequently developed its own computer animation software (CAPS, Computer Animation Production System) that soon made possible such effects as a chorus line of identical diving teaspoons worthy of a Busby Berkeley movie. Computer animation developed by leaps and bounds after that: exactly four years to the day elapsed between Disney’s 1991 release of Beauty and the Beast and then-independent Pixar’s release of the fully 3D computer-animated Toy Story in 1995. Since then, computer animation has all but replaced the hand-drawn animation of the Little Mermaid and her illustrious predecessors.
There is all manner of software capable of creating computer-generated imagery (CGI), and it is used in everything from animated motion pictures to “live-action” movies that leave a lot of their image creation to the computer, which is far cheaper than having to manufacture an entire set of White Star Line china only to break it, as was done when James Cameron made Titanic in 1997. Computers can create animation for purposes beyond the motion picture industry: even small companies are either doing in-house animation or farming out animation projects to promote themselves, especially on platforms such as YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram.
Technological progress has put all manner of motion graphics software within the reach of laypeople whose forte isn’t drawing. It hasn’t evolved to the point at which someone who can’t draw stick figures can create Beauty and the Beast using one laptop, but software such as Adobe After Effects does make it possible for people who aren’t great with pencil and paper to create elaborate and visually satisfying animations, and as sure as tea leaves will initially float when dumped into a harbor, so can a creative person find a professional home in animation.
Best Animation Classes & Schools in Boston
If you’re looking for a Downtown location, American Media Training is located in the Bedford Building, and teaches two levels of After Effects classes. The beginner class runs for three weekdays and covers everything from importing footage to create a project to animating text, using shape layers, using the Roto Brush tool, performing color correction, and building 3D objects. The advanced class lasts for two days, and, picking up where the beginner class left off, goes on to cover such topics as compositing, color keying, and a whole lesson in animated pyrotechnics that will teach you how to blow up the world you just created.
If Woburn is too inconvenient, and if taking the T to get downtown isn’t your cup of, well, tea, you might prefer employing the internet to bring a live online class to a location that suits you better. Live online classes incorporate most of the advantages of in-person classes (you can ask the teacher questions, and the instructor can even magically reach into your screen and help you should you get impossibly stuck), with the incomparable convenience of being able to study anywhere you like, from Hingham to Saugus and from Framingham to the Harbor, or, for that matter, from Boston Spa in West Yorkshire to Boston Suzak in Kyrgyzstan.
A specialist in such classes (in English, but not quite yet in Kyrgyz) is Noble Desktop, which can get you kitted out with a Motion Graphics Certificate that will testify that you know how to edit video with PremierePro, render animation with Cinema 4D Lite, and, of course, create motion graphics with After Effects. The class takes 17 weekdays to complete, and includes such useful features as help with developing your demo reel (portfolio), and 1-to-1 mentoring sessions with established professionals to help guide you as you seek to make a career in animation. Also included is a free retake option and proprietary teaching materials created by the school for its students.
If a complete certificate program seems too long, too expensive, or if you just want to learn to use After Effects, you may wish to consider Noble Desktop’s After Effects Bootcamp. In the space of only three weekdays, the class teaches students to use the software to create animations, titles, and 3D objects. Included in the class tuition is the opportunity for 1-to-1 bonus training, which gives you a chance to meet privately with your instructor to clarify a difficult point or just ask questions you’re afraid the rest of the class will consider stupid. Students taking on either the certificate program or the bootcamp should already possess working knowledge of Illustrator and Photoshop before tackling motion graphics. (Noble Desktop gives classes in those programs as well.)
Another possibility for a live online class in After Effects is Adobe After Effects Level 1, a three-day program from Manhattan Edit Workshop that starts students off at the beginning with the fundamentals of motion graphics and goes on to show them how to create animations of their own using such essential tools as keyframes, layers, and masks. Also available are Level 2 and Level 3 classes (two days each) for students who require an even deeper knowledge of the software.
If you’d rather be spared a first-thing-in-the-morning class as well as that trip on the T at rush hour, you might consider Adobe After Effects for Beginners (Level 1) from Digital Workshop Center. Based in idyllic Fort Collins, Colorado (the “Napa Valley of craft beer”), the school teaches its motion graphics classes from 9:00 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Mountain Time, which should suit late risers on the East Coast very nicely indeed. If they desire, students may continue along to Adobe After Effects Advanced (Level 2), which introduces such cool gizmos as the 3D Camera Tracker, the Roto Brush Tool, and the Puppet Tool. The course is also available in-person, and might make an interesting way to write off part of a Colorado vacation. (Neither the Fort Collins Ghost Tour nor craft beer samples are included.)
Boston Industries That Use Animation
Animation may not be as Bostonian as the Red Sox, Bruins, or the bean, but the area is home to a large quantity of video production, graphic design, and advertising firms that make animation on a regular basis. Boston also lays claim to being the birthplace, not just of the American Revolution, but also (through MIT) of the video game. While that industry in Boston has been through numerous ups and downs, and the current scene consists mainly of small, independent studios, it still exists, and jobs for animators exist in that sector as well.
Boston isn’t exactly the place to go if you want to work on an animated movie (that’s still Hollywood), but there are job opportunities in Beantown for animators. You may have to exercise a bit of originality to locate them, but there are opportunities, as the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ location quotient of 1.1 for the Boston-Cambridge-Nashua area shows. (A location quotient of 1.1 indicates that the Boston megalopolis employs 1.1 times as many animators and special effects artists as the national average.)
Animation Jobs & Salaries in Boston
In the world view of the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, animators and special effects artists are considered one job category, partly because of the ways in which what once were “real” special effects are now practically the exclusive domain of CGI. O*net Online, another database run by the US Department of Labor, goes on to break up the category into job titles such as 2D animator/artist, 3D animator/artist, animator, graphic artist, digital artist, and the rather grand-sounding multimedia producer.
Using BLS 2022 figures, 720 people are employed in these capacities in the greater Boston area, which makes for that 1.1 location quotient and the encouraging news that you stand a slightly better chance of getting an animator job in Boston than you do in the country as a whole. The mean annual salary for animators in Boston is roughly $86,000, a bit more than the $81,000 mean annual wage for all Bostonians but quite a bit less than the $111,000 mean annual wage for animators in the United States as a whole.
That also needs to be weighed against the infamously high cost of living in Boston, which Payscale puts at 50% higher than the national average, with housing costs a daunting 124% more and groceries costing some 14% more than the national average. And a Fenway Frank at a Red Sox game, complete with mustard, onions, and relish, will run you $6.25.