Discover the Best Animation Classes in Houston
The Illusion of Life is the well-chosen title of long-time Disney animators Frank Thomas and Ollie Johnston’s tome about the way in which a pile of drawings can become a seemingly living and breathing person, dragon, dalmatian, mermaid, or even candelabrum. If you draw something, draw it again in a slightly different pose, repeat the process some 60 times, and then film it at the rate of 12 drawings per second, you’ll have created five seconds of animation in which the thing you’ve drawn will be seen to move. The human eye and brain can only distinguish ten separate images per second; go over that threshold, and, according to one theory, the brain substitutes an illusion of continuity between the images. Movie projectors work the same way, except that, in animation, you’re not limited by the possible, and can make real such enchanted objects as a walking, talking, and singing teapot or a relentlessly shape-shifting genie.
Following The Little Mermaid, for which Disney had to bring in a whole team of Chinese animators to draw every single bubble in the movie, every Disney film contained a certain amount of computer-generated imagery, which would eventually come to be known by the now-everyday acronym CGI. The process began with the rotating ballroom in Beauty and the Beast in 1991, but Disney was soon outpaced when, in 1995, upstart studio Pixar completely revolutionized the process by producing an entirely computer-animated movie, Toy Story. Whereas animation used to take an awful lot of tracing paper, pencils, cels, paint, and ink, the process is today managed almost exclusively by digital means. That doesn’t exactly streamline the process, however: computer animation is still time-consuming, close work, but it also makes images possible that were previously impossible for animators using traditional media.
Motion graphics software has also evolved to the point at which creating moving digital images is within the reach of people who don’t hold bachelor’s degrees in computer animation. You can learn to produce professional-quality animation in a short period of time, especially for the internet, where countless brands are in search of a distinctive look for their websites and annoying commercials. Static websites are nearly a thing of the past, which is one reason why small animation studios have sprung up in most business centers and why Hollywood is no longer the only place animators can find work.
Best Animation Classes & Schools in Houston
One of the easiest and most efficient ways to learn animation is by becoming proficient with Adobe After Effects, a program that is capable of creating all manner of motion graphics. If that sounds appealing, you can take an in-person class in the software through Ledet Training. The school has an After Effects 101 -- After Effects Essentials class that shows students the ins and outs of keyframing, text animation, masks, and video blending, along with other basic and not-so-basic After Effects topics. Instructors are industry professionals with the practical knowledge to steer students clear of the pitfalls that the software can present. The course lasts for three days. Those seeking further enlightenment under the After Effects tree will want to try Ledet’s After Effects 501 -- After Effects Bootcamp, a six-day deep dive into the software that bundles After Effects 101 with an advanced course that covers such topics as 3D kinetic typography, infographic techniques and the application of audio to a motion graphic. Ledet conducts its classes in Houston in the comfort of the Hilton Houston Post Oak by the Galleria, which is, indeed, a scant half-mile from that commercial Mecca.
The Ledet course meets only every other month, and the pickings for other in-person animation classes in Houston are slim indeed. You’ll have a much more comprehensive selection of classes at your fingertips if you consider live online courses. These bring the considerable convenience of letting you learn your animation skills from anywhere: Downtown, Uptown, or even from the Cypress Circle concession area at the Zoo (but not the giraffe feeding platform, at least not yet.) This form of online pedagogy is a fully live learning experience, with a teacher to whom you can address your questions, and even the possibility of letting the instructor see your screen to extricate you from the inevitable hopeless muddle.
An extensive live online treatment of not just After Effects but also Adobe’s PremierePro editing software is offered by Noble Desktop in the form of its Motion Graphics Certificate, a 17-weekday odyssey that includes the chance to develop your demo reel as you learn to use the software. Noble also includes 1-to-1 mentoring sessions and a free retake option with the program.
At the other end of the Noble Desktop spectrum is the highly-charged PremierePro in a Day class that will, in the space of only six hours, have you up to speed and functioning with Adobe’s editing software and able to edit video, perhaps not for a Hollywood blockbuster, but certainly for social media, which is probably more helpful to the ordinary user anyway.
If you’re more interested in learning After Effects without PremierePro, Digital Workshop Center’s Adobe After Effects for Beginners (Level 1) may be a good fit for you. The four-mornings (Mountain Time) class shows students how to create motion graphics for use in commercial videos and presentations. The follow-up class, Adobe After Effects Advanced (Level 2), also runs for four mornings, and goes into such arcana as the Roto Brush Tool, the Puppet Tool, and the 3D Camera Tracker. Although it’s way, way, way Outside the Loop, the course is also available in person in Fort Collins, Colorado.
Another means of creating motion graphics is by using Unreal Engine, video game development software that includes the possibility of creating high-end animation among its many capabilities. In fact, some animation studios use it just to create motion graphics, never mind the game engine functions. You can find an intensive introduction to the software in Studio Art’s Unreal Connector. Studio Arts is a Hollywood-based school devoted to the professional development of studio artists and the training they require to remain current in their profession. The Unreal Connector class meets for 27 sessions, three evenings a week. For those for whom that might be more than they’re willing to bite off, a two-day introduction to only the animation capabilities of Unreal Engine, Unreal Engine (Animation), is available as well.
Houston Industries That Use Animation
Houston may not be renowned as a hub for cinematic production, but it is nonetheless home to a substantial number of independent video production studios that create animation for commercial purposes. These studios tend to work on a smaller scale, often collaborating with advertising agencies ,or creating animation that lets businesses project a catchy image on the internet. Houston is fast establishing itself as a great city for artists, with an excellent selection of museums (the Museum of Fine Arts being the crown jewel, with such masterpieces as Corot’s Orpheus Leading Euridice from the Underworld and Canaletto’s Entrance to the Grand Canal.) Galleries and artist-friendly spaces are plentiful, and visual artists of every sort should feel very much at home in the city.
If your taste runs less to Corot and more to Gorogoa, you should know that Houston has a thriving video game scene. Consisting of small and medium-sized (up to 250 employees) studios, an aspiring video game developer can do worse than to choose Houston as a city in which to start to try a career in the field.
Animation Jobs & Salaries in Houston
For the purposes of the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, special effects artists and animators share a job category code, no doubt because so many special effects these days are the work of animators rather than model-makers and special effects engineers. A further database of the United States Department of Labor, O*net Online, gives the following list of job titles encompassed by the BLS’ 27-1014.00 rubric: 3D animators and artists, 2D animators and artists, graphic artists, digital artists, and of course, animator.
BLS figures put the mean wage for animators in Houston at an even $80,000. The range of salaries is considerable, however, running from $52,000 to nearly $108,000. You can compare that positively to the mean wage in the Houston area, $47,000, or not so positively to the mean annual wage of $111,000 for animators in the country as a whole.
Something that makes those figures look better is the low cost of living in Houston: it’s 8% lower than the national average. Housing, so astronomical elsewhere, is 18% lower than the average, and groceries will run you 6% less. On the other hand, the cost of a hot dog at the Astros’ Minute Maid Park will eat away at some of those savings: they charge $7.39 for a regular hot dog. (On the other hand, Midwest Coney Connection will give you a more natively Texan hot dog with mustard, onions, and chili sauce for $7.95, and throw in the fries.)