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Thread: How are animators doing financially ?

  1. #1
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    How are animators doing financially ?

    Hi:

    Lately I have been reading a few e-messages from OTAKU magazine.
    they all say how japanese animators are overworked and underpaid. The hours are terrible
    and the pay is very little. The animators have an advice for everyone interested : do
    not become animators !!! I have seen many similar posts lately.
    i am very sad, but I do not believe all animators are underpaid. i believe a few
    are doing well financially. Maybe in Japan animation is tougher, but i think
    in america many animators get paid well.
    What do you think ?
    -Mobilis In Mobile-

  2. #2
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    Life is expensive in Japan and the USA.
    If it is problematic, you could move to the country where is cheaper life, and work through Internet.
    That should not be a big problem for somebody working in CG.

  3. #3
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    Icymi

    I think Terrance Walker posted this here before but ICYMI...



    My personal view is that as an animator, going Indie is the future.

    Over the years I've learnt that we as artist are far too concerned with the art than the business of making money from our art and as such fail to understand how we can make a living as Independents.

    I've discovered that in order for a studio/production company to make money, they don't really care about the product we make in any emotional way. All they care about is how many eyes it will attract (i.e., fans, followers, etc) and build up. And the reason for this is because the more eyes it attracts, the more money it will attract from investors and the more stronger their brand will become.

    They have learnt how to curate and leverage that all important fanbase by exploiting our talents to make the products that act like a carrot to the fans. They know that the products we make on their behalf, in and of themselves are not the things that make serious long term money for them. No. They know that the secret to making that money is in building an army of followers and devotees to their brand and marketing the living daylights out of them through partnerships and affilliations with big businesses who want to get more exposure by tapping into the studios' fans/followers/audiences.

    This is why mainstream studios have held all the cards for so long, and acted like gatekeepers to productions being made, they figured it all out nearly 100 years ago and colluded to form cartels and control the industry.

    They know it's extremely expensive to do what they do (because of the scale of production, distribution and marketing) and since they owned all the distribution channels, you have no choice but to go through them if you want your idea developed and seen. And if for some reason you manage to get that far, you will not walk away rich.

    Oh no. They're not new this business at all.

    They've got it pretty much sewn up and stacked in their favour.

    However, that was before the Internet.

    These days, as an animator, there has never been a better time to get your own I.P. made, marketed, distributed and monetised. Everything you need to emulate the "Gatekeepers" methodology and beat them at their own game is available to you.

    The creative toolsets, marketing tools (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, MailChimp, etc), distribution (YouTube, Vimeo, IPTV), and monetisation (GumRoad, Netflix, Amazon Prime, Patreon, Subscribe Star) are all there for the taking.

    The problem?

    Getting the required business education to take advantage of it. Because it's one thing to have all the pieces, but quite another to know how to fit them together. And unfortunately, we as artists are far to concerned with the art than the business of making money.

    We could all take inspiration from E. L. James' story.

  4. #4
    RETROGRADER prometheus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shabazzy View Post

    Getting the required business education to take advantage of it. Because it's one thing to have all the pieces, but quite another to know how to fit them together. And unfortunately, we as artists are far to concerned with the art than the business of making money.

    We could all take inspiration from E. L. James' story.

    Fair enough, I suppose living in an area or being able to re-locate to one area where there indeed is a need for artists is also vital for some, and simply know or get to know the right people, some Lightwave artists and others just happened to meet up with a collegue, or some important person like Rob Powers and James cameron, but that story is a long one..and many elements that seemed to fit inplace when they met and also having the same interest and also the ground education and start up Rob had.
    Then again...that was all about the fame and public display, if Rob made any money ..I have no clue, maybe he earned more working for Newtek..I wonder if he got back to the artsy side, or where and what he is working on now.

    Allan McKay (vfx guy) ..said he sent reel after reel and was almost about to give up, but he got to know a person close to the industry, and that guy recommended him, so recomendations from your network, and of course that you have the talent, but same here..I have no idea if Allan made any significant money on it...he isn´t up on display on any movies anymore for the latest years after his intial years on some movies, if he´s just busy and earns more in education ...who knows.

  5. #5
    Super Duper Member kopperdrake's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Shabazzy View Post
    Getting the required business education to take advantage of it. Because it's one thing to have all the pieces, but quite another to know how to fit them together. And unfortunately, we as artists are far to concerned with the art than the business of making money.
    There's one attribute you simply can't learn from a business education, and that's personableness. I believe it's a rare commodity in the art world to have that mix of business acumen and approachable personality, combined with the artistic slant.

    You need:

    1) To have a willingness to learn.
    2) To be prudent enough to think with a business head.
    3) To be creative enough to satisfy the client's needs.
    4) To be personable enough communicate in a clear and friendly manner.
    5) To be confident in your own abilities in the above four.

    You don't need to be 100% in all of those things, but take one away and you will struggle.

    No willingness to learn? You'll gradually fade away as the new generation comes up.
    Not prudent enough? You'll make bad monetary decisions and possibly get walked over by clients and/or colleagues.
    Not creative enough? Your eye candy simply won't catch the eye of the potential client.
    Not personable enough? Clients and colleagues may simply not like working with you, and you may not work as part of a team.

    However, one thing I did learn from dropping into the 'work for someone else' pool many years ago for a short stint was: How many artists really don't know that they *could* work for themselves, successfully. They were nice people, they knew their tech, they were creative, but they did lack that business mind. But, more importantly, they lacked the confidence to step out of their box. With a good grounding in the first four attributes above, the fifth should come naturally, unless you really are a meek type, in which case running your own business might not be for you.

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  6. #6
    Registered User Kaptive's Avatar
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    I'd say I identify as an animator, but I took a 3 year sabbatical and helped run a charity for that time. Burn out is, of course, real. But I've not been part of the big machines for nearly 2 decades. So I can't speak to what is happening there, but I can relay a pretty good metaphor for the industry... a kind of truth of it that isn't always apparent from the outside and expands on what Kopperdrake, Sensei and Shabazzy are saying (Copy/paste and expanded from a youtube comment I made)..............

    When talking about Industry, we're really talking about and looking at the BIG machine(s), the one(s) with all the money spent on it/them. (Pipelines!)
    To run, it needs a reliable chain to deliver the power. It is probably quite wasteful, and prone to being pushed to the limits. It delivers on time with generally good to exceptional results. People are the spokes on the drive wheel, (so keep that in mind if your foot is the one on the peddle (Studio heads).

    Literally, the big machines are part of the money versus time slide. That is, Distance/Power/Speed/Reliability/Guaranteed result.... but very expensive, creating products for mass market consumption, high yield products, and not to mention accountable in costs (This is related to why big studios don't use Blender as a core tool for example). Autodesk being the oil baron of big industry animation.

    Inversely, if you aren't in that machine, don't try to be unless you want to join it (Returns versus investment costs of tools). There is a tendency for industry to look out of their high windows and only see hobbyists below, looking down with a bit of a feeling of superiority. However, for the people outside them machines, we only see the machines themselves... The people on the machine are so far away, they are like little dots... the only really visible people being the big heads who are driving... if they are lucky.

    So basically, unless you are at the head of one of these machines, you're a replaceable part. If you want to stay in the machine, accept the terms... you aren't protected. I imagine abuse is rife in industry, and I feel very sorry for all the artists ground down by a demanding engine. It is a kind of sad picture.

    By comparison, out here in the independent world, where we have much smaller machines (that with a push can deliver comparable results for smaller markets/audiences) we have the foot on the accelerator. To be successful outside industry you need to be multi-skilled, flexible and disciplined. The results will rarely measure up to Pixars latest, but you soon realise that the watching audience barely notice the difference. The love, care and vision delivered by a much smaller machine overriding the drop in quality (when compared to big industry).
    Effect houses, or the big game studios etc will not be offering their services to the small business people out there who want some CG to show off their products... way too expensive. So, that is where the small machines come in, with all-rounder drivers at the helm. Sitting atop a Lightwave driven motor (or whatever software pipeline is cost effective for your personal market). The industry looks down on it, but that is foolish. Snobbery, lack of respect etc.

    Personally, I laugh in the face of anyone with these notions. The world outside mass market products is full of potential work, where you can see your own abilities in full. It can be much more frightening, as you can't hide behind others. But the work satisfaction is much higher. Earning potential is similar, sometimes much better, but that depends on how good you are with business... and whether you have some guts to charge correctly.

    At the end of the day, Lightwave is probably classed as an industry tool in fields more like Anime. Outside that, it is a tool for the independents. Independent animators from my perspective do ok... not amazing, but we don't have the pressure of the machine, so satisfaction is much higher. Satisfaction in your own work is also currency. If all you want is money, then put the artist mentality and your need for recognition down.

    The biggest threat to survival of small industry in the west is competing with underpaid Eastern competition... like most things. It drags the hourly rate down for smaller jobs, creating a desert here and there for freelancers.

    The key to it, is to identify the right clients, give them good results and develop a relationship with them.


    So........ in answer to the OP question, I think independent animators (but really all-rounders) are doing ok. Demand for 3d in broader arenas is growing. VR is gathering pace too, a whole new arena. This is why I was glad to see Lightwave get the Unreal export up to date. Unreal produces good VR experiences quite easily, and in the world of training etc, VR will find its feet. With HalfLife 2.5 announced yesterday for VR, that will only grow.

    Personally, I am about to start moving into content creation for youtube and similar platforms. It might not be a big payer, but with a good business plan, I'm very confident that I can earn a reasonable living and bring all my passions into the same place. I love animation, and I for one am glad to be free from industry. Lightwave is an excellent animation package, especially with the input of the likes of RebelHill/Craig etc who give access to quality rigs etc (Thanks Craig).
    So I can put my hand up and say this animator is doing ok, and if I start to do better or worse, I'll try and share my experiences here for the benefit of others.

    p.s. Sorry.......... you did want a book for a reply didn't you? :P
    Last edited by Kaptive; 11-19-2019 at 07:50 AM.

  7. #7
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    Thank you all for replying !!!
    I appreciate the long posts, more food for thought.
    I really enjoyed the video clip.
    I was impressed to learn that in Japan 2d is cheap but 3d more expensive, but in USA is the other way around. Figure that out.
    Take care fellow animators !!!
    -Mobilis In Mobile-

  8. #8

    Burn out is, of course, real.
    Yes, be careful. I've had that more than once. Lately i've learned (i hope) to say "No!".

    In our defense, it can be very difficult to estimate how much workload we will have to take on.  

    The biggest threat to survival of small industry in the west is competing with underpaid Eastern competition...
    kind of, i think many forget tho' that this can also be of benefit to themselves. By outsourcing those parts Easterns do best, for then compile that work, add to it, and then sell it.
    It means however you have to take one step up the latter. If you can't beat them, join them.
    Last edited by erikals; 11-19-2019 at 12:56 PM.
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  9. #9
    Registered User Kaptive's Avatar
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    It was architectural work that created the burn out. The clients in that field change their plans and ideas so much that they think it is easy to just make an alteration, then pressure is mounted on you to do it.
    I'm unlikely to ever do architectural work again, certainly for large projects (hotels/resorts etc). They can pay well, but ultimately it made me hate the work.

    What can make it even worse is the middle men.
    Often, you don't work for the end client, you work for some middle man company, and no matter how much you stress about not making massive changes once production has begun, they go and talk to the client and just say yes to them about anything.
    Then they come to you and just go "Oh, we need to do such and such"... and you stare back at them in stunned silence, knowing that they do not have your back, and that they don't give a s***. But you have blocked out a large amount of time for them, and can't afford to tell them to go to hell. I also know for a fact that the middle man was excessively marking up our costs for their own gain (in a very unreasonable way) and then won't stump up the money for the costs they have created by being spineless. You can't complain... but that industry is full of BS artists. Be very cautious who you work with.

    Anyway, lesson learnt. I'd rather be poorer and happy, than rich and suicidal. People who live for business and money do not care for artists in any way. They will use you, abuse you, put you down... all of it. If you end up working with someone that displays a lack of care or honour, just walk away (or find a good jumping point) and find the more honourable people to work with. They are out there.

    Regarding my comment on underpaid Eastern competition, it was more with regard to those that are just setting out.
    Getting those first small jobs can be tough. The low charges abroad can be extremely disheartening and hard to compete against.
    But you're right, you can leverage it too... but personally, people management isn't my thing.

    I actually wish there were more agents out there who represent artists, who source work, do the dull meeting legwork and distribute it amongst a group for a percentage of the profit.

  10. #10
    In the 80's and 90's I did 3d animation and such as mostly a hobby, but had people searching me out to do paid stuff. Then around 2000 things started to change. Every school seemed to be pushing animation as a way to make a ton of money and suddenly a ton of people with student or pirated ver of softwares were flooding the market. Blender and cheaper software has changed the software side of things, but the market is still flooded. Lots of people willing to work for cheap or free just to get in on a job. It seems to have become more of a commodity then an art. My day job has also gotten that way, now that you can get stuff shipped any where in the world cheap, people no longer need to buy custom machinery from local tool & die shops. I think a part of doing well in the market is to offer something more, so what you do isn't just a commodity that can be bought any where.

  11. #11

    I think a part of doing well in the market is to offer something more, so what you do isn't just a commodity that can be bought any where.
    Agree, to a certain degree I think that is the new trend.
    Also being a generalist. Back in the days I remember being a semi-generalist was a big deal, since it was much more difficult.
    I recall an interview, "And you even UV yourself, don't you?" Man proudly answers > "Yes!".
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  12. #12
    Registered User Kaptive's Avatar
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    Well, I think it is true of most long time LWers, that to actually make anything, you had to have some knowledge of all practices. Everything has gotten a lot more specialised... but again, this is talking about working for the big machines. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that generalists are almost frowned upon in big industry. I watch Flippednormals on youtube, and they proposed that you shouldn't (as a modeller/sculptor) work from your own concept art.
    I basically read this as "You have to prove you are a cog, and not the machine". If you are the machine, then you are taking away from someone else. Generalists in a big machine will come across as a bit egotistical, and unable to play in other peoples sandpits.

    I get it, and that is fine. But I simply cannot limit my creative interests in that way, which is why independence is my direction. I like having my own sandpit, because I enjoy every aspect of production. To try and choose just one aspect and stick with it... well, I find that a depressing idea. I don't know how alone I am on that. Would love to hear the thoughts of others about this.

    I think generalists these days need to be moving more towards niche content creation, with the final product being your focus. There are so many interests out there that would benefit from the focus of 3d visualisation and animation, but can't be justified by large studios. I have yet to prove this theory, so I guess I'll keep this board updated as I progress over the next year or so. It might be useful for a few who are wondering about how to focus their efforts. If it fails, then at least I tried, and sharing will help others.
    At the end of the day, I'll never be inclined to join the studio culture, because it does not appeal to me and how I work. Lightwave for me is the ideal tool. Fantastic for serious hobbyists too, for whom I have a huge respect.

    People who are inclined to industry and bigger pipelines seem to want Lightwave to compete with max/maya/c4d directly in big studio pipelines, but I'm not convinced that that is its' place. I'm not saying it can't one day (or that it doesn't operate here and there in big pipelines... see Avatar/Rob Powers for example), but that isn't how it is positioned. Lightwave gives enough of most modern aspects of 3d to not limit the user, but it doesn't waste time on trying to offer the ultimate solution to any main aspect. It really is the generalists tool, and I love it for that reason. Any major shortfalls can be compensated for using Blender, like a sub routine.

    I often think about Shrox, who stepped away from here I think. He worked out how to leverage his skills and Lightwave to do something quite different (rockets!). In fact, it's worth a plug... https://shrox.com Though I don't think he is doing the rockets directly himself anymore. If he is out there, hey, I hope you're well!

  13. #13

    If the development of LightWave and [B] continues like today,
    I think there will be no problem for these two apps to compete with the big guys,
    mainly because AutoDesk has a habit of releasing very small updates.

    and Adobe too, they used to be King, now they are "meh."  
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  14. #14
    RETROGRADER prometheus's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by erikals View Post
    If the development of LightWave and [B] continues like today,
    I think there will be no problem for these two apps to compete with the big guys,
    mainly because AutoDesk has a habit of releasing very small updates.

    and Adobe too, they used to be King, now they are "meh."  
    I would like to question all that a bit,
    Consider this..Jobbmarket..what skills is it reuired of you if you apply to a certain company, after years of looking through ads over here in sweden, a dominating force in requirements and what they use is the Adobe Suite, and Autodesk mainly max, but also Autocad, so I am not so sure that the small updates is what has the most impact to compete on the market.
    Also consider the Marketing resources they put out there, and educational licenses including in the marketing.

    I constantly see Adobe photoshop, illustrator, and Indesign as the tool of choice, you practicly do not see any competional software out there for design and market jobs.
    As for 3D the dominating force is Maya and 3D max, often followed by cinema4D which also seem to have a larger share, and a small runner up is in fact blender as to what I have seen the latest year.

    Ivé seen One ad this year with the requirement of Lightwave, along with some other software.
    But this is a bit Biased based on the Swedish unemployment Agency, there are of course other ads that I most likely have missed, or companies that fills their positions other ways.

    A current status as of today by a search in the Swedish unemployment Agency site yields...

    Lightwave -0
    Cinima4D-0
    Houdini -3
    Maya -3
    3D studioMax-6
    Blender-7

    Now you would think Blender would be a dominating force by that result, but that is only a current status which is under subject to change from day to day, mostly the result yields more of that order I mentioned previously.
    And this is of course very much based on the Swedish area.

    excerpt from a few ads..

    HMI Developer - "You preferably know your way around graphic design tools such as Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Illustrator, 3ds Max, GIMP, or Blender,"
    Bioinformaticer /molecular hematology- " Skills in Blender and HLSL / ShaderLab and experience of Python.
    Senior software engineer- " Working experiment from 3D Surface tools such as Blender"

  15. #15

    after years of looking through ads over here in sweden, a dominating force in requirements and what they use is the Adobe Suite, and Autodesk mainly max, but also Autocad, so I am not so sure that the small updates is what has the most impact to compete on the market.
    i agree, the change won't happen any time soon, AD is just too big.

    well better than Norway then...

    Lightwave -0
    Cinima4D-0
    Houdini -0
    Maya -0
    3D studioMax-0
    Blender-0

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