Embark on a career in 3D animation by mastering the professional software that powers the industry: Adobe After Effects, Cinema 4D, and Premiere Pro. With the increasing demand for 3D animation in various industries, including film, television, gaming, and even theme parks, learning these key animation tools could open up a world of creative opportunities.

Key Insights

  • 3D Animators are creative professionals who use software to design and build 3D animated models for a wide range of different entertainment and consumer products.
  • Adobe After Effects, Cinema 4D, and Premiere Pro are key software tools for 3D animation. After Effects is used for post-production animation, Cinema 4D is used for 3D asset modeling, and Premiere Pro is used to edit video footage.
  • Self-teaching is not recommended due to the complexity of these programs. Students also need to learn animation principles and theories, which can be difficult without expert guidance.
  • In-person and live online classes offer immersive learning experiences with real-time support and feedback from experienced instructors. However, these classes require regular attendance and may not suit students with other obligations.
  • Beyond technical skills, aspiring 3D animators must also develop their artistic style and learn to receive and implement feedback. They also need to learn to work collaboratively and meet strict deadlines.
  • Noble Desktop offers a range of motion graphics design classes, including the Motion Graphics Certificate Program for those aiming for a career as a professional 3D Animator. The program covers the use of Adobe After Effects and Cinema 4D, and includes one-on-one career mentorship sessions and a capstone project.

As computer processing power has become much cheaper and much more accessible, more and more studios are turning to 3D animation as a way of improving their creative output. The kinds of projects that seemed revolutionary even a decade ago have been surpassed by technology that is readily available for most students to learn on their own time. This means that anyone hoping to make it big in the field of 3D animation is going to need to learn how to use a handful of 3D animation software applications in order to work in the field. Virtually all 3D Animators will need to learn a program like Adobe After Effects, and many will need to learn additional programs like Cinema 4D and Premiere Pro.

What is a 3D Animator?

3D Animators are creative professionals responsible for designing and building 3D animated models for a wide range of different entertainment and consumer products. They are tasked with taking static images and using computer technology to give those assets the illusion of depth, weight, and motion. 3D Animators build everything from animated logos for webpages to elaborate 3D-rendered models for major Hollywood films. They also work in the consumer software industry, the video game industry, and even aspects of the entertainment industry you might not expect, like theme parks.

3D Animators are also often the professionals responsible for the thousands of minor digital alterations that go into modern film and television. Physical props and practical effects are less common, and it increasingly falls on 3D Animators to create the environments and assets that actors interact with on a film set. This means that 3D Animators are likely to find work in the film and television industry as their services are increasingly in high demand. This isn’t the only industry in which they can find work, but it is the one that is most commonly associated with 3D animation skills.

Read more about what a 3D Animator does.

What Software Do 3D Animators Use?

Adobe After Effects

The industry-standard tool for keying, compositing, and post-production animation is Adobe After Effects. This program allows users to create titles, 3D objects, and other animated effects that will be edited into a digital video file during the post-production process. After Effects is vital for making digital alterations to a video file, both large and small. It is an important part of the post-production process and has features for compositing, animating assets and keying important assets into a live-action scene. If you want to work on film, television, software development or video game productions, it is important that you learn how to utilize tools like After Effects for creating elaborate digital effects. Students interested in learning more about the tools and techniques associated with After Effects may want to consider enrolling in Noble Desktop’s After Effects Bootcamp to learn how to navigate the tool and use it to animate elaborate and complex digital assets.

Adobe Cinema 4D

Cinema 4D is the 3D asset modeling and rendering tool that is available as part of Adobe After Effects. While After Effects is a robust post-production digital animation application, Cinema 4D is more focused on its functionality, making it an important part of a 3D Animator’s toolkit. The program is used to create, model, texture, and give weight and depth to 3D assets that will later be imported into a video file using After Effects. Anyone hoping to build special effects, particularly 3D animated objects, will need to learn how to use a tool like Cinema 4D. Since it is included with Adobe After Effects, these two skills are often taught alongside one another, making them an ideal set of skills to pick up for aspiring 3D Animators.

Adobe Premiere Pro

Alongside Adobe After Effects, the other major tool for video post-production is Adobe Premiere Pro, which is used to edit video footage into a final, publishable product. Premiere Pro is used to insert the animated assets created in After Effects and Cinema 4D, and it is used to ensure that they appear seamless. The ultimate goal is to create life-like images and assets in After Effects and make them look like they were filmed in real life using Premiere Pro. While many elaborate film and television projects will have dedicated editors, After Effects artists, particularly those working on small projects or freelancing, will want to learn how to use Premiere Pro to make practical use of the 3D animated assets they are building.

How to Learn 3D Animation Software

Students looking to learn these programs have a lot of different options available to them. It can be complicated to learn a new design application, particularly if you are new to computer-aided animation. While students may consider self-teaching After Effects and Premiere Pro, this isn’t recommended for a few reasons. First, these are fairly complicated programs, so while beginners can learn the program quickly with guided help, novices attempting to self-teach may find themselves easily lost. In addition, learning how to use the tool is only half the battle. Students will also need to learn animation principles and theories in order to properly utilize the applications, and students may need expert guidance to understand what they are doing wrong when their work comes out technically correct but feels wrong because it doesn’t conform to certain design principles.

Students who are seeking guided instruction can enroll in a self-paced course or in an in-person or live online course. Self-paced classes are ideal for students who are seeking to learn animation on their own schedule and who need flexibility when they train. This makes these courses ideal for students who are looking to structure their animation lessons around their work and family obligations. However, these classes lack live instructors, and students will miss out on the personalized feedback part of the instruction that is so important to new animation students.

In-person and live online classes are the most immersive option, giving students the opportunity to learn from experienced instructors who can provide real-time support and feedback on a student’s work. They can also ask questions and get answers to concerns immediately, helping them learn faster than if they were on their own. The drawback to these classes generally is that students will be required to attend regularly scheduled classes, which can be difficult for students with work or family obligations. Students can only enroll in the in-person classes that they can physically attend, and online classes will require students to acquire their own software.

Other Skills Needed to Become a 3D Animator

Learning to be a professional 3D Animator is about more than just learning how to use the tools. One of the reasons that feedback is so important is that students will need to learn design principles and theories of animation and spend time improving and developing their own artistic style. On top of this, most 3D Animators will regularly be receiving feedback that they need to account for in their daily workflow, so learning how to respond to feedback and make requested alterations to a model is an important part of succeeding in animation. On top of this, students will need to learn how to work alongside other animators and how to work on fairly strict deadlines, both of which are skills you can acquire in a live, in-person training environment.

Learn the Skills to Become a 3D Animator at Noble Desktop

Anyone looking to become a professional 3D Animator will need to learn how to use the tools of the trade. Applications like Adobe After Effects and Cinema 4D can be difficult for new animators to learn, which is one of the reasons that guided, live instruction is so profitable for aspiring creatives. Noble Desktop offers a wide range of motion graphics design classes and these courses are available either in-person or online. These classes provide students with hands-on instruction guided by industry experts who can help students learn the ins and outs of 3D animation programs. Class sizes are limited, so even online classes are kept small, meaning students won’t have to compete for their instructor’s attention. As a bonus, every student who enrolls in a Noble Desktop training program can retake that course within a calendar year, giving them more time to develop their skills and build their demo reel.

Students looking to start a new career as a professional 3D Animator should consider enrolling in Noble’s Motion Graphics Certificate Program. This career-focused course will teach students how to animate complex 3D assets and objects using Adobe After Effects. Students will learn how Cinema 4D can be used to create and render 3D models, and students will get hands-on experience working with animated text, graphics, and both Photoshop and Illustrator files. Since this is a career-focused program, students will benefit from resources aimed to help them succeed on the job market, including one-on-one career mentorship sessions and a capstone project in which students construct their own sample demo reel to take with them onto the job market. 

Students who want to learn 3D animation skills but aren’t preparing for a shift in their career may want to enroll in a class like Noble’s Adobe After Effects Bootcamp. This course aims to provide students with hands-on training in the 2D and 3D animation tools offered through Adobe After Effects. Students will not only learn how to build 2D and 3D assets, but they will also learn how to integrate text and audio into those designs, how to transition between animation cycles, and how to work with layers to add complex lighting and the illusion of depth to a 3D asset. This course is an ideal fit for students looking to learn how to use this dynamic animation tool.

If you would like to learn more about animation as a professional and technical field, please visit the Learn Animation page on Noble’s Learn Hub.