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Layout Artist - 2D Drawn

Layout Artists stage every shot and camera set up, and the staging they produce defines the action that will take place within each scene. On larger productions, Layout Artists work closely with the Director, Art Director, Animation Director, Key Animators, Camera and Compositing Departments.

On smaller projects, there may be no allowance for dedicated Layout Artists, in which case layouts may be produced by the Director or Animator. Layout Artists need a thorough understanding of the animation process and the technical possibilities available.

What is the job?
Layout Artists plan the action of scenes and are likely to draw both the background and character elements within a shot. To do this, they take information from the storyboard and translate it into a format and size that can be utilised by the Animation and Camera Departments.

This involves referring to production designs and model sheets in order to produce drawings that are consistent and on model (in style). Experienced Layout Artists will plot the camera moves and give clear technical instructions.

More junior Layout Artists may be hired for their drawing and composition talent and learn the technical skills as they progress. For some productions, layouts may be produced in the UK for work that will be animated overseas; in these cases, it is especially important that Layout Artists produce clear, written instructions to accompany the drawn layouts.

On some occasions, Layout Artists produce background layouts only and Lead Animators will do the character layouts or key poses.

Typical career routes
There is no traditional career route for Layout Artists. It is rare for a college leaver to find a job in the Layout Department although, with an exceptional portfolio, there may be some opportunities. It is more usual for Layout Artists to have gained some professional experience, often in illustration; comic books can be a good grounding.

At the beginning of a project, Directors will often view illustrators' portfolios looking for a filmic style or an appropriate talent for composition and lighting. On larger projects, a Layout Supervisor, with organisational and leadership skills, will head a department of artists.

Junior Layout Artists, without animation experience, need to acquire technical knowledge and may want to do a relevant film course. A lot of skill and experience is required to do good layouts and it can be a fulfilling career. Alternatively, it can lead in many directions including Storyboard, Background Painting and, occasionally, Animation.

Essential knowledge and skills
It will be necessary to demonstrate at least some of the following within a portfolio submitted for a Layout position:
  • excellent and adaptable drawing skills including good understanding of composition and perspective;
  • good use of light and shadow and the ability to create atmosphere
  • ability to follow established design;
  • ability to be neat and methodical;
    Key Skills include:
  • understanding of 2D animation process, including camera mechanics;
  • understanding of editing and film structure;
  • understanding of relevant software and post production possibilities;
  • ability to communicate clearly with colleagues and work as part of a team;
  • ability to take direction and a willingness to address comments and make changes;
  • ability to work with a minimum of supervision;
  • ability to deliver on schedule, working under pressure if required;
  • respect for the procedures and requirements of a particular studio or production;
  • knowledge of the requirements of the relevant Health and Safety legislation and procedures
Training and qualifications
It is likely that Layout Artists will have gained a degree in an art-related subject such as Animation, Illustration, Fine Art or Graphic Design. However, the quality of their work will be of more value than an academic qualification.

Copies of Layout Reels are useful to demonstrate experience but it is necessary to keep them short, and applicants should indicate clearly which scenes were their responsibility. In addition to good draughtsmanship, studios look for an understanding of film making and expect applicants to be film literate.

Where to go for more information

Websites
Animation World Network (AWN) (news & jobs) - www.awn.com-Shooting People (news & jobs) - Shooting People
Skwigly Animation Magazine - Skwigly Animation Magazine
High End 2d (news & jobs) - www.highend2d.com
Animation Magazine (news) - www.animationmagazine.net
Toonhound - Toonhound

More...

Publications
The Animator's Survival Kit by Richard Williams. Pub. Faber & Faber
Timing for Animation by Harold Whittaker and John Halas. Pub. Focal Press
The Complete Animation Course: The Principles, Practice, and Techniques of Successful Animation by Chris Patmore. Pub. Barron's Educational Series
Acting for Animators: A complete guide to Performance Animation by Ed Hooks. Pub. Greenwood Press.

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Glossary

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Adobe Acrobat DocumentLayout Artist - 2D Drawn
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