Rachel Senior has lent her animation skills to an impressive range of titles including Need for Speed Payback, Need for Speed Heat, Fable Legends, Kinect Sesame Street TV, Kinect Sports Season 2, Kinect Sports Rivals and Enslaved Odyssey. Rachel has previously worked for EA, Lionhead, Rare, Ninja Theory and currently works as a Senior Animator at Wargaming UK. We asked Rachel, some key questions about getting into the games sector.
Explain your role like I'm 5 years old
My role is to animate characters, creatures and vehicles in games. I make animations for either the gameplay where a character maybe running, walking around, jumping etc. or for cutscenes which are cinematic moments that tell a story throughout the course of the game. I will typically get given a 3D character that has a puppet-like set of controls created for it which I then use to pose and move the character around to create animations for the game.
Take us through your average day at work
My day normally starts with a morning stand up where the team establish tasks for the day and find out any changes to priorities for our work. Most of the time my task will be to work on an animation for the game however my work can involve other tasks such as planning or implementing animations into the game engine.
If I am to work on a new animation that day my first steps are to gather information I might need. I will discuss with designers things like; how long does this animation need to be? What is the gameplay expected to be for this character? From there I will generate ideas, draw sketches, gather reference or even act it out on camera. Once I have a good idea of what I want to animate I will open up Maya which is the programme I animate in. From there I begin to pose the character at key points along a timeline to capture the main actions that make up the animation. In a jump
What was your educational and career journey into your current role?
I have always loved studying art through GCSE's and A-levels. I had also always been fascinated by animation since I was very young. I loved playing games and watching Disney films but it didn't really occur to me that animating was a real job that I could consider as a career. Eventually, through some internet research late into my A-levels I finally discovered that animation was something I could have a career in and also study at college. I earned my degree in Animation after 3 years, by that time I knew a whole lot more about the games industry and that I wanted to become an animator.
I initially struggled to find work after my degree but knew that if I kept practicing and applying for jobs in between working my retail job I could get my start in games. I was over the moon when a year later I was offered a dream position as an animation intern at a games studio called Ninja Theory. Since then I have had the pleasure of working as an animator at multiple studios across the UK, I am currently in a new role as Senior animator at Wargaming UK, having been at EA for the previous 3 and a half years working on the Need for Speed games.
What is it about your role that you love?
I love the magic of giving personality and emotion to a character and seeing them on screen and even interacting with them. Working as part of a team to bring something new and exciting to the games I'm working on is also a really special aspect of developing games for me.
What's the hardest thing about your role?
Accepting that animation like most art disciplines is something that takes years to develop your skill in. Unfortunately, there's no shortcut you just have to enjoy the process of learning and improving over time.
What key skills should people work on to do your role one day?
Through a lot of experience, I have learned the value of focusing on learning the fundamentals of animation. Technical skills can be great to learn but learning the fundamentals will always give you a solid foundation to build those skills on top of. Watching a variety of films and playing games is also great inspiration for your work. Practising drawing and having knowledge of fundamental art skills can be very beneficial throughout your career too.
What advice would you give to your younger self looking to get started in the industry?
Take advantage of all the fantastic resources and information available now to animators. There is so much to learn from watching other animators workflows, watching breakdowns of the animation process, a huge amount is available to watch for free online.
Practising 2D animation is a great way to begin learning animation, the skills learned animating in 2D are extremely transferable to 3D animation. If you are ready to try 3D then I would advise learning the 3D software Maya (Which is commonly used in studios) there is a free educational version of this available. Blender is also a good and free alternative with lots of learning material available.
If I was interested in working in the games industry I would look into checking out one of the two main game engines available, Unity and Unreal engine. They are free to download and there are huge amounts of learning materials and tutorials on how to get started making your own games. Also if you are looking to get an internship at a games company then many offer them for a year in-between the 2nd and 3rd years of university courses.
Do you have any links to good articles or videos that you think might give some tips or advice to someone starting in your role?
I would definitely recommend the book The Animators Survival Kit. It’s a classic must-have for all animators starting out. For games specific information then this is a great book to get an overview and a lot of information on the role of an animator in the games industry:
Online animation schools like ianimate and Animation Mentor often have some great resources, free rigs and tutorials on their site:
And 11 Seconds Club is a monthly online animation competition and is a great place to find free resources, and get feedback on your work:
These two games engines are the most commonly used by studios and well worth getting into if you want to learn more about making games.