Take a quick look at the five highest-grossing movies of all time:
- Avatar (2009) - $2.8 billion
- Titanic (1997) - $1.8 billion
- Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (2011) - $1.3 billion
- Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011) - $1.1 billion
- The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003) - $1.1 billion [source: BoxOfficeMojo]
What do they have in common? Starting with Titanic in 1997, the most successful films in the world are all shot in digitally enhanced, computer-animated worlds. Animation and digital effects studios like Disney-owned Pixar and George Lucas' Industrial Light and Magic (ILM) hire teams of talented artists and animators to create fully realized characters and elaborate settings from scratch.
Artists and animators are employed throughout the pre-production and production process. Traditional artists and cartoonists are often hired to sketch out initial ideas for the look of different characters and settings. Sculptors are also brought in to create the first 3D clay models of the characters, which can then be scanned into digital form for the animators. Computer animators are the virtual puppeteers who painstakingly bring a character's emotions and dialogue to life frame by meticulous frame.
The annual mean salary for multimedia artists and animators in the film and video industry was $72,380 in 2010 [source: Bureau of Labor Statistics].