How much can a CG professional expect to earn? Studios are understandably reluctant to divulge salaries, and of course, the ranges vary greatly, but a ballpark idea can be gained from several sources, particularly as many studios are union shops for which the pay scale is a matter of public record.
Disney Animation’s Animation Guild contract, for example, specifies a current minimum payment for experienced or journeyman-level artists, from animators to lighting specialists, of $39.133 per hour, or $1565.32 per week for a 40-hour workweek. For positions like assistant animator, assistant lighter, or assistant technical director, the minimum pay is $33.49 per hour, or $1339.60 per week. A list of studios covered by the Animation Guild can be found at www.animationguild.org.
According to figures from the International Game Developers Association, salaries for CG artists in the gaming industry range from $57,000 a year for an artist with one to two years’ experience, to $68,000 for a lead artist or art director with six or more years of experience. Of course, salaries can be much lower for entry-level positions at studios, and go well into six figures for top producers. According to job-seeker search engine Indeed.com, the average salary for a senior character animator in the US is $62,000. And the US Bureau of Statistics reports that the average salary for a multimedia artist and animator in 2008 was $62,380, with jobs in the motion-picture and video industries averaging $71,910, and those in advertising and public relations in the range of $57,740. It should be noted that many CG professionals are paid hourly rather than annually.
Of course, salaries vary depending on country and region. Artists generally earn more in Los Angeles than in, say, the Midwest. On the other hand, it costs more to live in Los Angeles. As always, flexibility is key. “I don't see the crazy bidding wars we used to have,” says Fringe Talent’s Debra Blanchard, who advises job applicants to be willing to compromise on the issue of salary, “especially if it’s a job you really want.”