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Get animated

What is a line? Well, a line is a line, is a line. Or maybe it is a point that went for a walk! If you like the latter explanation more then this is for you…

Remember the family who adopted a mouse for a child, or the museum where the extinct came alive, or maybe the hulk that grew incredibly big? They all had one thing in common. They were all brought to life by animation.
For those who like facts, animation can be simply defined as the art of drawing inanimate objects, frame by frame and then bringing them to life. But for those who look beyond facts, animation is a world where imagination and reality become one.

With animation, the possibilities are infinite. Today, the industry is so huge and still growing that it is one of the most sought after career options. And what’s more, desi parents, who have been obsessed with churning out engineer/doctor/CA offsprings too have woken up to animation.

Animation so far
Animation has a come a long way from being just cartoons for children even in India. Initially, India was the main hub for doing the outsourced jobs for international studios, but we are gradually creating our own products now. The success of Hanuman in 2005 was a big boost to the industry. It made people sit up and take notice of it as a career option. Currently, there are about 35,000 animators in the country and according to projected figures, the industry will require about 1,00,000 animators in the coming years.

How to become an animator To make a foray into this field, one needs to be familiar with web authoring, digital illustrations, image editing, page layout creation, multimedia authoring, web publishing, conventional animation, contemporary animation, animation for Web, video editing and composing. To cater to the rise in demand for animators, several institutions have mushroomed across the country (see Famous Institutes).

Opportunities
There are many studios in India that do a lot of work for international clients in the league of Disney, Pixar and DreamWorks Animation Studios. Mumbai hosts major studios like Prana, Maya Entertainment, Famous House of Animation, Crest Animation and Rhythm and Hues, closely followed by the south which boasts of studios like Tonnz Animation and Paprikaas.

Currently, there is a huge requirement for animators and special effects artists for TV as well as films in India. You can be absorbed at various levels as a graphics designer, visual artist, supervisor,digital film animator, senior animator, content writer, clean up artist, web designer or web author.

Salaries are competent and are on par with the software industry. An aspiring animator can be paid approximately Rs 3,000 as an intern. Then the salaries paid range from Rs 8,000 to Rs10,000. Like in all creative fields, the sky is the limit when it comes to the moolah for the exceptionally talented.

Famous Institutes

MAAC (Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics): Provides courses for Advanced Diploma in 3D Animation, Expert and Advanced Diploma in 3D Animation.

Arena Animation Institute: Offers a BSc Degree in Multimedia & Animation. The other courses available here are Arena Animation Pro, Arena Animation Academy Specialist Programme (AAASP) and the Diploma in Animation Engineering (DAE).

Picasso Animation College: Offers a BSc and MSc in Animation, Centennial courses in Digital Animation and foundation courses in art and design.

Toonz Academy for Animation: Offers a 12-month long Advanced Diploma in Digital Arts and Animation. They also offer short-term courses for VFX for Film and Broadcast, Art of Maya and 3D Graphics.

ZICA (Zee Institute of Creative Animation): Offers courses in Diploma in Animation Film Making, Diploma in Animation, Certificate in Animation, Certificate in Gaming, Certificate in Visual Effects and a Diploma in Digital Arts.

The National Institute of Design: Offers a course in Animation film design, which includes workshops on traditional hand drawn 2D, Clay, Sand, Oil on Glass, Stop motion, Pixilation to CGI/ Digital platform.

Inside an animation studio: Rhythm & Hues
In 2008, Rhythm & Hues (R&H) studio, India, did us proud. They were a part of the Nicole Kidman and Daniel Craig starrer The Golden Compass, in which they seamlessly stitched together the visual effects. The film went on to win not only an Oscar, but also the BAFTA for Best Visual Effects. Since then, the studio has helped the Indian animation and visual effects scene make a mark on the global map.

R&H specialises in producing visual effects and animation for feature films and commercials. Prashant Buyyala, the marketing director, R&H (India), says “R&H was started by a group of artists and programmers with the aim of producing the highest quality of work, along with providing an excellent environment to foster creativity, where people enjoy working and are treated fairly, honestly and with respect. Since its inception in 1987, R&H has worked on some of the most loved feature films of all times.”

Equipped with multi-talented artists, R&H did not have to adapt an outsourced workflow technique. They followed a collaborative and integrated paradigm where in every department, irrespective of their geographic location, contributes to every stage in the production pipeline.

After the successful workings of the Mumbai studio, which was established in 2001, R& H set up a studio in Hyderabad in 2007. “We have also started setting up a studio in Kuala Lumpur. The decision to setup a studio in Malaysia is a key step in establishing R&H as a global player,” says Buyyala.

And since Golden Compass, there has been no stopping R&H India. They have worked on several high-profile Hollywood feature films along with their studio in LA. They made major contributions to films like The Chronicles of Narnia- Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe, Superman Returns, Garfield 1& 2, Night at the Museum, Evan Almighty, The Kingdom, Fast & The Furious – Tokyo Drift, Alvin and The Chipmunks, Mummy – Tomb Of the Dragon Emperor, The Incredible Hulk.

“The first ever Academy Award that the studio won was for the movie Babe in 1995. The Oscar for The Golden Compass came next. The studio has also won a Technical Achievement award for a water simulation technique that we developed. This technique was used extensively on a lot of scenes in Superman Returns. This is very motivating for the artists who work their hearts out. It encourages us to keep doing good quality work and set new benchmarks,” says Buyyala.

Other animation studios to look out for:

Vaibhav Studios: An independent studio started by Vaibhav Kumaresh has done some cool animated commercials. The Neo sports’ Ooga Booga ads and Channel V’s Bai and Simpu are done by them.

Maya Entertainment Pvt Ltd: Perhaps one of the biggest animation studios in India, Maya has a long history and a lot of great work to their credit. Their film Ramayana, the epic [3D animation] is due to release in 2009.

Crest Animation Studios: One of the largest and the oldest studios in India. They have done a lot of projects for Cartoon Network and Indian Television channels.

Famous House of Animation: They are a very versatile studio, adept at 2D and clay animation. The award-winning animated commercial for Sulekha.com is their creation and they are currently working on Johnny Bravo. Pixion Studios: Another big name in the animation and VFX industry, they have made a niche for themselves on Indian soil.

Inside an animation institute:
FX School

We met CB Arunkumar, academic director, and Abhyudaya Morarka, director, of FX School

What was the aim behind starting FX school?
Morarka: I did my schooling in Mumbai and then went abroad for my higher education. When I attended high school there I was amazed by their teaching methods, which was more ‘teach yourself’ than spoon feeding. So, I decided to come back and start an institute with this type of learning method. But most students wouldn’t look beyond engineering or medicine.

Therefore, I wanted to look for different avenues and then I learnt of the animation and VFX schools here. It is important that we start ‘teach yourself’ methods at a very young age and at a fundamental level. It makes a lot of difference to our lives.

So, what’s your teaching model?
The syllabus here is modular. Once they are through, we help them decipher what they are interested in. Then we help them specialise in that field. It is very unlike the courses offered at other places, where you end up doing a bit of everything without understanding your real aptitude.

We also have a Pro Level option, where professionals can brush up their skills. Also our courses are not just limited to softwares. We focus on the artistic skills of our students too, as that is what sets an extra ordinary animator apart from the masses.

All our courses are part time, because, the animation and VFX industry is still not being viewed as a mainstream career choice.

What is your take on animation films being made in India? What is its scope?
Whichever way you look at it — technically or creatively, we have a long way to go. But the scope is huge.

In the top 50 films in the world, there are about seven to eight animation films on the top and most of the other films have major VFX work in them. Animation and VFX are the future. The old-fashioned way of film making slowly but steadily fading out. Even films like Kaminey had VFX in them. This is because the colour in the film was natural and it was treated with DI. Even comedy films today have VFX.

A parting shot for aspiring animators…
If you don’t have the passion for it, do not go for it.

-Nikita

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