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Animation 2005 – Parallel Reality

From movies to music videos to games, it’s everywhere, and it’s getting bigger by the day. The animation industry may booming in the west, but a lot of the work is being outsourced to India. Arjun ‘Draws-Poorly’ Ravi tells you how you can join the bandwagon.

“Ogres are like onions” says Shrek, the green ogre, picking up an onion from the field that Donkey and he are walking through. “They both make you cry?” asks his sidekick sarcastically. “Layers! We both have layers!”

The difference between the animation of today and that of the Mickey Mouse era, is a lot more than clearer pictures and better graphics. Technology has not only leant looks to the characters on screen, but also attitude. It’s come to a point where absolutely anything that can be thought, can be displayed.

Animated films, advertisements, ‘regular’ films, computer games, all make extensive use of animation. But what exactly does the term mean? Merriam-Webster Online defines it as:

– 1. The act of animating : the state of being animate or animated
– 2. A motion picture made by photographing successive positions of inanimate objects (as puppets or mechanical parts)
– 3. The preparation of animated cartoons

But animation is not restricted to just its dictionary definition. Sure it’s required on TV, games, etc., but there are several equally important uses of animation.

You Wouldn’t Think They’d Use It Here!
– Architects and industrial engineers use 3D animated models to run stress tests on buildings, submarines, aircrafts and cars.
– F1 teams make extensive use of animated models to simulate driving conditions.
– Town planners start planning using animated sims to determine appropriate distances, town blocks, etc.

Rohit Bhandari, Asst. VP of Animax, says “I expect the animation industry in India to double (in size), if not triple, in the next five years itself!” Animation content created in India is mostly restricted to outsourcing firms, whose job is to complete international projects. But the demand for this content is tremendous. Mr. Bhandari believes the fact that India has a major cost and skill advantage in the field is great encouragement for students wanting to pursue animation as a career. Animax itself has been conducting animation workshops on a small scale at several schools across the nation.

But outsourcing is not the be-all-end-all of the animation industry in India. Though original broadcastable content has not exactly taken-off, it is expected to do so in the coming years. Anish Mulani, Head of Production, Crest Animation studios, says “There is huge potential for original content in India. It is expected to expand in two directions – development and consumption. On the development side, there are several production houses starting to make original animated content. And on the consumption side, the Indian audience is looking to see more India-centric animations.”

Animated India
– Battledust: The Championship, India’s first 3D fighting game, was released last year by Paradox studios, a Reliance company.
– The Legend Of Buddha, an Indian animation film, was India’s official entry in the animated film category at the 2005 Oscars.

So how do you get on the ani-bandwagon? Here’s a step-by-step guide:
– 1. You have to be artistically inclined from the beginning. An appreciative aesthetic sense goes a long way in making a good animator.
– 2. What you did in class 11 and 12/ HSC doesn’t really matter, though since Science is more scoring, it is advisable to pursue that.
– 3. Ideally, you should graduate from an art school, but this is not necessary. If you do intend on pursuing an art school graduation, it is advisable that you spend the latter portion of your HSC preparing for the entrance examination.
– 4. Familiarity with popular animation software is a very big advantage when you’re looking for a job with an animation studio. An animation course with a multimedia education house will add major brownie points to your resume.

Apart from professional training, there are several personal skills also that one must possess to be a good animator. Shilpa Ranade, Asst. Prof., Industrial Design Centre (IDC), IIT (Bombay), says: “You should have a good sense of colour, proportion, size, design, etc. These go a long way in making a good animation.” Prashant, an employee of Jadoo Studios in Bangalore, believes that for constructing a good character animation, one must be a good actor oneself.

Most often, animation studios in India have a 6 month to one year training period when they induct freshers. This helps the inductee to get a good idea of where he or she would like to specialise. During the training period, most freshers are taught on the job, and are basically given a feel of all the departments at the firm (Read Ani-job?) so they can decide on where they fit in best.

A lot of institutes have sprouted up over the last few years offering specialised courses in animation. If you’re looking to learn animation software, these are the places we recommend you check out:
1. Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics (MAAC) (www.maacindia.com)
2. Arena Multimedia (www.arena-multimedia.com)
3. Workstation
4. Pentamedia Graphics Limited (www.penta-media.com)
5. Toonz Animation India (www.toonzindia.com)
6. ZICA (Zee)

Maya Academy boasts of good placements for students, but the courses are really expensive. The placements are not highly paying, but are good for getting work experience. Arena also provides placements, but students’ perceptions are that the faculty at Maya is better. Arena’s courses are also very expensive (Rs.25,000 onwards), but once you finish the course your familiarity with various animation software is very good. ZICA only accepts students on the basis of their caliber. They examine the students’ projects, etc. and get an idea of how he/ she will fit in with the course, which costs a rather high Rs. 2 Lakh! “But it’s worth it,” says art student Sumesh Pillai, who has completed his graduation from JJ School of Art. Faculty members are brought in from abroad to give lessons, and the placements are also quite good. For 3D animation, the students’ choice is Workstation.

Note: Most of these institutes will admit you even if you don’t have great artistic or design skills. They just teach you the softwares and how to use them. It is the institutes that have a stricter admission procedure (i.e. checking previous work, artistic qualities, etc.) that give way better VFM.

In Forest Gump, there is a scene where Tom Hanks’s character, Forest meets US President John F. Kennedy. Since Mr. Kennedy was assasinated many years before the film was made, the crew used a “green-screen” technique to construct the scene. Animation studios in India today are required to construct such scenes and sequences for international productions. Crest Animation Studios, for example, produces TV animations and DVD features. A large part of Cartoon Networks’s animated series, Pet Alien, is produced by Crest.

If you’re an absolute fresher, you’re usually hired as a junior animator in one of several departments of an animation studio, such as character modelling, texturing, rigging, background modelling, lighting, effects, rendering, etc. If you have some work experience (say 1-2 years), you can apply for middle or senior level positions.

The most commonly used softwares are XSI, Maya and Animo.

Salaries in the animation industry are better than those in any other comparative IT industry. The average starting salary for a fresher is anywhere between Rs.10-15,000. The scope for career growth is tremendous as animation is yet a fledgling industry in India. The number of skilled personnel are relatively few, and it is a classic case of demand exceeding supply. Which basically means, the opportunity to make big bucks!

Mulani opines, “Animation as a career in India is here to stay. There is tremendous potential for growth in this field, and anyone serious about it can really make it big.” There’s a thin line between reality and fantasy, and it’s an animator’s job is to make it thinner, or erase it completely!

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