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The Art of Animation

Do you have it in you? It’s not the software, but the attitude that makes you a good animator, Prachi Parekh discovers

When I entered the world of 3D Animation as a student in 2008, I thought it would be fun and easy – right about the fun part, I was utterly wrong about the easy bit. When people see the fluid movements in animated films, the general reaction is: Must be pretty easy with advanced softwares! Adesh Bhardwaj, faculty at Graphiti School of Animation, says, “Knowing MS Word doesn’t make you a writer. Similarly, knowing Maya or 3D Max won’t make you an animator.”
Apart from the technicalities, some things need to be imbibed into your personality to be a good animator.

Passion
Passion is the keyword. “Get in only if you love it, or you’ll only end up wasting your precious time!” says Vaibhav Kumaresh, founder of Vaibhav Studios. All animators worship animation. An awestruck expression lines their forehead when they talk about it. They eat, sleep and breathe animation. It’s not their career, it’s their life! So don’t take it up for money or as a hobby, you won’t last.

Acting
The importance of acting in animation is another aspect that took me by surprise. To animate an old lady, you have to walk like her, talk like her and even think like her. Kumaresh says, “An animator conjures up the entire animation in his mind. Therefore, if I know about the performance, it is easier for me to translate that into my characters.” However, don’t lose heart if you can’t act for nuts. The Internet is an awesome reference source and you can always ask others to act for you. In Bhardwaj’s words, “You don’t have to be a Shah Rukh Khan. You should be a good observer and be able to read
the act.”

Team spirit
Animation is never a one-man show. “Your scene will just be a small piece and everything has to be coordinated to make the entire animation look complete. Moreover, if you don’t have the right attitude, then there are thousand others who can replace you,” says Asif Sayed, Senior Animator at Crest Animation Studios.

Hard Work
Animation=hard work and there are no short-cuts; be prepared to long hours. According to Bhardwaj, “Animation is not a glamorous field. You need to be updated on a daily basis and be in a learning mode 24/7.” But animation also means a lot of fun! No matter how senior you get, you will never tire of this exciting field.

However, Indian animation still has a long way to go. Sayed adds, “It’s the ‘chalta hai’ attitude. Also, India is treated as an outsource centre and there is lack of research, money and time.” Kumaresh says, “We seem to be too engrossed in training our students in tools to cater to an outsourced project. In the process we lose out on quality education in the field of filmmaking and storytelling.” Everyone wants to finish learning fast which sadly, is the worst approach. Unfortunately, animation is still not taught as a mainstream subject. There are just a few private institutes in the country and most of their courses are money-making gimmicks. Jay Doshi, an ex-student from a ‘well-advertised’ institute, said, “Most of the faculty comprised of freshers. Once, a faculty ‘took a class’ with a video tutorial, while he dozed off!”

Tips
Talk to animation professionals and ex-students and attend seminars before joining an institute. According to Vaibhav Kumaresh, “One must look at the reputation of the school and the credibility of teachers.” Look for courses which offer specialisations and never get carried away by flashy interiors and discounts. Visit animation websites – awn.com, cgtantra.com, animationxpress.com, etc to help you make a decision. Students can also join societies like ‘The Animation Society of India’ as they regularly organise events.

Practice, practice, practice
But nothing stops a true animator. If you practice and have the drive to self-learn, you are on the right track. In Kumaresh’s words, “Practice is the only key to discovering more.” Sayed rightfully sums it up, “Focus. Don’t do it just because kuch karna tha. Be completely immersed in it and keep pushing yourself.”

Do you need to be good at drawing?
It came as a relief to know that, unless you are into classic/2D animation, which requires excellent drawing skills, you don’t have to be an artist to be an animator. It’s a bonus, for sure, but even basic drawing is enough. However, bad drawing handicap an animator, as drawing thumbnails and planning your animation is a must before you even touch the computer. So pick up the pencil and start drawing basic figures and poses if you want to excel.

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