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Animate Your Career

Biswajit.HD

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Do you fondly look back at the cartoons you grew up with? Do you wish you could play video games all day? How about a job that lets you spend time creating them instead!
The world of animation is indeed fascinating. It allows you to bring to life your imagination and ideas. And if you are thinking of making a career out of animation, then now is the right time. From the humble beginnings with Chhota Chetan in 1984, the Indian animation industry has come a long way. India has become an outsource hub for the animation industry worldwide. In fact, some of the brilliant animation you saw in movies like Avatar, Clash of the Titans, The Twilight Saga: New Moon and Spider-Man 3, to name a few, can be attributed to studios here.
Closer to home, fueled by the box-office success of Avatar, leading Bollywood production houses like UTV, Yash Raj Films, and Reliance Big Entertainment have announced 3D film projects. Some of the projects in the pipeline include Koochie Koochie Hota Hai, Sultan: The Warrior, Toonpur Ka Superrhero, Raksha, Warning and Paani.
Simply put, animation is a booming industry slated to grow manifold in the coming years. It forms a lucrative career option. And if you want to be a part of this action, read on.

Animation: a booming industry
According to the NASSCOM Animation & Gaming Report 2009, the animation industry, which was estimated at $494 million in 2008, is expected to grow 22% to reach $1 billion by 2012. “The animation industry is beginning to show signs of maturity, with major production houses, both domestic and international, having a slate of movies under production for the next few years. The industry has, in the last 2-3 years, attracted investment and interest from the domestic and the international animation community,” says Biren Ghose, NASSCOM Chairman, Animation and Gaming.

KEY TRENDS
3D animation is the flavor of the season.

The international offshoring work in animated movies is moving up the value chain, as offshoring work moves towards end-to-end production. Animated movies are increasingly gaining ground in the domestic market too.

More studios are venturing into co-productions with studios in countries with a competitive advantage of tax breaks and rebates. The VFX market is flourishing with both domestic and international offshoring on the rise.

The prospects of the gaming industry in India have been further strengthened by the entry of animation companies into game development. All major gaming platforms have seen increased development and developers are moving up the value chain and creating original intellectual property.


Beyond the glamour
Ever wondered how all these animations are created? The word 'animation' itself comes form a Latin word 'anima', which means soul. It’s all about breathing life to a character. Animation is a highly creative process and there is a lot that goes into turning imaginations or ideas into animation.
To get into this field, you need to possess an artistic bent of mind and it goes without saying that creativity is a must along with great visualizing skills, as animation is all about developing an idea into reality. What's also required is passion, dedication and the willingness to put in hard work and cope with long working hours.
Without doubt the most basic question asked is 'do I have to be good at drawing to become an animator?' And it's a highly debatable question, but it's generally agreed that you don't need to have a degree in fine arts, but you need to have basic understanding of art.
As Ranjit Singh, Hon. Secretary of the Animation Society of India (TASI) puts it, “Understanding of art, music is always a very big plus. Even for those who feel they can get by with only software training, unless they make an effort to at least learn how to differentiate between good and bad art, the deficiencies always show up in their work. I may not be able to draw a human character for instance, but I should be able to spot the flaws in a bad illustration. Appreciation of different art forms is an absolute must. And there can be a difference between being good at drawing and having a degree in fine arts as well. Degrees mean little if they don’t reflect in your work.”

Where to learn?
Various courses are offered by the different institutes in the country. One can opt for short term courses, which will equip you with basic knowledge required for entry level jobs. These short term courses are also a great option for working professionals to further enhance their skills. But, if you are serious about a career in animation, then you should opt for the long term extensive courses, which even offer specialization in a particular field.
Animation is still largely a diploma course, which can range from a six months to two years. However, increasingly, many animation institutes have started offering degree courses in animation like BA and BSc in association with organizations like IGNOU, Karnataka State Open University, and Manonmaniam Sundaranar University. You can opt for the diploma courses after standard ten, while you need to complete your 12th for a degree course.
Some of the leading institutes like Whistling Woods, Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics (MAAC), Zee Institute of Creative Art (ZICA), and Frameboxx Animation have affiliations with leading universities abroad. The courses conducted here are recognized by the universities abroad and this makes it easier for students who wish to pursue further studies abroad or even get work experience in a different country.

Before taking the plunge
All the leading institutes these days hold seminars, workshops and provide career counseling for aspirants. It’s a good idea to attend these and get more information about the courses available, and the best option for you before joining, as the fees for these courses are quite steep. However, fees should not be a deterrent for those wanting to take up animation as a career, as most of the institutes have tie-up with banks to provide education loans.
The Animation Society of India website (www.tasionline.org) is one of the best resource sites you can get. There is a Career Guidance Cell section with Q&A designed by leading professionals from the industry. TASI also conducts regular seminars and workshops on animation that are open to all those who are interested in animation. There is one event held every 3-4 weeks. It also organizes the largest annual international animation festival – Anifest India. This is a purely academic festival where professionals from various fields come and share their expertise with the audience.

3D animation pipeline
The pre-production stage involves developing the storyboard, script and the characters. The next step is called Animatics, wherein a rough mock-up is created to see if everything fits together. A series of rough drawings are put together in sequence and a dialog and soundtrack is added. The sketches are then converted into 3D representations through a process called modeling. After modeling, comes texturing, which gives a breath of life to the model; an artistic and colorful life at that. This stage is very crucial as it can make or break a model or character.
The next step is rigging. This is where the character truly comes to life, as its movements are defined. First, each part of the model is divided into parts, depending on the complexity of the required animation. Then each part is marked in places, which respond to the rigging artist’s controls. With these points in place, the rigging artist then seamlessly makes the model move in the intended fluid and realistic way. With rigging in place, the next step is lighting, which has two main aspects – character lighting and background lighting. In addition to texturing and rigging, lighting significantly adds realism to a character and its surroundings.
The production stage involves background building, facial animation, creating layout, acting, blocking, character animation and compositing. In the background building stage, the various props and other elements that make up the background set on which the characters are to be imposed, is created.
In the facial animation stage, the many rules about what shapes the different areas of the face will take to show emotions like anger, laughter, disappointment, and so on, are defined. In the layout stage, the placement of the characters against the backgrounds is defined and the camera angles are decided.
In the acting stage, the human actors play out the scene to help animators understand the movement of the limbs and their changing positions in relation to the other characters in the scene. This helps them to realistically animate their characters. The next step is blocking, wherein the key poses of the characters are created. The complete movements of all the characters are defined in a stage called character animation. The last stage is compositing, where all the layers are put together.

INTERVIEW WITH BIREN GHOSE

Where do we stand today in animation? What sort of work is being done in India?
The industry presently is in the ‘growth stage’ of the life cycle; the numbers are a testament of the fact. According to the ‘NASSCOM Animation & Gaming Report 2009’, “the animation industry was estimated at $314 million in 2006, $494 million in 2008, and is expected to grow at a CAGR of 22% to reach $1 billion by 2012.”

The scope of work for most animation studios in India is not just confined to production, but increasingly involves pre production and, in some cases, post production. We are seeing more happen in India across the whole production value chain. Animation studios in India mostly cater to the entertainment segment which, according to the report. includes feature films, TV/broadcast, advertising and direct-to-DVD.

Unlike animation, VFX (Visual Special Effects) has a huge domestic demand, which has propelled its growth. But this does not detract from the increasing interest from Hollywood vis-à-vis Indian VFX production. Technicolor, Sony and others know this all too well! Domestic studios are aiming to achieve quality and scale to match the growing demand and complexity.

The gaming industry includes key segments such as online games, mobile games, PC games and console games. The report states that, in 2008, the console gaming segment accounted for the largest share of the Indian gaming market. Animation studios in India do not work on the complete value chain; their involvement in the development process of a game varies depending on the project or company. Animation, art and asset development is ramping up ahead of coding and programming as the ‘engines’ for gaming are not available with too many studios as yet.


Will there be demand for film animation or gaming?

As budgets for services work and complexity of projects move up the value chain, more skilled workers and scale of operations will be required. Currently, the industry is restricted due to non-availability of production-ready talent. The estimated requirement of talent in animation and gaming was 14,700 and 2,300 in 2008 respectively. In 2012, that is expected to increase to 29,500 in animation and 13,000 in gaming. Hence, there is a huge demand for creative and technical talent. The animation industry fosters creativity; it is a great and rewarding career option. It gives artists’ the opportunity to work on TV series, feature films, games and live-action.

What is the remuneration like in this industry?

For those who have finished their education and some internship or practical training, salaries range from Rs 10,000 to Rs 15,000 p.m. all the way to many lacs per month for a creative director or a supervisor.
INTERVIEW WITH RANJIT SINGH

What are the factors to be considered before taking up a career in animation?

Seriousness about animation as a long term career is top priority. Aptitude to function and thrive in a highly creative field is necessary. Inclination and inherent talent for this field is a must. Skills should not be confused with talent. Anyone can work software; it can be taught. But if you can’t appreciate the arts, then this is not the field for you. It takes years to fine tune one’s creative skills and everyday provides a learning experience for those who are genuinely interested. If the sole purpose is to secure a job, then there are many other industries to pursue.
There are so many students who are clueless as to why they took up an animation course. This reflects in their approach and attitude towards learning. Almost all of them think that the industry is waiting to gobble them up the minute they get a diploma. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s a highly competitive industry and only the best survive. One has to be hungry to learn things; even those that may not be directly related to animation. Music, fine arts, crafts, reading, etc are all integral to the overall development of an artist. A general sense of awareness is a must. A genuine interest to constantly learn and saturate the mind with knowledge from all fields is very important.
What are the latest trends in the animation industry? Which are the key areas of growth in India?
3D features, game development, simulation technology, medical animation, sport science, legal reconstruction, industry-based visualization services, apart from the regular high-end feature film and hi-end visual effects work, are some of the key areas to watch out for.
How important is specialization in terms of establishing a career?
If you want to be a robot that can do only one task and be clueless about the other aspects of animation, then specialization, as it is being promoted, is very important for you. The problem with our system is that we are not encouraging storytellers, who become complete filmmakers specializing in animation. Storytelling itself is being neglected. Animation training has become a factory-styled business for most, wherein short term demands from certain sections of the industry are being met thru short sighted plans and courses. There is very little holistic education.
Specialisation is being touted as important, but that’s only because the current demand and supply situation in the market deems it so. More often than not, the term is used to cover the shortcomings of an individual training system. There are limited jobs in the market for limited areas of expertise. If you want to specialize, by all means do so, but in my opinion, not before you become a generalist, who is able to handle and work all aspects of animation filmmaking. Only then can you survive the downturns in the industry when demand for a particular type of work dries up. Last year, when the international economy turned for the worse, hundreds of specialists found themselves out of jobs. Further, even when you specialize, you have to work to be the best there is if you want to survive in the long run.
What will be your advice for people wanting to establish a career in animation?
Introspect and ask yourself - do you really, really want to be in this industry, and why? If the answer is that you are inherently a storyteller and want to use this fantastic medium with infinite possibilities to tell your stories, then get into this field. For the long run, everything else is frivolous. You have to be able to answer to yourself regarding what your ultimate goal in life is? This is not just fun and games; its serious business for those who want to enjoy an animated life.
QUESTIONS TO ASK
While many institutes announce industry visits and interactions via seminars with industry professionals, the questions you should be asking are:

How much one on one interaction is there?

What are the credentials of the industry experts?

How much actual production experience do these industry professionals have?

What is the frequency of these industry seminars? How often are they held?

Are there any industry mentors who regularly interact with students?

Are there individual projects/films that one will make at the end of the term?

Apart from software, what else is taught?

What are the qualifications of the classroom guides/teachers? Do they have practical work experience, and how much?

INSTITUTE SPEAK

Adesh Bhardwaj
DGM, GRAPHITI SCHOOL OF ANIMATION

"Apart from entertainment, animation is also being used in many other applications/professional areas like architecture, engineering, medicine, education, theme parks, and gaming. In fact, gaming is a bigger industry than films worldwide. It uses animation as an integral part of its development. Since then, career options for animation and its related field have increased manifold. It has taken a good ten years for the industry to stabilize, and after the economic recession, animation is now seeing a rise upwards in terms of work, employment and overall growth. The demand for animation specialists is high and it offers lucrative career options and growth. Since the beginning of 2010, the placement scene has been changing slowly and we are seeing a positive growth in the demand for skilled animators. It is a new generation career and definitely an exciting one."


John J. Lee, Jr.
DEAN, WHISTLING WOODS SCHOOL OF ANIMATION
"There is scope for a $4 billion market for the animation industry in the next two to three years. It has never been bigger than today and importantly, it is expanding. This increase is due, in part, to the continuing growth of animated visual effects in motion pictures. Avatar, 2012, and Toy Story 3 are recent excellent examples of the dozens of pictures each year employing thousands of animators. These are in addition to traditional animated motion pictures, which are also on the increase. The challenge for those moving into this profession is to realize that this is a demanding discipline. To be successful, one must have a passion for animation; enough to pour it into their study, preparation, and especially their projects. Major global animation studios regularly visit our campus, tracking our students’ work. They typically make commitments to pick our top students before they graduate."


Ram Warrier
BUSINESS HEAD, MAYA ACADEMY OF ADVANCED CINEMATICS
"The animation industry in the country is witnessing a major boom. India already offers a significant cost advantage in “animation and game development”, as compared to other outsourcing destinations such as Taiwan and South Korea. It’s still in the nascent stage, but with huge growth potential in the domestic market, the discipline has a very bright future. A large part of the outsourcing industry suffered last year following the global slowdown. However, the scenario has changed, with the industry stabilizing, thereby marking a notable increase in the demand of animation in the local market. Another major reason for job openings is the increased number of cartoon channels and the demand for IP, which has resulted in airing of various shows with Indian content. We predict a 50 percent growth in the next five years. In accordance with this, there is going to be an obvious demand for skilled manpower. The demand currently exceeds supply."

C B Arun Kumar
ACADEMIC DIRECTOR, FX SCHOOL
"The term 'animation' is loosely used in India to cover a wide variety of specializations in the digital content creation industry. These range from CG modelers and animators, digital painters, visual effects artists, pre-production artists and technical directors. Currently, there is a great shortage of trained technical directors and visual effects artists in the industry, while there is an excess of supply in low-end CG modelers and animators. Career options in DCC or digital content creation are very bright, as the current trend for CG media is growing at an exponential rate. Even trends like the move to HD broadcast and 3D stereoscopy is going to increase the employment prospects for students in this field. For the next decade at least, the career prospects for CG artists is going to be great. We find that our students are pre-placed even before they have graduated because of the industry demand for specialists in our cutting-edge courses."


Source : Chip Magazine.
 
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