Animation & Visual Effects seminar discusses industry challenges

SINGAPORE: There's an animated atmosphere here at the third day of BroadcastAsia 2006. Besides sessions on the new broadcasting technologies, Day 3 saw a special session on animation called - Animation and Visual Effects seminar. 

The speakers for the morning session comprised Crest Animation Studios CEO A K Madhavan, Blackmagic Design Singapore director of creative services Peter Barber, Rhythm & Hues USA visual effects supervisor Bill Westenhofer and Intense Animation Studio managing director Tony Sealy. Throwing light on the success of Crest Animation Studios in the last four years or so in the space, Madhavan said, "We began as a production house for TV commercials 14 years ago, and then moved on to providing post production facility. Four years back, we decided to get into animation; acquired an American company - Rich Animation and I think we have done a fairly decent job." 

What's more, Crest has progressed from providing animation content on the television platform, to the DVD platform and now is moving on to the theatrical space. One of it's 3D show, Arthur, is going to release in the US next month as a DVD feature. The company has also signed a deal with renowned French producer Marathon for a new 3D animated series and it's DVD feature Casper is also due to launch. Crest also inked a deal with Lion's Gate International for Silvester and the Magic Pebble, which will hit the screens in the summer of 2008.

"One needs to understand the sensibilities, likes and dislikes of various markets to create a show for them. There is a lot of background research that goes behind making shows for various international markets," Madhavan said. 

When queried as to whether the company was doing enough more for the local Indian market, he said, "We are providing some amount of content locally but the market has not yet developed. Apart from that, the budgets are very low and the animation industry still hasn't got the push. But, I see the Indian animation industry exploding in the next 10 years' time." 

Over the last three years, Crest Animation Studios has delivered over 126 series to broadcasters like PBS, Fox and Cartoon Network. Some of the series that Madhavan spoke about were - Jakers, Pet Alien and Bratz. 

Rhythm & Hues' Westenhofer explained in detail the process of the making of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. "It was a huge challenge especially where hybrid characters like the Centaurs were concerned. We extensively used pre-visualisation in this. It took us six months of motion capture, which included eight weeks of horse capture as every creature has it's own unique fighting style," he said.

"With all the new technology coming in, it becomes imperative for filmmakers to know what the tools are. Digital photography is going to change the paradigm of how we do things," he added.

Intense Animation Studio managing director Tony Sealy, whose company has conceptualised -11 - an animation soccer comedy show for broadband television, threw light on the various challenges that the animation industry faces in Singapore. 

"Originally, Intense Animation Studio was intended to be a creative agency, but there was a serious lack of talent in Singapore. So, I first opened a training center and we were the first company in Singapore to teach Maya. We also conduct seminars and workshops to teach people more about computer animation," Sealy said. 

The show 11 was pitched to M2B World, which is a leader in broadband media entertainment business, and a major provider of interactive entertainment-on-demand, education-on-demand and e-commerce streaming over broadband channels, internet portals, and 3G devices. "With M2B, we had a far wider reach over broadband on-demand, 3G and internet. Broadband TV provides a great diversity of delivery," Sealy said. 

Pointing out the difficulties that the animation industry in Singapore faces, Sealy said, "One needs to address the lack of private investment in the creative projects and educate the investors about the scope of animation. We also need to lift the training standards and address the current subsidies for training and internships. Apart from this, studios must develop their own IP."

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