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India's Leading Source for Broadcasting & Broadband Information - CableQuest Magazine
HomeArticlesAdvertisingAnimation : An Unexplored Avenue
Thursday, 13 September 2007 00:00

Animation : An Unexplored Avenue

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We used to wait eagerly for Sunday while in school the only reason being was an animation film featuring the evergreen animation characters Mickey and Donald. What excited us further was that another serial named Vikram and Betaal was also started within that same time frame. But that was more than decade a ago.The animation scenario in India has improved a lot but still we are way behind the international scenario. Cable Quest takes a look at this amazing medium and the way the things have shaped up. 

What is animation? 

According to dictionary an animation is the process of preparing animated cartoons. This is just a plain definition and there is more to animation than just a cartoon. Animation may be synonymous with cartoon films, but its applications are varied and ever increasing. The 2D and 3D animation productions are used not only for cartoon films but also in TV news, entertainment, advertising and for public service announcements. 

Animation Production Stages

Animation work rests on artists for the most part, although in high end animation work, increasingly specialized technical positions are needed. Computers have allowed the use of new images as computer generated imagery (CGI or CG), a form of animation that allows artists to draw three-dimensional (3D) images. In traditional animation, computers have also allowed artists to produce two-dimensional (2D) images much faster, instead of having to repeatedly outline, ink and paint every frame by hand. 

Actually there are multiple activities embedded in each stage, sometimes in sequence, and there are also concurrent activities, e.g. character model generation, background generation being done in tandem etc. 

The table given below will give you a better idea about the stages involved in the production. 

Conceptualization

It starts off with an idea to capitalize on an early stage script or property, or to develop something new. This is eventually fully fleshed out as an idea and script. Planning is also done at this stage. The script, bible (which details the show “concept” and main elements, e.g. characters) and conceptual artwork are done here. These are used to create a production plan, including issues of resources, roles, logistics, schedules, and manning. There are numerous shooting, asset development, and integration schedules to be planned out. By the time the planning stage ends, the director should have finalized the style and purpose (i.e. scenes) of the artwork. If the work is to be outsourced, especially TV work, usually the contracting studio needs to show the “bible”, the main models (i.e. look of the characters for 2D), and scripts for discussions with the contractor studio. This search is usually done in the pre-production phase. 

Pre-production

Because the cost of making “each take” of an animation scene is far higher than a film producer shooting an additional take, they cannot reduce risk in the “shooting” period as done in film. This costlier animated content production means that as much of the risk has to be minimized up front in pre-production. This was the case in many studios, where tens of thousands of drawings and concept art are done in the pre-production phase, to literally nail down a “prototype” of the feature film, before the computers are put to work. 

In concrete terms, pre-production means getting the idea and script fleshed out in models, Story boards and finally, story reels. Story reels are a full sequence of the art conveying the story that can be viewed largely in its entirety. For animated features, pre-production may be more elaborate and iterative. Animated 3D features are still scripted as well as fully fleshed out in non-computer-generated art, and combined as a story reel. In a 3D process, the content pipeline is started by laying out the various aspects that ensues in production: modeling, rigging, surfaces (consisting of textures and colors), and various tests of animation and other software systems. 

In fact, for a feature length animation film, the story may be changed throughout the production process. The pre-production is also more extensive, involving much more art. The process consists of scripting, converting the script to drawings and story boarding. 

Production

This phase of animation involves developing the specifications, visual effects, background paint, and ink and paint (all of which shows the exact look of each character and background (i.e. color, textures and styles). In addition, animation, visual effects and so on are needed. All these are based on the sequences and look from the film reels For 3D modeling, layout rigging (consisting of the controls to move face “muscles” and the like), animation, shading and lighting (including texturing), rendering and film recording are done, usually in sequence, as well as compositing, effects, and other activities. A contractor may be found for the production stage. The contractor is usually used for animation, clean up, visual effects, and digital ink and paint (especially for 2D), and for 3D, rendering, composting. If a contractor studio is used for 2D production, they usually need precise specifications like the timing sequence, layout, color, models, and so on. In the case of Pixar, because their goal is to always include new technical features, they also develop the software features first, then use it in production. 

Post-production 

Animation post-production consists of the sound effects, the final musical score, sound mixing, and color correction. This may also involve editing of scenes, and even retakes. 

Global Market 

The global animation market (demand perspective) was estimated at USD 59 billion in 2006. This market is expected to grow at a CAGR of nearly 8 percent over 2006-2010, to reach USD 80 billion by 2010. Of the total revenue earned in the segment, approximately 40-45 percent is attributed to the cost of development. The US and Europe remain the biggest markets for outsourcing animation and gaming related activities. Majority of the work from these markets is being outsourced to destinations in the Asia Pacific region and in East Europe as reported by Nasscom animation report. 

Present Indian Scenario

India's animation talent cannot be underestimated from being outsourced sweat shops to co-production deals they have come a long way. But they have to go a long way before they can rest in peace. 

As per Nasscom animation report, the Indian animation industry revenues were estimated at USD 354 million in 2006, a growth of 24 percent over 2005. The industry is forecast to reach USD 869 million by 2010, representing a CAGR of 25 percent over 2006-2010. The entertainment segment contributes nearly 68 percent of the total animation market in India. Key factors driving this growth include a significant cost advantage, a large pool of English speaking manpower, growing maturity of animation studios, development of IP, and an attractive domestic market opportunity. 

Currently, there are about 300 animation companies, employing approximately 12,000 people in India. Further, industry estimates indicate that nearly 3,000 freelancers also work in the industry. Exports are estimated to have accounted for more than seventy percent of the revenues in 2006. The industry's dependence on exports is also reflected in a major proportion of the workforce being involved in the outsourcing segment. However, going forward, the share of the domestic market is expected to grow. Indian companies have started focusing on the domestic market and domestic demand for animated content has witnessed an upward trend over the past few years. 

Further, producers of several recent Bollywood movies, such as Krrish, Dhoom 2, etc., have started using special effects in their production. Additionally, the success achieved by Hanuman, a fully animated movie released last year has helped provide an impetus to increasing levels of interest in animated movies in the domestic market. 

Even at these impressive growth forecasts the Indian Animation and Gaming industry will account for less than 2 percent of the worldwide market in 2010, clearly indicating a significantly larger opportunity. Ensuring the availability of adequate, suitable manpower and a focused industry development program can help India achieve a larger share of the pie. 

2-D, 3-D and Digital Animation Scene in India 

2-D animation: It's generally labor intensive and needs lot of time and effort. According to Firdaus Kharas, co-founder of UTV Toons, “India has the maximum potential in 2D animation.” India should pitch for this segment if it wanted to be noticed in the international animation scenario," 

3-D Animation: Although 3D animation is a recent phenomenon in India, it became a rage in America in the early 1950s. Several studios began turning out 3D feature films & short subjects, to the delight of movie going audience. The technique was used in cartoon as well. The viewers have to wear special glasses for the full impact. 

Digital Animation: Lastly the digital animation may still be in its infant stage in India but it has been used in the filmmaking for over three decades now. 

As per Nasscom animation report, the Indian animation industry revenues were estimated at USD 354 million in 2006, a growth of 24 percent over 2005. While the global animation market (demand perspective) was estimated at USD 59 billion in 2006.

Future of Animation 

If the animation industry grows like this it can be a source of employment for the unemployed skilled manpower which India abounds with. As per Nasscom animation report, the number of professionals employed by the Indian animation industry in 2006 is estimated at 16,500. This figure is forecast to increase at a CAGR of 14-15 percent and exceed 26,000 by 2010. Although the forecast growth is reasonably impressive, it falls short of the potential growth that the industry can achieve. The key constraint is the growing demand-supply gap in manpower availability that is expected to restrict the Indian animation industry's growth to USD 869 million against its potential of exceeding USD 1 billion. 

Conclusion 

The future of animation industry in India looks bright with so many opportunities knocking on the doors. The broadcast (including animation) industries in the countries such as France, Singapore, China and Philippines are an example of governmental support. That has ranged from assistance in manpower development, infrastructure provisioning, direct and indirect investments to promoting industry recognition. These supports were also augmented with broadcasting policy regulations encouraging the growth in the production and use of local content which helped boost the domestic industry. 

However, industry action alone may not be enough and government support will be essential for the structural strengthening of these sectors. The key aspects requiring government support and the proposed form of aid include tax incentives and infrastructural support to promote investment in the sector. Investment needs to be encouraged not only in the industry itself, but also in support infrastructure predominantly human capital creation. 

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