Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Animation Industry in India

I wish to become an animator, which software should I learn to operate? This is a common question many people ask. I wonder why people think that animation training is limited to learning software. The history of animation would clarify that software plays a limited role. The first full-length animation film Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was released in 1944. Before India got its independence in 1947, Americans had won 17 Oscars for animation films. Computers came into business only in the 1960s. Then how did they make animated films?


The production of an animation film is divided into many stages like pre-production, production and post-production. Pre-production stage involves story development, story boarding (drawing a rough picture of every scene), voice recording, layout cremodelling, rigging, environmental modelling, and so on.

Production comprises making of background, sketching, inking, painting of animation, and scanning the background and cells onto film. Post-production includes film development, editing (or cutting), adding sound and special effects, voice track. It is generally at the post-production level that the maximum use of a computer comes in. Before that, one needs to learn skills such as drawing, story development, etc. Software is a mere tool. Just like drawing is a skill and it does not matter whether you draw with a pencil or directly on your computer with a digital pen. And if you only know how to use a digital pen but do not know how to draw you would not be able to survive once more sophisticated software comes into the market.

This is what is happening with animation training in India. Many institutes offer a six-month or a one-year diploma. The curriculum consists of imparting some knowledge of modelling or character making, environment design like how to model a sofa, etc, and use of software like 3D Max, Flash, Maya and Adobe Photoshop. And after spending lakhs of rupees, animation students are not able to find jobs. Even if they find jobs they do not last too long in the industry. This may sound surprising as animation institutes put forward information on high market growth with an increasing demand for manpower. Then where are the jobs?

From 1997 to 2006 there was an animation boom in India when many US production houses outsourced post-production work to India. During that time, India witnessed some original work like Hanuman that was released by Sahara One Motion Pictures in October 2005. There was manpower requirement that resulted in mushrooming of these institutes. However, students from these institutes are familiar with limited software and cannot deliver when new software comes into the market. Also, there are many production houses that develop their own software for animation. And, therefore, the training received in institutes becomes redundant. The dearth of these skills among Indian animators shut down many animation production houses.

It was at that time I opted to go to a foreign institute to learn what makes their curriculum special. At DigiPen Institute they offer a four-year course in animation. For the first two years, students are not given any computers. It takes only three months to teach software. The focus is on imparting skills like acting, dancing, sketching, clay modelling, learning physical anatomy of living beings, and so on. Once an animator picks up all these skills, he/she would be able to create movies, video games and much more.

There is no dearth of talent in India. But we need the right training to groom these people if we want to create real animators and not simply computer-operators. The responsibility lies in the hands of educational institutions to offer a holistic curriculum in the field of animation.

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