TAMIL NADU

Animation industry maturing slowly Personality of the week

M. Arul Moorthy.

M. Arul Moorthy.   | Photo Credit: — Photo: K. Ananthan

‘There is an urgent need to create good quality manpower in large numbers’

Coimbatore: Though animation has been there for long, only now it is being recognised as an industry, observes M.Arul Moorthy, chairman of the Digital Magic Visuals Ltd., one among the majors in the industry.

Mr. Moorthy, who has been in the field for more than two decades, is credited with many path-breaking efforts such as using digital technology to produce a movie, first time in India (Mutham-2002), and working on visual effects with digital technology for movies way back in 1989. He was the first to work on a 3D stereoscopic movie (My Dear Kuttichathan).

An alumnus of Government College of Technology, Coimbatore, he analyses the immense potential of this field in a chat with G.Satyamurty.

Mr. Moorthy has a very interesting observation regarding the birth and growth of animation in India. Animation is as old as film industry. It is a very old art form.

The basic principles do not change. But tools do. Its evolution has been exponential. Starting originally as graphics, it was used only in the two-minute publicity capsule of the Central Government initially. It entered the entertainment segment in the country much later. In 1986 graphics was very much at a primitive stage.

“Now graphics has become an integral part of life. Even my sixth-standard studying daughter bristles with several ideas in this field.”

Doordarshan was the first to shoot an animated 30 minute film in the early 1980s, once again as a publicity material. However, production of animated items started in early 1990s and digital animation grew along with Indian cinema.

The first full length (100 minutes) animation film – Pandavas - was produced in late 1990s. “Even after that nothing much happened.”

Outsourcing

It was in 2003 outsourcing of animation work started in India , especially 2D animation work. Even international companies such as Walt Disney, Dream Works Animation, Warner Brothers, Rhythm and Hues entered India to get their projects executed at a low cost.

For a full length film, at least 150-200 artists are required and they will have to work 12-18 months. “It is a labour-intensive industry requiring huge manpower.”

Of course, Mr.Moorthy points out only some portions require high skill while some portions require eye for details and accuracy.

India’s success in IT industry provided the required impetus because animation technology is a totally computer-based system. “As India has acquired a lot of good will in the IT sector, the flood gates are open now for animation industry.”

India’s digital content creation sector started witnessing a major boom in 2007 and is expected to have the same trend in the coming years. The artist\technicians requirement is estimated to be around three lakhs while the available supply is not even 10 per cent. There is an urgent need to create good quality manpower in large numbers. “The quality of training is very critical as both the foreign and local companies expect a very high standard from animation artists.”

But there is a clear hiatus between what the institutes offer and what the industry needs. Institutes should realise that tools are changing fast and also many of them do not have talented faculty to teach. Even MCAs have started entering this field because of the substantial compensation available.

It is a misconception that animation can be used only in entertainment sector. It can be used for architecture visualisation, medical simulation, automobile design, etc.

“Unfortunately in India, most of the animation movies are mythological including the futuristic Ramayana wherein Hrithik Roshan is picturised as Rama with Aishwarya Rai as Sita. This generates quite a lot of monotony.”

He wonders why nobody bothers to do movies with different social ideas.

Nasscom has estimated that job opportunities in animation sector will be of the order of 850 million dollars (Rs. 3,400 crore) in 2008.

Creative ideas

Indian industry is not mature enough and it has got a long way to go. Most of what is done now is outsourced orders. But there is much more that could be done.

Scripting and creative ideas are far more important. “As our film industry has matured, that is likely to have a major impact on animation industry as well.”

He admits that in the United States, the budget for animation movies is as high as 200 million dollars (Rs. 800 crore) and of course the expenditure in India will be just half of that. For TV the material can be produced at 35 per cent of that cost. For instance, an episode of an animation serial costs 240,000 dollars in the U.S. while it costs 80,000 dollars in India.

“Similarly, we can’t match our infrastructure with that of the U.S. But we are not far behind.”

Mr. Moorthy pleads for better space in the Indian education system for creative aspects. At present, drawing master is relegated to the background. If creative aspects are allowed to bloom, as in the case of drawing, there is huge scope for producing a large number of such artists who will be able to get very good compensation. “In four to five years, there are artists who are earning as much as Rs. 75,000 to Rs. 1 lakh a month in animation industry,” he concludes.

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