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In-Depth Jobs

Issue no 22, 28 August - 3 September 2021

Careers in Animation Industry

 Mandar Dattatraya Digrajkar

Have you ever experienced the thrill of watching your name on the big screen of a blockbuster film? Not yet? Come... build your career in the most exciting and creative profession of animation and visual effects.

Storytelling, through various animation forms has always been a tradition in India. Precursors to modern animation such as shadow puppets, slide shows entertained audiences before the advent of the cinema. However, post-independence, in the ‘50s, the Indian animation industry took its baby steps into the field by creating educational, public awareness short films. Animation enthusiasts in small groups evolved into studios and since then, in last 70 years, India has come a long way to become one of the best animation creator at global level.

The biggest advantage of Indian animation are its creative strength and cost-effectiveness. That is why global industry leaders outsource their creative work straight away to Indian production houses which are young, well-prepared, and have an international focus to explore the field with passion, with strong grip and understanding of the evolving and changing business.

The Indian animation industry grew to establish more than 300 studios in last two decades. This tremendous growth is not in just numbers, but India’s animation arena has established itself as a hub for global content production. Many animation (Intellectual Property) IPs and movies have a considerable amount of visual effects produced in India for the global production houses, as the Indian animation industry gained recognition and respect worldwide on quality, technology and creativity.

The beauty of this profession is that everyday is a challenge, as one has to deal with varied tasks everyday. Artists have to concentrate on their core talents, be flexible to take over tasks of various complexities and styles, and always have an open eye to see the developments around them and update themselves. Today, animation and visual effects is one of the most popularand booming industries in India with substantial presence on internet, social media, television, film and OTT for all ages across the geography. As audiences are now watching Indian animation and visual effects content globally via OTT platforms (such as Netflix, Amazon prime etc.) and big-banner releases, the need of the hour for Indian animation and visual effects industry is to have skilled professionals, artists, storytellers to compete with the content from the rest of the world. With the growing internet accessibility and availability of devices, customers are spending more time on streaming digital content. Viewers are so much engaged with high-quality productions with stunning visual effects and realistic animation that filmmakers are including more animation and visual effects shots into films and hence the demand for animation has expanded many folds. In addition, the demand for animation content to power immersive experiences such as Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) is growing exponentially. What has changed since the beginning of digital era in India? Earlier the tools were expensive and skill set was limited. Today, tools have become more accessible and even free for student community. At advanced level, technology of cloud computing is playing a key role in animation and visual effects which is more effective and efficient as it reduces the time and cost of post-production. In addition, production work has become global with countries offering tax incentives, subsidies, financial support, skilled work force etc. Data shows that more and more international studios like MPC, The Mill, Mikros, DNEG, Mr. X, Digital Domain, Framestore, etc., are all setting up in India. These studios are always in search of the best talent to match the demand of work.

On the other hand, there are other aspects of this profession, like working as independent animation filmmaker or visual effect artist. Leaving aside the dedicated high-end and expensive softwares, there are also small-scale yet effective apps available and these are becoming first choice for many freelancers and small-scale studios.

As an enthusiast, one must take this profession seriously and most importantly keep oneself well prepared for all kind of creative challenges, as opportunities are plenty for skilled ones. A candidate must see this profession as a longterm career and not as a shortcut to fame. The five important ‘C’s... Critical thinking, Communication, Creativity, Command over the tools and Commitment are the key to success.

Required educational and professional qualifications

There are different types of career opportunities for aspiring candidates, and if one has skills like drawing, focus, creativity, and communication, then they can flourish in the world of animation and visual effects filmmaking.

Most of the animation colleges have certain eligibility criteria, for UG and PG courses, which the candidate has to qualify. 

  • For under graduate courses like B.Des. (Bachelor of Design), Diploma or B.Sc. in Animation, the candidate must pass 10+2 in any stream with 45% from a recognized board. 
  • For Post graduate courses like M.Des. (Master of Design), the candidate must have a degree with the specialization they wish to pursue in the masters.

Institutions offering course in this field

In India, there are various Government and private institutes which offer courses in animation and related topics. Candidates looking for long-term career in this field can undergo one of the programs provided by these government and private institutes.

  • National School of Design (NID), Ahmedabad.
  • Industrial Design Centre (IDC), IIT, Mumbai.
  • Satyajit Ray Film and Television Institute, (SRFTI), Kolkata.

These (and other) national level institutes have their own entrance examinations for selection i.e. DAT (Design Aptitude Test) of NID, CEED (Common Entrance Examination for Design for IIT’s, JET (Joint Entrance Examination) for SRFTI. These tests are specifically developed to understand candidates’ creative thinking in design.

Other than these national level institutes, many state level institutes also provide similar programs in animation and visual effects including Gujarat University, (Ahmedabad), MGR Government Film and Television Training Institute, (Chennai), Tilak Maharashtra Vidyapeeth, (Pune) etc.

To cater to the huge demand of animation and visual effects industry, many private film schools like Toonz Academy, Whistling Woods and universities like Sri Sri University, Kurukshetra University, Lovely Professional University also provide UG and/or PG courses, though, private ones may have higher fee structure compared to government run institutes. More information about all the institutes are available on various social media platforms.

 Present and future career prospects in the field

All roads lead to India when it comes to this profession. India is always at the forefront of creative developments, from the beginning of digital revolution to mixed reality of AR & VR.

Current state of this industry in India is very robust as movies or any video content are filled with significant visual effects. Apart from media & entertainment, animation and visual effects have become an essential part of gaming, web series, documentaries, architecture & construction, education, healthcare & life science, manufacturing, government & defense, AR & VR and more.

Even in this difficult time of COVID-19, the animation industry stood up to the situation and fought with the challenges to come up with strong solution of remote/work from home jobs. Many studios quickly set up the required infrastructure to ease such remote work. Now the scenario is, many leading animation studios are in favor of work from home culture, even after the lockdown ends.

The upcoming technology of ‘Unreal 5 engine’ is set to allow real time interaction with highresolution visuals than ever before. Visual effects studios are exploring ways to use AI (Artificial Intelligence) technology, innovative new production techniques, such as shooting live action against LED screens projecting CG backdrops rather than using chroma, to put visual effects upfront in the production pipeline.

Some of the latest trends, technologies and workflows include:

  1. Cloud based post production pipeline
  2. Advanced photogrammetry in which, softwares are replacing tedious manual work of modeling, texturing, UV mapping
  3. Virtual production
  4. Process of creating and manipulating Digital humans/creatures
  5. LED walls and projection of real images to replace chroma shooting, which was a must for VFX shooting

Designing animation and VFX is extensive teamwork. Even for creating a simple animation film one needs a team of skilled professionals and hence as a fresher, it is important to understand the entire workflow from pre-production to postproduction. As per interest and skills, one can begin one’s career at various levels like storyboard and concept artist, 2D- 3D animator, texturing artist, effects generator, lighting and compositing artist, camera match-move artist, simulation artist etc.

 Opportunities for Growth

In today’s world, 3D animation is no longer restricted to films or TV series. It has spread its wings in the fields of education, medicine, architecture, games, AR & VR, etc. The dynamism of emerging 3D software is highly customizable to suit the various needs of the world.

According to the recent reports, the global VFX market accounted for USD 11,333 million in 2018 and is expected to reach USD 23,854 million by 2025, at a Compound Annual Growth Rate of around 11.4% between 2019 and 2025.

Similarly, the Indian market is also exciting and has enormous opportunity in itself. A rise in traditional TV viewership and a significant rise in digital users over the decades, has paved the way for more Indian users to access and enjoy content more readily.

This will further create an increase in the demand for digital entertainment. It is estimated that there will be around 300 million new users in India by 2025. India's animation and VFX industry was valued at around 50 billion Indian rupees in 2020, with estimates of growth up to 125 billion rupees by 2023. This is a compound annual growth rate of around 35 percent for the industry. Employment for special effects artists and animators is projected to grow by 4 percent from 2019 to 2029, about as fast as the average for all occupations. This projected growth will be due to increased demand for animation and visual effects in video games, movies, and television. One indication of this is, animation, VFX have become part of the syllabus in visual art studies, enabling artists and creative talents to be better prepared than ever to help take the Indian animation industry to new heights.

Today, opportunities are more for generalists, who have more than one skillset in the VFX pipeline. VFX studios are not only recruiting young fresher artists for a specific department, but also those who have adequate knowledge of other departments in the pipeline. It is win-win situation for both, for the employer and the employee for betterment of the production and quality.

It is most important for any candidate to get hands-on experience on the live projects and understand the teamwork, quality of work, pressure of delivering task in time for taking ones career to new heights as team leader—VFX supervisorproject leader - film director and so on.

If one rigorously follows the five C’s’, sky is the limit to achieve anything in this creative profession, and YES! You can manifest your virtual dreams into reality!

(The author is an Associate Professor, FTII, Pune. e-mail. mandar.digrajkar@ftii.ac.in) Views expressed are personal