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The third dimension

Animators bring drawings to life. Syed Amir Ali Hashmi enters their virtual sphere.

education Updated: May 23, 2012 11:33 IST
Syed Amir Ali Hashmi

Manoj Kumar Bana fell in love with toons early in life, as every kid does. Bana, now 35, turned this love into a career, creating his own cartoon characters that now draw gasps of appreciation.

“I used to watch cartoons from a very young age,” he says. “When I got to know about animation [as a career choice], I knew this is what I wanted to do. As a child, Mickey Mouse was my favourite character, and the first time I worked on that character, my dream came true,” says Bana, 3D technical executive at ANTS Studio.

Animation means giving life to your ideas, applying your own creativity to a still object or creating a model that you have in your mind. An animator conjures up a whole new world that has no boundaries, as most of us will have seen in films like Ice Age 3 or Hanuman Returns.

The job prospects are pretty bright, as lots of films and commercials use the technique. “This field is going to see growth every day,” says Parshvadeep Singh, Zonal Manager (North), Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics (MAAC). “Even though there is a slowdown, entertainment is not affected so badly and animators are working in the entertainment industry in a big way. The year 2008 saw the release of animated films such as Roadside Romeo and My Friend Ganesha 2. Some of the most awaited animated movies for 2009 include Toonpur Ka Superhero, Ramayana and Ali Baba.”

Deepti Baveja, Head of the Department, Advertising & Graphic Design, WLC College India, predicts a blistering pace of growth: “In 5-10 years, three out of 10 animated movies and TV productions will be made in India.” The country remains a hub of global outsourcing in 3D animation.

Anuj Kacker, Global Head, Arena Animation, says, “Disney, Imax and Sony are outsourcing cartoon characters and special effects to India. Other firms are outsourcing animation from India for ads and computer games.”
To hone one’s skills, Bana advises that an animator should strengthen the foundations. “First, should start with 2D (two-dimensional figures) because drawing is the base of animation. For 3D (three-dimensional figures that have depth, as in real objects), there is a wide variety of software.”

As an animator, you have to come up with characters that would leave a mark on the audience. After that, the biggest challenge is to create the right shot. One shot may contain hundreds of frames. Bana recalls, “As an animator, I joined DQ entertainment. In my first shift, to make a shot perfect, I had to work on it for 58 hours! As a reward, I got a chocolate from my superviser. But that shot was the most difficult shot of my professional life.”

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?
It is about creating an imaginary world. An animator creates characters and makes them interact in an ever-changing, exciting backdrop. A character will first need to be sketched by hand before being transferred on to the computer. The work requires the animator to make the characters and the background real with the use of light and shade and movements. Animators work in a wide range of professions such as entertainment, education or sales-related animations. From video games to simulators for military flight or combat training, 3D animators take flat narrative storylines into realistic or fantastic dimensions, using state-of-the-art software

CLOCK WORK
Animators work in shifts. The first shift is from 6 am to 2 pm, the second from 2 pm to 10 pm, and a third shift works from 10 pm to 6 am. But if you are working on a project, you generally forget to look at your watch. A typical morning shift goes like this:
4.30 am: Wake up
6 am: Reach office and get started
10 am: Show first draft to superviser
11.30 am: Take a meal break
1 pm: Finish the day's work and give it to the supervisor
2 pm: Wrap up and leave

THE PAYOFF
Companies use some grades for animators — P1, P2, P3, P4 and P5. A fresher is a P5 grade animator and after six to seven years experience, s/he may become a P1 grade animator. A person with about two years' experience can become a team leader. After 4-5 years, s/he can become supervisors. In the beginning, an animator can earn Rs 8,000-Rs 10,000. After 2-3 years, this usually goes up to
Rs 25,000-Rs 30, 000, or more

SKILLS
n Loads of imagination coupled with a love for cartoons
n A good sense of colour, proportion and size
n Ability to work with others under extreme pressure
n Strong interpersonal communication skills are important as one has to be in constant touch with programmers, illustrators, designers and storyboard artists, apart from the client. Animators also have to coordinate with writers, voice-over actors, sound technicians and music composers

HOW DO I GET THERE?

No specific academic qualification needed. If you are good at sketching and have a passion for animation, you can enter the field after a degree or diploma in animation. The minimum qualification required for these courses is class XII or equivalent. It helps if you have an arts background. However, at the Industrial Design Centre (IDC), Indian Institute of Technology, only graduates of architecture, technology and engineering, and fine arts can apply for the PG course


INSTITUTES & URLs
n The Birla Institute of Technology (deemed university), Noida,
www.bitmesra.ac.in
n Industrial Design Centre at IIT Mumbai,
www.idc.iitb.ac.in/
n Arena Animation
www.arena-multimedia.com
n Maya Academy of Advanced Cinematics (M.A.A.C.),
www.maacindia.com
n Toonz Academy
www.toonzacademy.com
n ANTS Animation Training School
www.antsindia.com

PROS & CONS
n You get to give free rein to your imagination
n You create characters that can leave an indelible mark on the audience
n You work with tight deadlines on projects and the hours may take their toll on your health if you don't get enough rest
n The studying never stops, as you have to keep yourself updated on the latest techniques

hashmiamir@hindustantimes.com