The Economic Times: August 03, 2004
Ever wonder how movie stars perform gravity-defying stunts on the big screen or how Tusshar Kapoor 'disappears' in the movie Gayab? Welcome to the magical world of animation and visual effects where nothing, virtually nothing, is impossible.
Hitherto restricted to big budget projects in the US and Europe, special effects and animation are making inroads into the Indian market as well.
A report by Anderson Consulting pegs the Indian animation industry at $550 mn. It also estimates a growth rate of 30 per cent annually in the next three years resulting in a $15 bn industry by 2008. The study also reports that India will receive more than $2 bn worth of animation business in the next three years.
Meanwhile, Nasscom estimates the current global animation market to be worth around $45 bn and expects it to jump to between $50 bn and $70 bn by next year. It also states that India could use 300,000 professionals in content development and animation by 2008, up from 27,000 three years ago.
"Animation is a universal language. But in India it is still a nascent industry. We can't afford to be complacent and need to constantly upgrade our knowledge to international levels," says Rajesh Turakhia, CEO, Maya Entertainment Ltd.
"The onslaught of visual effects movies from the West has raised the bar for Indian audiences. They now want to see their heroes in such movies. Moreover, period films also require visual effects," says internationally-acclaimed VFX expert Brynley Cadman who helped Amitabh Bachchan play the vanishing act in the 'Reid and Taylor' ad on television.
Bollywood honchos are certainly waking up to the advantages of animation and visual effects. Indeed, director Farhan Akhtar's latest offering at the box-office, Lakshya includes 38 minutes of VFX shots which help augment the visual impact of the film. Even Yash Chopra's Hum Tum wouldn't quite be the same without the cartoon characters.
"Realising the advantages of digital technology, more and more Indian production houses are joining the multimedia bandwagon. Almost all big budget Indian films now have a 3D animation component," says Atul Vohra, Head, Arena Multimedia.
"The Indian animation industry has come a long way in terms of better infrastructure and talented artists. But we still need that extra mile if we want to compete with the animation industry abroad," says Rahul Deshprabhu, who worked with 3D shading and lighting techniques for sci-fi thrillers The Day After Tomorrow and I, Robot .
But animation is certainly no child's play. An entry-level animator could take 10 hours to create a single second of animation while an experienced one can do it in four. A typical Hollywood animation movie needs the services of 700-800 animators. Another challenge for studios is production costs.
"Hollywood has budgets of about $100 mn for one movie, which is the entire budget of maybe the top 20 films in India. We certainly can't compare budgets," says Turakhia.
A full-fledged 3D animation movie is far more expensive to produce than live action flicks. In fact, it costs a mammoth $400,000 to $500,000 to produce one hour of animation footage, one of the key reasons why studios are willing to outsource animation work to India.
Overseas markets, already impressed by the country's proven success in the IT industry, are increasingly looking at India to cut costs. Animation studios here offer services at lower costs due to the availability of skilled yet cheaper manpower.
"The major Indian animation companies repeatedly garner huge overseas orders," says Vohra.
"India also has a strong advantage in getting outsourcing work from the West because of the fast-growing consumer class and lack of a language barrier," says Cadman.
Animation is also being used to create content for ad films and commercials, as also for television promos and montage sequences.
"Sonpari and other Indian television serials are being made with high-budget special effects and their TRP ratings have certainly risen," says Turakhia.
Once bandwidth constraints are resolved, the Internet will also be one of the biggest growth opportunities in animation. Meanwhile, the volume in the computer gaming segment alone has been projected at about three times that of Hollywood.
"Gaming also has huge potential in India because of the untapped talent pool and lower production costs," says Cadman.
"Software companies talk at length of the sheer potential of digital gaming. In the last couple of years, ten Indian companies have ventured into this specialised field,"reveals Vohra.
Meanwhile, the success of Cartoon Network in India has shown that cartoons are a veritable goldmine with unlimited potential, just waiting to be tapped by Indian filmmakers. Need more proof? The astounding box-office success of movies like Toy Story , The Lion King , Stuart Little , Shrek , Ice Age and Monsters Inc. has shown that computer animation-based movies are certainly minting money.
Animated versions of stories based on Indian mythology are already being telecast in Indian homes and many more are in the pipeline. "However, it may be some time before producers make full-fledged animation movies in Bollywood," cautions Vohra.
"Animation is in the same position as IT was in India ten years ago. We can take it even beyond IT. Average monthly salaries have also risen to about Rs 30,000 for an animator, which means it's a good option as a career," says Turakhia.
Well, animation seems to be the order of the day. How long before an Indian holds aloft the Oscar for 'Best Visual Effects'?
"Not very long. Visual effects producer Madhu worked on some shots for the The Lord of the Rings which won the Oscar in this category," says Cadman.
One never knows but a professional institute for animation and visual effects on the lines of an IIM or IIT may work wonders.
"I interact with animation schools and I find that the big challenge is to provide a comprehensive program for a fee that is affordable in this economy," says Cadman.
On the other hand, Vohra feels that "paucity of trained animators is the biggest challenge."
Meanwhile, Deshprabhu exhorts future students of animation to specialise in specific software. "Companies are looking for specialised people," he says.
Be it morphing or conjuring up instant palaces and armies, animation and visual effects are here to stay. And after the blockbuster success of the Harry Potter , Lord of the Rings , Matrix and Spiderman series, Bollywood will be trying its best to ensure that world-class animation no longer remains the prerogative of Hollywood alone.
Disclaimer: This information has been collected through secondary research and IBEF is not responsible for any errors in the same.