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India emerging as global animation content hub

09-April-2002
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India emerging as global animation content hub

Vinod Behl
exchange4media

As the new state-of-art animation facilities come up in different parts of the country and the Indian government along with apex trade chambers like FICCI and CII pitching in to give a boost to Entertainment Sector, Indian animation industry is moving into fast lane.

Big time players like Pentamedia Graphics, Crest Communications, UTV Toon etal have been driving the animation revolution. And recently two more companies - Moving Picture Company and Minbimbangal have joined the bandwagon. Minbimbangal, the television company promoted by B. Kailasam, son of noted film director K. Balachandar has recently set up a hi-tech virtual studio in South at the cost of Rs. 7 crore. This completely digital studio with cables for Hong Kong, technology from Israel and concept from Amsterdam, according to J. Senthil Kumar, Technical Director Minbimbangal can create virtual sets like moving trains, mountains, revolving cubes etc. in real time.

Kailasam explains that post-production work is cut to a minimum as the graphics generated by the main computer are mixed in real time to create an appearance as if the programme is being shot inside a real set. He claims that there are only about a dozen studios in the world equipped with this technology.

Most recently, Moving Picture Company of national and international award winning film maker Ramesh Sharma has set up a modern digital studio with full fledged 3D animation division with cutting edge technology at Film City, Noida. According to Ramesh Sharma, this modern facility, spread over 26000 sq. ft. is aimed at providing backend support to international animation majors producing Indian animation films of international standards, besides providing animation support to feature films and ads.

With such hi-tech facilities, special effects are adding value to the Indian films like the recent ones - 'Mohabattein', 'Aks' and ’16 December’. Leading consulting firm Price Waterhouse Coopers has forecast that the Indian entertainment industry would be worth $1.2 trillion by 2005. A recent study by Arthur Anderson predicts that revenues from use of multimedia in film making will touch Rs. 4700 crore mark by 2005. In fact this technology revolution has gone beyond the films to embrace television and advertising industry.

Says S.Y. Quraishi, Director General Doordarshan, "There is considerable scope for animation films in India as computer animation can be used to portray Indian mythology. Doordarshan is focusing on Indian animation series in a big way as we are giving a major boost to children programming on our network". Doordarshan has already decided to do a joint production of Panchtantra series with Moving Picture Company.

Industry watchers say that computer animation in India has big growth potential as technology is affordable and manpower cost is low. Foreign studios particularly from US and Canada are already turning to India for outsourcing their special effects requirements. Warner brothers and Disney are outsourcing from Mumbai based Crest Communication. "While a 30-minute animation film in the US costs $ 250000, we can make it at one-fourth of the cost", says Ramesh Sharma.

As a result of this cost - technology advantage, several foreign companies are also entering into joint ventures with Indian companies. In fact Ramesh Sharma's Moving Picture is doing joint venture animation projects with US and Canadian companies. Another leading industry player, Pentamedia Graphics is producing full length animation films based on Indian mythology and stories from Arabian Nights. Mumbai based Crest Communication is marketing popular Indian animation series 'Tenaliraman' abroad through Warner Brothers and Disney while UTV Toons has successfully done overseas marketing of its animation programmes through Fox Network.

Industry captains are quite enthused about I&B Ministry's move to initiate government level treaties with countries like Canada, Italy etc. to boost co-production. They also believe that the government support coupled with institutional support from organisations like FICCI and CII will not only provided the much needed international exposure to India but will also act as catalyst in getting venture capital funding.

However industry big wigs like Ramesh Sharma take a cautions approach to this euphoria. "It's still a long way to go for India to be a part of global animation revolution. Today we've less than 5000 seats. And in order to be internationally recognised player, we must have at least10000 seats. Moreover as the industry is moving towards global benchmarking. We'll have to cross another hurdle of enough trained manpower before we can truly tap the emerging potential of $ 30 billion global animation market".

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