"It is not the mountain we conquer but ourselves."

Monday, September 28, 2009

Event Coverage : Anifest India'09 - 18th September, Mumbai, India

Last Friday (18th September) I attended Anifest India'09, an event which is for animators, by animators and which was organized by The Animation Society Of India(TASI). Incidentally it was my first Anifest India whereas it was the 5th Anniversary for Anifest India. Better late than never !

P.S. - This is not the entire coverage of all the 3 days, but whatever I could attend. Also instead of a passive coverage (just mentioning verbatim whatever happened in the event) I decided to throw in my views also, where-ever I felt the need to share something.

Thanks to CGTantra for all the images !

As with every Animation related event in India, I go with neutral expectations, nothing great, nothing less and so far I all the events I have attended I have come out feeling satisfied and content.

The track record continues !

Ok I will admit I had a slightly higher expectations with this one, as this event was focused primarily on Animation, unlike other similar events, where the focus invariably goes to marketing the sponsors, most of the time they are training institutes which makes it even worst and the content of the event takes a back seat. Since this was for animators, by animators the vision itself was a lot different from the organizer's point of view.

Now there is a management lesson here the way I see it. How any event/project turns out, matters a lot on how the people at the helm wants it to be and what vision they have. Here the people organizing and handling were very clear what they wanted and what they didn't wanted and it clearly showed thru out the event. My guess is that around 8-12 people were involved full time since many months chalking out everything for the event. Yes they had the fantastic support of numerous volunteers, may be a hundred overall, but what made them contribute fully and efficiently was the guidelines set right at the start.

P.S. - I would like to add that I was not part of the organizers and haven't spoken to any of them, so I am not very sure how they made it happen, but I sense this must be the framework they glided along. (If any of the organizers are reading this, kindly correct me if I am wrong or if I am missing something)

Now coming back to the event...thanks to the way it was organized, registration, etc was a breeze. In less than 10 minutes I was done with everything and all ready to savor the first session.

I want to add, volunteers do play a huge role in any event. They are like an icing on the cake, if its good, it can enhance the taste, but if its bad it can make the cake taste horrible.

Here all were very smiling, cordial and friendly. In few of my previous events, some volunteers had no interest and it seemed as if were there because a gun was put on their head. You see a smile its contagious, you see a depressed face, its contagious as well. Got the idea ?

First Session : Character Animation & Story Telling by Bill Miller

Bill Miller

Session Brief as given in the schedule - This session explores how a better understanding of story can help you bring out more character and empathy in your animation. Using examples from classic films, we will break down concepts such as, film, structure, scene structure, subtext, character arcs and point of view. Your job as an animator is telling a story and this session will show how to animate your scenes keeping the big picture in mind.

About Bill - Bill had stints in Dreamworks Animation as an Animator, then was a faculty at Takshaa Academy(Bangalore, India) and at present is with Visual Computing Labs(VCL), formerly called Tata Elxsi as a Producer. If you havent heard of VCL, they made India's first 3D Full Length Animated Feature - Roadside Romeo.

They couldn't have got a better way start the event. This event is nothing less than the real meaty/juicy part of Animation and something which at the end of the day is what we Animators strive to excel.

But unfortunately Bill reached the venue late, thanks to the pathetic traffic in Mumbai. It was a weekday and peak hours. I don't blame him.

So the session instead of 10 AM, started around 10:30-10:45 and because the next session was schedule at 11:40, this session hardly lasted an hour or so. What a pity considering that Bill was hosting it very well and kept the audience glued thru out. Now this is a session which deserves a full day for sure. There is so much to talk about, so much to discuss, so much to learn from different footage from movies. I really hope TASI organizes such session for a full day with lunch/tea breaks in between. It would be a real treat(pun intended) for all !

As to the actual content of what Bill spoke out, to me it sounded a lot similar to what Robert McKee says thru his book STORY and in his seminars, which is good because there is no better than Robert McKee to learn about Story and his book Story is without doubt the bible for Story Writing and learning the ropes about it. And since my guess is that 99% of the audience wouldn't have heard about Robert McKee or his book, you can imagine how useful Bill's session would have been to the audience if it was a whole lot longer.

Bill also recommended a few movies which are exceptional from a story point of view and also in the way they are crafted. Sorry but I only remember the ones I haven't seen - Misery, The Verdict.

In the end of the session there was a Question and Answer session, which as always is very very interesting to me !

QNA Session

The questions which stood out for me were -

  • What defines a character's personality ?
  • How to Animate/Show personality when there is no audio involved ?
I really cant recall what was Bill's answer to them, but these are very very important questions and since I have some more from the sessions which followed, I will try to answer them in a separate post. So keep watching this BLOG !

Second Session : Entertaining India by E. Suresh / Rudra Matsa (2 sessions on the same topic)

E. Suresh

Rudra Matsa

Session Brief as given in the schedule - This session aims to explore the future of creating content in India and also for Indian audiences. Watch and learn as those who have managed to cross over, share their secrets to success.

About E. Suresh - Alumni from NID, currently Content Developer at Famous House of Animation.

About Rudra Matsa - His forte consists of Hand-Drawn Animation and also Manga Style of Anime.

Since this session followed up Bill's session, I was really hoping it better be good. And also because Bill's session was not extended even by a minute so that the next session could start on time. Yes I know I was putting undue pressure on the speaker of this session, as all the organizers were doing was stick to a schedule to be fair to all the speakers. But in future, it really wouldn't harm too much to have some extra time in hand for any unforeseen circumstances.

This session was as good or even better than Bill's, primarily because it got the minimum time it deserved. It was not rushed or hurried along. The other reason being that E. Suresh speaker was very good and the content and the topic was very inspiring for me.

E. Suresh is a veteran in the Indian Animation space, who started sometime around 1998, when Animation was hardly known in India. What stood out for me was when he spoke about the challenges/obstacles he faced when he wanted to sell his Animated content, how it was very difficult to sell during those days, how no one was ready to take a chance and buy Animated content. To me this is a very good example, of how we need to be passionate about what we are doing and at the same time add persistence and perseverance in our endeavors. E. Suresh had all three of them and in the end it paid off.

Now I should add here that E.Suresh's expertise is not 3D Animation to the likes of Disney/Pixar (he humbly admitted the same on stage too), but more of other forms say Stop Motion, Cut-out Animation and so on.

Artwork Copyright - Famous House Of Animation

Contrary what media may say, the truth is that Indian Animation Industry is going thru its worst phase, since the boom started in 2005-2006. As of now, Animation in India can be broadly divided into 2 categories - 2D and 3D. Several made-in-India 2D and one 3D feature have been released in India in the last 2-3 years, but overall the performance has been disaster to say the least. So if we can find other mediums/areas in Animation, build our expertise and bring it on to mainstream just like 2D and 3D, it will result to many new, different but positive possibilities at many different levels. New medium will demand more professionals, which in turn will create many new jobs. And once we are able to generate local content which can be consumed by the local market, it will be a turning point for the Industry. Right now 80-85% of the work in 2D/3D is outsourced, but because of the global financial meltdown, outsourcing took a massive hit and India got affected directly as its exposure to outsourcing is huge.

Though the type of Animation E. Suresh is doing, it has a decent local market in areas of Ads, for channels like MTV, Channel V among others but if we able to expand this to TV and Feature, it will certainly help to promote new mediums and at the same time, create new jobs and reduce our dependence on foreign markets.

Overall a very good session by E. Suresh and I would love to hear more from him in the future. And I am sure I will !

Next session on a similar topic was conducted by Rudra Matsa. He started by showing what kind of work he and his team was doing, which I think is very very good.

Artwork Copyright - Rudra Matsa

But to be frank, if the enthusiasm level in previous session was 90%, in this session it took a nose dive and was around 40-50%. I think the reason being that the audience was not very sure what Rudra's session was about and they were at some level not able to connect with what he was saying. At-least that was the reason for me, personally speaking. He kept jumping from one thing to the next, which made it worst. To describe it best, it lacked the fluidity and flow which is required to keep the audience engrossed. But I have to give credit to Rudra for attempting this. It takes a lot of courage to stand in front of a thousand plus audience and host a session. I have no doubt that with repeated attempts, Rudra will be able to host sessions in a much better way.

As with the first session, these 2 session also had some very interesting questions. A few questions were answered just by Rudra and for a few even E. Suresh chipped in with his views. Overall the questions which deserve more discussions are -

  • Is India conducive for Content Creation ?
  • Proper courses for different animation disciples ?
  • Can we position ourselves with our animation in the global animation industry ?
  • What is the most essential skill to be an animator ?

Third Session : Animation and eLearning by Sameer Sahasrabudhe

Sameer Sahasrabudhe

Session Brief as given in the schedule - eLearning is growing as a massive industry and animation has become a staple component of it. The requirement of the animation techniques and style may be a bit different from the conventional entertainment domain, but the fundamental remains the same. This session will present an array of the existing styles and forms of animation prevalent in the eLearning domain, with a few case studies.

Staying interested in sessions after lunch has always been challenging to me, specially when the lunch served was good, as in this case. What made it slightly more difficult was the nature of the session. It did have many good info. Actually it was suppose to be a BLENDER session, where people from BLENDER, were suppose to do a demo on how powerful BLENDER (as an open source and free 3D application) is compared to other known software like Maya, Max, etc. But due to swine flu scare, Anifest India had to be rescheduled at the last moment and hence they couldn't make it as per the new dates. Still the short Big Buck Bunny which was made entirely in BLENDER was screened and every-time I see it, I love watching it as I did when it first came out.

Image Copyright- BLENDER

Unfortunately that's all I could remember from this session.

In future, I really hope the sessions immediately after lunch are power packed and interesting to keep the momentum going.

Fourth Session : Screening of Short Films made by Students and Teachers/Trainers

I would be frank, I stayed post-lunch primarily for this one. Watching films made by Students is always very very exciting, as it brings so much variety in terms of the films been made, as every student is so vastly different in his/her perception of film-making.

There were around 28 films by students and 4 by Teachers/Trainers.

Without doubt the students film were far far better than the Teachers/Trainers.

All these films were vying for the Tasi Viewer's Choice Award(TVCA).

We had to choose just one movie each from Students and Teachers/Trainers category. So in order to remember which ones were good...I rated them all out of 10.

Out of the Students film, around 7-8 films crossed the 8 mark for me. Many were in between 5-7 and an equal number between 1-4.

Out of the Teachers/Trainers, it was heavily skewed. One was around 6 for me and rest 3 less than 2 !!!

Overall I am happy by the selection of Students Films, but the Teachers/Trainers category could have better selections for sure. May be they got just a limited number of entries and these four were better than the rest.

This session went for a good 2 hours, but the good thing is it hardly felt long. So yes I thoroughly enjoyed this session all the way.

It was tea break and time for me to head back home !

Overall Anifest India'09 performed well on the expectations I had. I have been also told that the rest of the sessions on the remaining days were good and very informative too. Hopefully next year I will be able to attend on all the 3 days.

Kudos to TASI for Anifest India'09 !!!


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