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`Animators are actors with a pencil'

By Anand Parthasarathy

BANGALORE, SEPT. 15. The heads of some of the best known animation film production houses in India and abroad, on Tuesday faced an audience as critical as any of their best customers: a standing-room — only audience of under-25s — all Bangalore-based students of multimedia and animation.

The "Frames 2005 Knowledge Series" Seminar on Education in Animation and Gaming organised by the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI) became a lively discussion on where the industry was headed and what opportunities it offered to thousands of youngsters who aimed to combine their artistic talents with the high-tech software tools of animated film making.

Karnataka's Information Technology Secretary, M.K. Shankaralinge Gowda, set the agenda with some numbers: The Indian animation industry currently worth $500 million-$600 million in exports is poised to grow three-fold by next year.

"At least one billion of that must come from Bangalore-based players," Mr. Gowda said.

As an immediate step, the upcoming Bangalore IT.Com show was being enlarged from Information and Communication Technology (ICT) to ICMT — to include Media/Animation.

Huge market

Rajiv Choudhary, co-founder of Toonskool, event partner, reminded that not all of animation opportunities lay in film-based products for the big screen and TV.

There was a huge market in games as well as in medical and scientific animation. Rajesh Rao, CEO of Dhruva Interactive, one of India's best known gaming software creators, whose market was all abroad, cited the exploding demand for mobile phone-based games.

Later this year, his company is poised to unveil one of the largest games for the Microsoft XBox platform — half of which was created in Bangalore.

Joan Vogelsang, CEO of the Canada-based Toon Boom Animation, one of the biggest animated product creators in the world, stressed that India needed to move beyond merely servicing outsourcing contracts.

"The key is local content and local creators — not just low cost," she added.

More courses needed

Nandish, a medical practitioner turned animation company head at Paprikaas Studios, told the youngsters that every animator was ``an actor with a pencil.'' So, knowledge of the film medium is an important prerequisite.

Ashish Kulkarni, CEO of Jadooworks, a well-known name in Indian animation, summed up the discussion with the upbeat thought: India was poised to be an animation superpower, well-placed to replicate the miracle of software and services.

But for that to happen, longer, more focused courses are required to bridge the gap between the small number of animators currently available and the 30,000 required in the coming months.

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