Sunday, September 01, 2002

Will Power in Action

Source: Asia Image

Will Power in Action: if sheer effort and will were enough to propel an industry forward, Indonesia's very committed group of animators could see the local animation industry take off in the next few years. But they admit the industry must surmount some obstacles first. (Country Focus).

At a recent Animation and Visual Effects Conference and Exhibition for the Indonesian market, held August 14-15 in Jakarta, the dedication and enthusiasm of the local animation community was clear. Organised by the Animator Forum and Digital Studio, the event attracted a good audience from agencies, production and post facilities, and educational institutions.

What was impressive, however, was the active participation of the local animation industry, with many members taking time out to either present sessions or act as moderators.

Andi Boediman, creative director of Digital Studio, says, "There are events such as SIGGRAPH and NAB in the US, and BroadcastAsia in Singapore. There is so much we can learn from such industry events, and we have had the idea to host a similar event for a long time, for the industry to network, learn, and interact."

Digital Studio was established in 2000 as a graphic arts training centre. It offers short courses in digital imaging, desktop publishing, multimedia, web design, and animation. It is also the only Adobe Certified Training Provider, Macromedia Certified Training Center, and Alias|Wavefront Academic Provider Partner in Indonesia.

Its courses and its graduates could well be solution to one of the problems Boediman sees as hampering the further development of Indonesia's animation industry. "Our weaknesses are a lack of professionalism and teamwork," he says.

"The industry should concentrate on supporting education. First we focus on skill development (in the next 2-3 years) so we can at least fulfill current animation jobs available. Then we concentrate on expanding people development (skills, talent, and attitude) so we can have good leaders and teams within 5 years. The best people in the industry should go to school and teach," he adds.

His sentiments are not atypical of other industry members. Edwin Winarta, operational manager of Pyramid Image, one of Indonesia's largest post houses, where animation accounts for a quarter of business volume, agrees there is a short supply of skilled and educated animators.

This lack of talent could prove to be a critical issue in the growth of the animation market as, in spite of the financial fallout in 1997 and the lingering worldwide economic malaise, Indonesia does not lag behind its Asean neighbours in terms of equipment or technology.

Indications are there is plenty of room for growth, with industry players estimating annual growth in the demand for animation ranges from 15 to 20 per cent. Currently, most of the animation produced in Indonesia is for TV commercials, with work commissioned by agencies or production houses.

But even that market segment, which constitutes as much as 80 to 90 per cent of animation work, is limited in its scope. Deswara Aulia, executive producer at animation studio dementiA Animation, says, "Most (work) comes from production houses that need animation as support for their jobs. Animation is mainly used for supers or running text, or to show a product package at the end of the commercials.

"Sometimes clients need character animation for certain commercials, but these are mostly for children's products like candy, bags, or shoes, and we only get three to four such projects per year," he reveals.

dementiA Animation has been in the industry for two years, but according to Aulia, functioned as a "hobby studio producing animation shorts" until two months ago, when it became a commercial studio. Aulia, a post production veteran, is however optimistic about the studio's prospects, especially as demand for animation in other forms is beginning to take off.

Local drama or comedy series, highly popular with the Indonesian audience, for example, has started incorporating more animation and CG elements in their production.

"Now we have more demand for character animation and visual effects for TV programme series. Ad agencies are also using more character animation for their product advertisements," he says.

Aulia adds, "The success of features such as 'Petualangan Sherina' and 'Ada Apa dengan Cinta' produced by Miles Production gives us the opportunity to explore producing animation features. People are going crazy about local production, after many years without local productions."

Indeed, many animators see this expansion into new market segments as critical for the sustained growth and viability of the industry. This was one of the issues discussed at the conference. Besides local drama or comedy series, animation studios and animators must be encouraged to develop original animation content--TV and movie features--that can be distributed worldwide.

Boediman points out that Indonesia enjoys the advantage of a large local market, "We consume a lot of American and Japanese animation but even the best selling American film can't do as well as our best selling local film. It's unfortunate that we have not any quality animation feature films yet."

Of course, this goal is great in theory, but in practice, it runs into a few problems. "The time and money needed to produce animation for TV is considerably long and high. Our market can't support that," Aulia says.

A typical 30-minute TV programme in Indonesia sells for a maximum of Rp 30 million (US$3,360). According to Aulia, post production companies and animation studios can get twice to five times as much producing a 30- or 60-second commercial.

He adds, "To produce animation (especially 3D animation), we will need a minimum of Rp 200 million (US$22,400)to Rp 2 billion (US$224,000) per episode. Even at the minimum cost, we still lose a lot of money."

Despite his optimism in developing for TV programmes and feature films, Boediman is almost brutally realistic: "From my perspective, US, Europe, and Japan are good candidates for our animation work. But most people in the industry are working separately to open the market. As we have to work separately, it's pretty difficult as everybody is throwing a small stone into a very big pond. We need to join efforts in opening up more opportunities."

As director of Business Entertainment Solutions of BisInfo, Arianto Bigman offers the unique perspective of one involved in the industry, yet who is not an animator himself. BisInfo is the distributor of animation software tools such as Maya, the most popular 3D animation programme in Indonesia, Realviz, and Animo.

Bigman says that while there is great talent available in the country, what is lacking is industry cooperation. He suggests that for Indonesia's animation market to mature, players must be able to attract investments, and to do so, they need to learn how to market themselves.

"Most of the people in the animation field are production personnel, artists. They're very good artists, some are perfectionists even, but ... I do think we (also) need a manager from a business background who can take care of the business aspects as well as an operations manager who can oversee the production workflow. Currently, we have good operation managers but lack business managers," he says.

"And at the end, if we have a superb product, but we cannot market it, it will be useless. That's why we also need good marketing managers who can sell our products, or create a market for them even," he offers.

As things stand, Indonesia's animation industry is in its very early stages of growth. With applications limited currently to TV commercial work, the landscape is dotted with only a few studios dedicated to animation work, while post production facilities continue to dominate a market that cannot afford to support a robust independent animation industry.

Just a handful of animation studios-- dementiA Animation, Red Rocket Animation, and Bening Studio being some of them--compete with post production facilities for animation projects. Pyramid Image's Winarta admits that it's easier for his facility to get animation work as "the kind of work in demand needs support from compositing, editing and other services available only at post houses".

Aulia believes that the preference for "one-stop" shopping is a result of clients' focus on price and speed. Instead of choosing the best facility for each type of work, they prefer to choose one post production facility that can do it all.

Whatever the market conditions, Indonesia's plucky group of animators is not letting such issues stop them from aiming high. They're ready to develop some muscle, and they're not shy to ask for help doing it. Says Roy Adimulu, head of graphics at Pyramid Image and public relations coordinator of the Animator Forum, "We're still building the bridge between the private sector and government to develop some formulas, such as regulations, for this industry. We hope that our efforts can bring this industry to the same level as other local industries."

To Activate and Motivate

Led by some of the industry's most prominent members, the Animator Forum was established in 1999. According to Roy Adimulu, public relations coordinator, the group's initial goal was to develop the local animation industry by hosting regular monthly events where local animators could present their work to the public.

The founders, who included animators, post production artists and distributors as well as educators, wanted a communication outlet where those interested in animation could interact with local players, serving to attract more talent to join the industry, in addition to creating more awareness.

The Animator Forum is unique from other similar industry bodies as there is no formal structure and membership rules. Says Adimulyo, "Our group doesn't offer membership, but we usually have about 100 people for every event we host. They come from different backgrounds and include students, agencies, film directors, and even some institutions that are interested in the industry."

Since its establishment, the Animator Forum has spread its wings beyond Jakarta to other major cities such as Bandung, Surabaya, and Yogya. While its primary objective remains the same, its leaders are more focused on education now, as they have seen a demand for more training and information.

Besides the monthly events, the Animator Forum also works with other institutions in the industry such as local animation studios or production houses to promote TV programmes featuring local animation.

COPYRIGHT 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc. (US)

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