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3-D animation films and shows require computers with high-end configuration installed with software such as Photoshop, After Effects, Adobe Animate, and Autodesk Maya (toonz.co)
3-D animation films and shows require computers with high-end configuration installed with software such as Photoshop, After Effects, Adobe Animate, and Autodesk Maya (toonz.co)

Indian animation, VFX industries to take a hit despite covid-led opportunities

  • Animation and visual effects segments will see a 51% decline in revenues this year according to a KPMG report titled A Year off Script

The covid-19 pandemic may have provided several opportunities to entertainment industries such as animation and visual effects as they can have employees working remotely on projects unlike live action shoots. The segments will still, however, see a 51% decline in revenues this year according to a KPMG report titled A Year off Script as the first few months of the lockdown saw visual designers and creators stuck at home without high-end infrastructure, software or equipment, unable to deliver footage for many shows that had to be postponed.

“Unlike, say, the IT sector, animation companies were not prepared to work from home and it took us some time to deploy adequate procedures," Rajiv Chilaka, founder of Green Gold Animation that has produced shows like Chhota Bheem and Mighty Little Bheem, said.

Some of the immediate challenges faced by animation studios, the KPMG report says, were low internet speeds and bandwidth for employees at home, setting up the IT infrastructure, including laptops, hardware and enterprise software for transitioning to the work from home model and data security issues which disrupted workflows. Further, for companies which did not own the IPs (intellectual property rights) of the animation projects, there were glitches such as restrictions in accessing client files from home. Chilaka said 3-D animation films and shows require computers with high-end configuration installed with software such as Photoshop, After Effects, Adobe Animate, and Autodesk Maya. Further, even if the basic animation and visual design work was completed on certain projects, activities such as music production and dubbing, which happens mostly in Mumbai, could not be carried out given the extreme virus scare in the city.

“We had set out to launch a robust line-up in March given that the period coincides with summer vacations in schools but the pandemic brought the country and the animation industry to a grinding halt and we had to reassess strategies for new episodes that could not come on time," said Leena Lele Dutta, business head, Sony Pictures Networks India, kids’ genre.

Individual companies have taken their own time to transition to the work-from-home model but the KPMG report points out that animation and visual effects are largely creative and collaborative work. Hence, a complete shift to this model may not make sense as a lot of learning and development for newer employees takes place by them being physically present in the studio and observing senior and more experienced professionals at work. Further, many small animation studios with an employee base of 10-30 operating across the country are likely to be shut down on account of the covid-19 pandemic, the report says, which would lead to several freelancers entering the market. As far as the VFX segment goes, while a lot of studios and producers would resort to Chroma shoots and pre-visualizing sequences so as to minimize the actual time spent on sets, there would be a reduced pipeline of projects in the short term with many films indefinitely delayed and visual effects and post-production to begin only after live footage has been shot.

However, experts such as Chilaka said things are slowly getting back on track and the industry will catch up with schedules by the end of the year. While Green Gold is working on a new season of Mighty Little Bheem for Netflix, rival Cosmos Maya is bringing out an animated version of Salman Khan’s Dabangg.

“This year’s biggest lesson has been to ensure and maintain robust operational processes. Content consumption has been at an all-time high, since it is one of the core drivers helping people through the rigours of staying at home for such extended periods of time. There is going to be a greater increase in the demand for content from different spheres of the industry, which will bring its own economic hurdles and obstacles, but it is upon us to keep churning out meaningful content without disregarding such challenges on the side," Anish Mehta, chief executive officer of Cosmos Maya said.

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