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Animation training institutes fail to produce talent

Four years ago, there were 640 animation studios across the country. This number is now down to around 300, with UTV Toons being the latest to do so.

, ET Bureau|
Oct 03, 2008, 01.10 AM IST
PUNE: Ramesh Patil, a college dropout, was picked up by an animation studio two years ago and was trained for six months. He now works as part of its core character designing team. Alongside him sits Venkatesh Rao, who spent five years in a fine arts course before the studio hired him. Jaideep Singh, on the other hand, enrolled in a twenty-month, Rs 2 lakh course, and is still jobless, in spite of the animation training institute having promised him placement.

Ramesh, Venkatesh and Jaideep (names changed) represent the workforce in the animation industry. The contradiction is that new training institutes are opening almost every other week just as many studios have either closed down or have laid off artists over the past two years.

Four years ago, there were 640 animation studios across the country. This number is now down to around 300, with UTV Toons being the latest to do so. Sources claim that Reliance ADAG-owned Big Animation recently laid-off a sizeable number of its pre-production artists.

In sharp contrast, animation-training institutes are thriving while their students are not always able to get jobs. In Pune alone, the number of training institutes is now 26 from a mere 10 two years ago. These institutes train almost 4,000 students in courses ranging from three to 20 months. The fees range from Rs 50,000 to Rs 2 lakh, depending on the duration of the course.

This translates into an annual turnover of Rs 100 crore for the training business. Most of the institutes have tie-ups with some overseas partners whose credentials cannot always be checked out. And most of these training institutes dangle the lollipop of guaranteed huge initial salaries, seemingly worthwhile for students to pay the fees.

The animation training industry is now sunrise sector as investors from sectors as diverse as real estate and jewellery have jumped into the industry. India���s education sector is seen as a $500-million opportunity. While the industry needs people with artistic skills, industry insiders say that training institutes focus solely on supplying people who know just tools.

As Rahul Bakshi, founder of the Pune-based studio, Phoebus, which produced the recently released animated movie Dashavatar, said, ���The training courses at these institutes add little value to the students, which is very disappointing. Many students from these institutes have applied to us but they failed even our basic test.���

Sesha Prasad, digital production manager, Rhythm & Hues ��� a studio which has worked on films like Narnia, Superman Returns, Garfield 2, etc ��� said, ���Some institutes are doing good work, but the predominant issue for us is that students get taught just the tools. Institutes merely focus on teaching software, which is a short-term solution for many people. Internationally, people train at art schools and joins such institutes to pick up additional skills in software. What is needed is an artistic foundation, which is the fundamental, before they get into learning these tools. Many studios use their own proprietary tools. So the institutes should focus on fundamentals and not the tools.���

The long-term courses of these institutes at least teach some basics, while short-term courses add no value to the student, remarked Sudish Rambhotla, chairman, Colorchips New Media, a Hyderabad-based animation production-company.

���Some institutions give good education while some are trying to make a quick buck. The long-term courses at least teach some basics, while short-term courses add no value.��� Mr Rambhotla added that at the time of recruitment, his company looks only for people who have inborn artistic skills.

���We prefer fine arts students since they are productive with just six months of training. A student from an animation institute would need two to two-and-a-half-year of training. However, most of the studios, including ours, have employed excellent artists who have not even completed school education,��� he commented.
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